Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs for short, have increasingly become more common in the electronic items we use on a daily basis. From small indicator lights on most of our appliances, flashlights, to lighting our computer screens, traffic lights, and even giant video billboards, LEDs are now more widespread than ever.

Even more interesting is the recent use of LEDs as solutions for general purpose lighting in homes and offices all over the world. LED light bulbs are slowly gaining mainstream acceptance, and are now replacing conventional light bulbs (i.e. incandescent and CFL light bulbs). The very fact that you're reading this guide is proof of this long overdue trend.

Although LED technology is still far from perfect, the LED light bulbs which are now available to consumers are already a greener and far more energy-efficient alternative to traditional lighting products. But because LED light bulbs are relatively new to most people, not enough is known about them to make informed decisions on how and when to make any purchases.

To help you learn everything that's relevant about today's LED light bulbs, you can read this buying guide to determine which LED lighting solutions are for you. As LED technology constantly undergoes changes and improvements, expect this guide to be updated to provide you with the latest information on LED light bulbs and other products.

An Introduction to LEDs

Needless to say, the advancements in LED lighting technology are brought about by our collective desire to save more money on energy bills. However, the push for LED lighting technology isn't limited to saving money on our electric bills. The realization of how important living a greener and more energy-efficient lifestyle has pervaded our culture; gone are the days when living green was limited to hippie and progressive types. The effects of climate change have prompted our society to reconsider, and now being green is actually more of a practical choice instead of the fad it used to be. And when you think about it, what better and simpler way of adopting an environment-friendly lifestyle than by changing the obsolete light bulbs in your home?

As of the moment, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are now the most popular choice in energy-saving light bulbs. Since their adoption, CFLs have taken the place of incandescent light bulbs because of their low-energy consumption, long lifetime, and good thermal management. LED light bulbs on the other hand, are the best energy-saving light solution, though they can be hard to find, and the initial cost of acquiring just one bulb might be disappointing to some.

After reading this guide, you should be able to identify the benefits of LED light bulbs, as well as the pros and cons of incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs - The Real Deal behind Them

For years, Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) have been regarded as the best choice for energy-saving lighting. These bulbs are more efficient in managing heat and electricity, and are significantly longer lasting than standard incandescent light bulbs.

Great as CFLs may sound however, they are not as perfect as they seem. While mainstream media outlets have lauded CFLs for their impressive qualities, not a lot of emphasis has been placed on the fact that they contain mercury, a toxic substance that can be very hazardous, especially to children and pregnant women. Unfortunately, the technology used in CFL bulbs will always necessitate the usage of small amounts of mercury—there’s no way of getting around it.

In addition, cleaning up a broken CFL bulb can be a very painstaking process. For detailed information on how to clean up mercury spills you can go hit this link [http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/lamp-mercury.html].

Unfortunately, broken bulbs are far more common than most people think. Even if you take all kinds of measures to keep this from happening, there's always a chance of an accident taking place, especially since they are in your home or workplace.

Compared to LED light bulbs, CFLs- are only half as efficient the equivalent of a 20-watt CFL bulb is a 10-watt LED bulb. Most CFLs also have a significantly shorter lifespan, with most bulbs lasting around 3,000 to 5,000 hours before burning out. LEDs on the other hand, can last up to 30,000 hours, and even when they reach the end of their life expectancy, they don't burn out. Instead, they lose 30% of their original brightness.

CFLs are also non-dimmable. Although a handful of manufacturers have released dimmable CFLs, there have been reports of colour temperature problems while dimming. Dimmable LEDs are now in development, with select manufacturers already releasing their versions of dimmable LED bulbs. Like traditional light bulbs, CFLs are also incapable of generating their full brightness right after being switched on. CFLs are also a poor choice for decorative lighting, and are often limited to general usage.

LEDs at a Glance

LED light bulbs have a light source produced by the semiconductors of LEDs. Illumination is generated when electricity goes through the semiconductor, with the colour of the light depending on the material and chemicals used. LEDs are energy efficient because almost all the energy they use is converted to light, unlike incandescent light bulbs that produce light as a result of heating the filament. This heating process wastes is highly inefficient; a lot of heat is also produced to achieve a specific brightness.

LED Light Bulb Types

Though there are a variety of bulb types, most of which were developed recently, there are two basic types of LED light bulbs: Floodlights or Spotlights and Globe lights. The majority of LED light bulbs in the market are floodlights or spotlights, which is due to the inherent directional lighting design of LEDs. Globe lights on the other hand, are suitable for areas that need a wide lighting angle; they feature a special lens at the top of the bulb, which disperses the light in a wider direction. This however, is only a temporary fix for the problem, although research is currently being done to work around the directional lighting design.

Are LED Light Bulbs for You?

Taking all these factors into account, will LEDs work as a replacement to your traditional light bulbs? Here are a few factors to consider.

