In 2003 a friend called and said he was buying LED (light emitting diodes) light bulbs. He told me they used much less energy than an incandescent light (known as the light Thomas Edison invented). Would I be interested in buying any? I told him I would buy one and see what I thought before buying more.
What he didn’t tell me was it produced the equal amount of light as a twenty-five-watt incandescent light bulb. That’s about the same as what is used in most refrigerators and ovens. With a bit of research I discovered these LEDs were designed for sign lighting and marquees–not household use.
I tried to use the LED in my hallway. This would have worked fine if all I wanted was a night light. But that’s where my washer and dryer are. Even with the light above them, I still could not see well enough to know if I got all my clothes out of the washer.
Another problem with that LED was it had, what I call, a “spotlight” effect. It shot out a straight beam of light similar to a flashlight.
So, like many Americans, I proudly bought florescent lights thinking I was conserving a great deal of energy and saving the environment. At the time I, and probably most people, did not know they contain mercury. I even had one pop out of the packaging and hit the floor. I swept and mopped up the mess without giving it a thought, then wrote the company a complaint letter telling them about the incident. They sent me three new lights along with a letter of apology, saying they would look into the problem. No mention of mercury or a cleanup plan. I now know the proper procedure is to get out of the building and call a hazardous material handling team. Not an inexpensive option.
Today, I do not want these mercury filled contraptions in my house. But going back to the incandescent light bulb is not an option. First, they use over double the amount of electricity than the aforementioned device. Second, the incandescent bulb will be illegal for stores to sell starting in 2012. That year 100 watts cannot be sold. The following year it will be the seventy-five watts and in 2014, the forty to sixty watts. Time to check out LEDs again.
LEDs have vastly improved over the years. These lights are now available in the equal of twenty-five-, thirty-, sixty- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs. They disperse light in a wider angle than the one I bought years ago and are sold in warm and cool white. The warm white emanates light comparable to a florescent light but without the flickering. The cool white is a much whiter light. LED uses about half the energy florescent does and there’s no delay when the switch is turned on. They do not contain mercury so they are much more eco-friendly. They also last longer. On average they will light up your life for 50,000 hours. That’s the equal of about six and a half years if left on twenty-four hours every day for those six and a half years! The bulbs I bought are guaranteed for two years.
However, nothing is as good as it sounds. (Remember how great we all thought florescent lights were?) There are some drawbacks. These lights, though they are better, still do not distribute light as widely as florescent and incandescent bulbs do. And they are costly. A bulb which uses thirteen watts is equal to a 100-watt incandescent and costs around $57. A 60-watt equivalent (uses about six watts)–about $19 to $21. But one needs to think of the overall savings. Most of us do not leave lights on twenty-four hours a day. That means an average person should get about ten years out of one bulb. At $57, that’s a cost of $5.70 a year. The information I read said you save about $6 a year in energy. (Of course this will depend on how much you pay for electricity.) At that rate you have gained thirty cents a year or three dollars over the life of the bulb. And just think how many times you won’t have to crawl up and teeter on that damn stool, or whatever else you use, to change the light.
I chose a warm white LED that is equal to a 100-watt incandescent for above my computer. I tried the cool white but the light was too glaring. Everywhere else I’ve installed either a 100- or sixty-watt equivalent cool white.
Are LEDs the future in lighting? I believe for those who have ceiling lights they may very well be. I also believe once more people buy them they will come down in price. And LEDs will improve even more over time. But for those who do not have ceiling lights (people who use lamps) or those who remodel and remove ceiling lights, there are new things on the horizon. One of these is OLED (organic light-emitting devices).
OLED is made of clear plastic that can be bent. It can be put on the wall or ceiling. It can even be place in a window. During the day the outside light will come through the OLED. At night when the device is turned on, it will appear as if light is coming in from outside. This may sound like something out of a science-fiction movie but in the future houses may not have light bulbs at all. Or may be built out of OLED. Imagine a house that completely lights up with a small amount of energy use.
But for now, LEDs can be found at many home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Their choices may be limited so the best place to find the LED you’re looking for may be on the internet. Do a search for “LED light bulbs.”
The Thomas Edison light may be dying but the future of light is still bright.