January 04, 2012 by Steven Castle
LED lamps are a hot topic these days. More and more good LED lamps are becoming available, and more people are interested in buying them, what with a new law now going effect that should begin phasing out incandescent bulbs over the next few years.
Ed Crawford, CEO of Lamps, Lighting Systems and Controls for Philips Lighting, has some LED buying tips for you. Last week Crawford stood in front of the Times Square ball in New York and fielded questions from a webcast audience on LEDs and the new law that mandates higher-efficiency lighting. (The Times Square Ball that’s lowered on New Year’s Eve in New York is equipped with more than 32,000 Philips LEDs and is 80 percent more efficient than the previous ball, according to Philips.)
Some things to think about when shopping for LEDs:
- Although they’re more expensive, often costing $20 to $40, LED lamps will save you more money over the lifetime of the bulb. They can last for years without being replaced and are many times more efficient than incandescents and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
- If you want to replace old incandescents, if you don’t have to buy more expensive LED lamps. Halogen lights are a more efficient form of incandescent technology.
- In the average home, lighting represents 20 to 25 percent of the electric bill, Crawford says (and about 11 percent of overall energy costs). “If you replace 15 light bulbs, you’re going to notice a tangible difference in your light bill.”
- Which bulbs to change out? “The light bulbs you’re burning for seven to eight hours a day, those are the ones you can replace,” Crawford says. “Or change the ones that are inconvenient to get at but burn out every 12 months. Those are the ones I would change.” That means the ones high up in a foyer, stairwell or cathedral ceiling that require a ladder. With an LED lamp, you may only have to climb that ladder one more time.
- LEDs can heat up. While they might be cool to the touch in front, unlike an incandescent bulb, heat can build up in the back. That’s why many LED lamps have ridges near their bases for heat sinks, to help disperse that heat. This is especially important for recessed lights.
- Many LEDs and CFLs work well outdoors. In fact, Crawford says LEDs work well in the cold, because of the heat issue (see above). But if you’re putting a light outside in an unprotected fixture, make sure the lamp is weather-sealed.
- What price should you pay? For a good LED lamp, expect to pay between $20 and $40 or so to replace a 60-watt A19 lamp light, 50-watt, 65-watt or more recessed PAR lamp. There are cheaper alternatives, but the lower end of LED scale is filled with products that you won’t necessarily want in your home, Crawford says. Better to stick with known LED brand names like Philips, Sylvania, GE, Cooper, Cree, Juno and Solais. You’ll pay more for higher quality.
- Will price come down and by how much? It’s almost a certainty that LED lighting prices will drop and continue to do so, but don’t expect a 40-cent bulb. LEDs use solid-state electronics to produce light. Crawford says he sees a sweet spot of about $10. He points to his own company’s 12-watt EnduraLED (a 60-watt replacement), available at Home Depot. “When we were selling the lamp for $40, it was selling well. When we lowered it to $24.97, demand increase four times. At $9.99, LED technology will totally outpace everything else.”
- Also when looking for LED lamps, to remember to shop lumens, a measure of brightness. You’ll want at least 800 lumens to replace a 60-watt incandescent lamp, for example, 1,050 lumens for a 75-watt replacement and about 1,500 lumens for a 100-watt replacement.
- If you like the soft-warm, yellowish glow of an incandescent light, look for lamps rated at 2700 to 3000 Kelvin (K). Those with higher Kelvin ratings shine a whiter and bluer light.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates
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