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The Benefits and Drawbacks of LED Lights

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For the last two years, we have heard about using CFLs, and now we have LED lights. LED lights may be the wave of the future.

You could say that I am Amish in my view of technology: I have to determine the potential benefits and drawbacks, before I adapt to the latest gadget. When thinking of lights, I am often early to adopt the latest technology, since light bulbs are becoming longer lasting and more energy efficient. When I was first introduced to CFLs, I worked as a facilities manager in a commercial building. These early bulbs were not so compact, and they had other issues, but they had a benefit few thought about when they were being marketed: they reduced the need for cooling, since the bulbs put out less heat. We quickly realized that was the case though. I was though of as being out there when I tried to convince other facility managers that these bulbs would benefit them. CFLs are well established, and we are seeing a new competitor with the LED bulb.
    I have used LED lights for some time already. You could have a smaller more powerful flashlight with LEDs. This has been great, because carrying around the big four D club lights is not easy on many jobs. I began using LED lights as under cabinet task and accent lighting in my home. The big problem with these units was that they were battery powered, and the mounting could come off. Otherwise, I liked the light. Home Depot announced that they were stocking LED bulbs the other week, and I was excited. I had looked to see when these bulbs would be offered in more common stores. I went to the building supply center to find out what was being offered. I walked away with two bulbs to try out.
    I have never had to switch out an LED bulb in one of my flashlights. One of the selling points of this new light is that they will last much longer than older lights. That idea was also a selling point for CFLs. I have found that certain CFL bulbs have lasted for a very long time, but others break down quickly. This is really the luck of the draw, which can happen with any type of bulb. LED bulbs are said to last twenty years, but the package for the ones that I bought state ten years when used for four hours a day. In any case, you can expect to not be purchasing a replacement bulb soon. Unlike CFLs, LED bulbs come in shapes which are more reminiscent of the older incandescent bulbs. This was perfect for me, since I wanted to try out a few bulbs in a chandelier, and I wanted that tapered bulb. Another benefit is that the amount of electricity used is much less, and these bulbs hardly put out the heat which could effect your cooling.
    I did not tell my family that I had installed these new LED lights. I wanted to see their reactions. The first to notice was my four year old daughter, a day after they had been installed. She noticed that there was a bluer light coming from part of the chandelier. I like the light quality from LEDs, but you should be aware that it might be different from what you have. My wife did not realize at first that there was a new light. This is where we have a slight drawback (for the time being). Although there was a good collection of different bulb styles, I could not find exactly what I was looking for in terms of brightness. Most of us are used to thinking of bulbs along the lines of wattage. When looking for CFLs, we scan the package to see what kind of wattage incandescent it could replace. With LEDs, we may have to be more cautious. We may need to start using the unit “lumens” more than “wattage” when looking at bulbs. I was relegated to using what would have been the equivalent of a 15Watt bulb. I was actually using bulbs in my chandelier that would be 25 Watts. The two LED bulbs were noticeably dimmer.
   The big drawback might be the price. LED bulbs are more expensive. I spent around $30 for my two little chandelier bulbs. I do not mind. If these bulbs will last for ten years, I could factor in the cost of how many incandescent bulbs that I would need over that time to obtain a better price comparison. However, the incandescents may only come to $20. There are several factors to consider, so this cost may be higher, but I have other costs associated with light bulbs to count. The energy usage for LEDs is so much less that over a period of ten years, I could be saving a great deal of money. Then I should determine how I could calculate the savings in cooling, since I do not need to deal with as much heat. (As a side note, I am writing for a Houston audience, so cooling costs are more important than heating costs). In the end, by taking a longer view, I do see the LED as the more cost effective buy. Still, I cannot go out to change all of my bulbs to LED units right away (like I did when I first changed over to CFLs).
    If you are considering making the change to LED bulbs, understand how they will fit into your living space. I am not planning on buying more bulbs for my chandelier, until I am getting a better lumens. Who knows, that might be next year. You should also understand the quality of the light. Maybe this is only a big deal to me, but warm white and cool white produce different appearances to my decor, and LED bulbs will change that again. You may like the light as I do. As for cost, I think that these will go the way that CFL costs have gone. At first quite expensive, then they lowered. Shopping smart, you can find some great deals now on CFLs. This may happen with LED bulbs, but remember that it will take years for the costs to come down. When considering cost, think about more than the price of the bulb. Personally, I am already waiting for the next generation of LED bulbs that will have their own little computer in them to allow for better control and energy savings.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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