The technology of LED light fixtures is rapidly improving in the market. After the ban of 100-watt incandescent bulbs, the growth of available replacements has ballooned. 75-watt incandescent bulbs are also on the way out, and 60-watt bulbs are next.
When energy-saving light bulbs first came on the market, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs were one of very few choices available. A 13-watt CFL will provide about the same light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, but it contains mercury. The other problem is that I have yet to install a CFL that has a life expectancy anywhere close to what is advertised on the packaging.
LED’s are very promising, and have many advantages over CFL’s and incandescent bulbs. LED’s are great for shock resistance, and vibration. Garage door openers and ceiling fans tend to wear out the filaments of incandescent bulbs quickly because of the vibration, but LED’s last much longer. Another advantage is that LED fixtures can have directional light. So, less light is wasted in areas that do not need illumination. LED’s have no mercury and can be easily disposed of. Many LED’s are dimmable, and provide exceptional energy savings.
One common misconception is that LED’s do not produce heat. Any bulb that produces visible light looses energy to heat. For an incandescent bulb, 2% of the energy gets emitted as light, and 98% of the energy gets lost to heat. For an LED, 70% of the energy is light, and 30% of it is lost as heat. So, LED’s are more energy efficient because less energy is lost as heat.
The biggest advantage of LED’s is the life expectancy. I bought an LED fixture last week near Riverside, CT, rated for 35,000 hours of use. At three hours a day, it is expected to last about 32 years before I have to change it. After that time, the LED will still work, but the amount of light will have diminished by 30%, which is the minimal amount of light lost that a person can notice.
Obviously, not all fixtures will live up to the expected lifespan. The quality of the LED’s will affect the lifespan, as well as the quality of the drivers that convert the electricity. Heat is another factor that will shorten the life of LED’s. LED fixtures perform best in cold ambient temperatures. So, in recessed lighting, or enclosed fixtures, they will not last as long. For recessed lighting in Riverside, CT, I recommend a retrofit kit, as opposed to just replacing the incandescent bulb with an LED bulb.
LED technology is rapidly changing and new products are constantly being introduced. In the near future, costs will continue to drop, and the options available will increase. Make sure to speak to a licensed electrician to find out what type of LED lighting will work in your application.