Wednesday, April 6, 2011

LED Lights are Here. Really.

A few years ago, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) arrived on the scene. They are much more energy efficient than typical incandescent bulbs. For example, a CFL bulb consumes about one-third the amount of electricity as an incandescent bulb.

The reduction in electricity consumption is a great boon, and I've seen a reduction in my monthly electrical consumption since I switched all of the most frequently-used bulbs over to CFLs.

What I haven't liked about CFLs is that they tend to be slow to come up to full brightness and their color is a bit too yellowish for my taste.

Oh, and if you want them to be dimmable, the cost goes way up while the usable range of dimming is about half that of an incandescent bulb.

But I've always wondered why light-emitting diodes (LEDs) weren't more popular. Well, they've finally arrived.

In one of my frequent trips to Costco, I saw that they were offering some LED floodlights. If an item is at Costco, it's mainstream. The cost was $40 per bulb, but with a Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) instant rebate of $20, the cost was only $20.

Of course, the packaging touts how much money the bulbs will save you over the course of the 10 or so years the light is supposed to last, but they are comparing the bulbs to incandescent bulbs, not the CFLs I already invested in.

What I really like about the LED lights is the color of them, their instant on capabilities and the dimming range. All very attractive.

I also like the fact that the LEDs don't have the bit of mercury in them, so disposal is not as much of an issue as it is with CFLs.

What I don't like about the LED lights is that they have very heavy duty framing and supports that can't be easily crushed or apparently recycled. I don't know the reason for this, but all of the LED lights I've seen seem to be very solidly built.

The other aspect of LED lights that I don't like is their cost. Without the CL&P discount, it's hard to justify a $40 LED bulb instead of a $1 incandescent bulb. I'm sure the cost will come down over time, but it's a hard nut to swallow.

With all of the benefits of LED lights, I was ready to invest in replacing all of the recessed lights in my kitchen with LEDs. That's about 13 lights altogether.

Even though the cost would have been more than $250, I really like what LEDs offer.

So, back I went to Costco only to find that the bulbs were no longer in stock, no one could tell me when they'd be available, and I can't find the bulbs at costco.com — or any other online retailer.

I guess my CFLs will have to stay with me until the LED bulbs become more than a one-time sale at Costco.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 6 April 2011.

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