1. Cost - When it comes right down to it, LEDs cost a lot more than their conventional counterparts. But as you already know by now, you get to save a lot more money in the long run because of their energy-efficiency and long lifespan. LEDs are an investment, one that pays off as the years go by.

2. Convenience - The long lifespan of LEDs also means that you can just install them in the fixtures of your home and not have to replace them, even after years of use. No longer do you have to constantly go the store, buy your bulbs and take out the ladder to install them. Not only will this save you plenty of money, it will also save you precious time.

The energy-saving qualities of LED light bulbs also allow you to keep them on for extended periods of time. You no longer have to worry about switching off unused lights because LEDs us very little electricity, even when kept on the entire day.

3. Heat - Incandescent light bulbs are notorious for generating high levels of heat. When placed inside a room, they can effectively increase the temperature, which can cause air conditioning units to use more energy to keep the area cool. LEDs are far more effective at thermal management, allowing you to save money, and keep your room cooler.

LED Light Bulbs - All You Need to Know About Them

Life Span

In the early days of LEDs, manufacturers would often claim that they had life spans of up to 100,000 hours or more. Of course, that simply isn't true, and any claim without sufficient evidence would be, simply put, a fat lie. Manufacturers have now dialled down things down a bit, and now the standard claim for the life span of LEDs is at 50,000 hours. In real applications, most LEDs last up to 30,000 to 35,000 hours.

The good thing about LEDs is that they don't completely burn out upon reaching this threshold; they usually just lose a quarter of their original brightness, measured in lumens. For example, an LED bulb rated to have 300 lumens will only produce around 200 to 220 lumens after 30,000 hours. You can still continue use the bulb, even if its quality has degraded. Unlike traditional light bulbs, it's very rare for an LED to burn out. They will only have to be replaced once they completely fade out and that's only after years of hard use.

Colour Temperature

As a rule of thumb, bright white lights are best suited for outdoor use, while warmer lights for indoor spaces. This goes for all types of light bulbs, whether it's incandescent, CFL, LED or what have you. If you're buying LED light bulbs for indoor use, choose those with temperatures of 2500-4000 K. For bulbs used outdoors, go for those with a 5000 to 7000 K rating. Bulbs with these colour temperatures are also great for display cases, artwork lighting or in other situations where the light must complement colours.

When purchasing LED light bulbs, it's a good idea to compare those from one manufacturer to the other. Although this process may seem painstaking at first, it can easily be accomplished by checking out the lumens/watt rating of each bulb. Lumens/watt is essentially the amount of lumens, or light, generated for each watt. These days, most CFLs will at least have a 60 K/watt rating, which is good, compared to incandescent bulbs. Remember that the higher the lumens/watt rating a bulb has, the more energy efficient it is.

Comparison between LED and incandescent light bulbs

Although this is a very general comparison between LED and normal light bulbs, it should provide some useful insight into the power-efficiency of LEDs.

  • 3-watt LED light bulb - suitable replacement for 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • 9-watt LED light bulb - suitable replacement for 50-watt incandescent bulb
  • 18-watt LED light bulb - suitable replacement for 100-watt incandescent bulb

Lighting Angles

Most LED light bulbs sold in the market today are spotlights, mainly because of the directional lighting design of LEDs. These bulbs will have beams with 30 to 70 degree ranges. Bear in mind though that there is currently no standardized method of measuring the beam range of light bulbs, so expect this factor to vary from one manufacturer to another. How do you get around this? Well a side-by-side comparison would be best, but if you can't have that, then obtaining pictures of the bulb switched on will suffice.

For light bulbs that emit light in the same way as traditional incandescent flood lights, you can opt for 120-degree LED light bulbs.

Customer Support and Warranty

There's no doubt that LED light bulbs cost far more than their traditional counterparts. It's imperative that you protect your investment, especially if you're changing all the bulbs in your home or office. Purchase LED products from trusted suppliers and retailers, and never acquire them from shady auction sites. Not only are you putting your investment at risk due to a questionable warranty policy, you might just end up with knock-offs in your hands. Retailers that offer a 1-year warranty can be trusted, but if you can find a supplier that offers a 2-year warranty on their bulbs, don't hesitate to approach purchase from them. After all, LED light bulbs can last more than 4 years, so you want to make sure your money doesn't go to waste.

Make the Big Switch to LEDs

We don't recommend replacing all the bulbs in your home or office with LEDs. Some areas might be perfect for these new bulbs, while others will do fine with incandescent bulbs or CFLs. The important thing to remember though is that as more people continue to purchase LED bulbs, the high prices of these devices will eventually go down. So take your time, and make the switch in phases. Remember that LED technology undergoes significant changes on an almost weekly basis; you don't want to be stuck with imperfect bulbs. The initial cost will hurt your wallet a bit, but you'll find that you're saving more as the months go by. Not only that, you're also doing your part to help the environment, and cut down on our society's massive energy consumption.

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