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LED Lightbulbs: A Bright Idea

Forget compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)—LEDs are the new smart choice for lighting. Americans probably won’t want to hear this, after finger-wagging greens and Congress hectored us into changing from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, but CFLs have big problems.

Most notably, the bulb contains a small amount of vaporized mercury, which is damaging to the environment and, in larger quantities, to human health. And consumers have criticized the light they give off as harsh and sterile. CFLs also require time to “warm up” before being fully lit.

According to the New York Times, LED lighting solves these problems, and has many other advantages:

LEDs last about 25 times as long as incandescents and three times as long as CFLs; we’re talking maybe 25,000 hours of light. Install one today, and you may not own your house, or even live, long enough to see it burn out. (Actually, LED bulbs generally don’t burn out at all; they just get dimmer.)

You know how hot incandescent bulbs become. That’s because they convert only 5 to 10 percent of your electricity into light; they waste the rest as heat. LED bulbs are far more efficient. They convert 60 percent of their electricity into light, so they consume far less electricity. You pay less, you pollute less.

But wait, there’s more: LED bulbs also turn on to full brightness instantly. They’re dimmable. The light color is wonderful; you can choose whiter or warmer bulbs. They’re rugged, too. It’s hard to break an LED bulb, but if the worst should come to pass, a special coating prevents flying shards.

And now these wonder-bulbs are finally becoming affordable. The cheapest brand reviewed by the NYT, Cree, makes a $10 bulb that shines as bright as a 40-watt incandescent bulb. Some of the higher-end models allow you to sync your new bulbs with your phone or computer, allowing you to dim or even change the color of the light they emit remotely.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has required a slow phase-out of high-wattage incandescent bulbs: 100-watt incandescents ceased production last October, and in January 75-watt bulbs were also discontinued. By 2014, the production of 40- and 60-watt incandescents will also cease.

But we don’t need the Commissar of Home Lighting that foisted mercury-laden CFLs on us to now promote LEDs. The market is already bringing us sexier, greener, more efficient light bulbs on its own.

[LED lightbulb image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

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