There are plenty of technologies that provide us with lighting, from HID bulbs to fluorescents to incandescents and halogens. But more and more, these are being replaced with the newest technology, LED lighting. While specific applications may still call for non-LED options, there are plenty of reasons why it's a good time to switch most lighting to LED. Here are some we've come up with:
1. LED Bulbs are Affordable
Not long ago, LED lighting options were beyond the reach of all but the most ardent early adopters, with standard A-shape LED bulbs for homes and offices running at $50 each or more.
But these days, prices have plummeted, and while LEDs are still more expensive than other technologies, sometimes the difference isn't much. That's definitely the case with A-shape bulbs replacing your typical household bulb. And when you factor in the other benefits, the initial price difference becomes a moot point.
2. LED Bulbs will Save You Money
This was harder to say when LED bulbs were expensive. But as they continue to approach the costs of the bulbs they're replacing, it's easier to be sure they'll save you money before long. In many cases, they'll pay for themselves within 1-2 years, depending on usage. After that, they'll represent money you keep year after year.
This is because they're the most energy efficient bulbs available. Replace a 60 watt A19 incandescent used for 3 hours a day at 11 cents per kWh and you're likely to save around 55 kW and around $6 per year. Now imagine the savings against an HID bulb used in a parking lot for 12 hours per night. (We've estimated those savings to be close to $200 per year in some cases.)
Additional savings come from the longevity of LED bulbs. See the next point for details.
3. LED Bulbs are Rated to Keep Going ... and Going ...
While some low-end LED bulbs are "only" rated to last 5000 to 10,000 hours, many are rated to last 25,000 hours and more. Compare this to 1000 or 2000 hours from most incandescent and halogen bulbs, or a maximum of 5000 to 10,000 hours from CFLs. Also compare a 50,000 hour high-power LED to around 20,000 hours from HIDs (and see "Lumen Maintenance" below). This gives you two big benefits from LEDs:
1) You'll have reduced costs from buying additional bulbs.
2) You'll have reduced costs from replacing bulbs. Replacements aren't difficult at home in table lamps or low-hanging chandeliers; but what about bulbs in flush mount ceiling fixtures or hard-to-reach foyer chandeliers? Now consider what it takes for a business to replace high bay or parking lot lighting. Real time and costs are involved, but less so when using LEDs.
BONUS: Using fewer bulbs means producing less waste when lamps reach life end.
4. Lumen Maintenance
This is a fancy way of saying "keeps shining like it did when it was new." This is an important factor in lighting. Lights lose their brightness over time, but some lose it far more quickly than others. Metal halide lights, for instance, may lose 30% to 40% of their brightness after 1/2 their rated life, even though they're still using the "like new" amount of energy.
So while they cost less than LEDs up front, the lumen maintenance of metal halides is important to understand if you're trying to control lighting levels. You may need to purchase based on "mean lumens" rather than initial lumens, which means buying bulbs with higher wattage to address the light loss (and continuing to pay for that extra energy).
Meanwhile, LEDs are known to maintain close to 90% of their initial lumens at half their rated lives, and more than 70% throughout their lives, so you can choose a lower wattage and rely on initial lumens for light output, never paying more than you need to in energy costs.
5. LEDs Provide Directional Lighting
Most light sources are omni-directional and use reflectors to steer their light. Part of the efficiency of LEDs is that they provide directional light, placing it where it's needed. So depending on the application, even fewer lumens may be needed when compared to other lamps. (Yes, saving you even more money.) In outdoor settings, this also means controlling the light so it doesn't spill onto neighboring properties while helping to reduce light pollution and keeping our nighttime skies darker.
6. LED Bulbs are Instant On
8. LED Bulbs Usually Dim Well
Some LED bulbs are non-dimmable, so you should check the label before buying LEDs if you need them to dim. But most dim (in applications where dimming is common). Now it's true that not all dimmers are compatible with LEDs, and could cause them to flicker, buzz, or simply not dim much. In this case, a new dimmer switch would be needed. But overall, LEDs dim better than CFLs (which rarely dim).
9. LED Bulbs Don't Emit Much Heat or UV
Most light bulbs emit a lot of heat and, as you know, you would never replace them without first giving them a period to cool down. But LEDs remain cool to the touch on the front of the bulb. You'll still want to be careful about the base, however, as the bulbs wick heat into this area. These can be plenty hot.
Also, LEDs do not emit much or any UV radiation, which was a point of health concern for many people when it came to CFL lighting.
12. LED Lights Come in a Variety of Color Temperatures
With most lighting sources you're stuck with a single color temperature. (The visual warmth of the bulb.) Fluorescent lamps have long been an exception to this rule, providing office environments with relatively warm 3000K lighting all the way to daylight coolness of 6500K.
For comparison, incandescent bulbs are around 2700K and halogens are typically between 2700K and 3000K.
LEDs, though, provide options from a warm 2400K to a cool 5000K. And select LEDs will even get warmer as you dim them, similar to the way an incandescent bulb does.
13. LED Lights Render Colors Well
Every lighting source comes with a measurement from the CRI scale to show how well it renders colors. Full spectrum light from the sun gives us a 100 rating, and halogens and incandescents score nearly as high. But this is a complex topic that is being looked at by experts, because while most LEDs only score in the 80s on this scale (though some score in the 90s), you can't really say that LEDs render colors worse than incandescent or halogen lights. They render colors differently. They bring out certain colors a little better and some a little worse.
The bottom line is that LED lighting can rank well on the CRI scale, but that all LEDs do a very good job of rendering colors. And when you're comparing LED to HID lighting options, LED is the hands-down winner when it comes to CRI.
14. LED Lights are Durable
LEDs don't have glass bulbs and they don't have delicate filaments that can break from vibration. This makes them the most durable light bulbs available!