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8 Reasons to Love LED Lights - And 1 Reason Not To

Could LEDs light the way to an energy-efficient future?

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LED lights have many advantages over other kinds of lighting, including compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, an unsafe lighting technology. Here are eight reasons to love LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, adapted from material provided by Polar-Ray LED Lighting Solutions.

1. LEDs Have Been Around for Decades

led
Philips

LED lighting is a proven technology that's been in widespread use since the 1960s. Traffic lights, electronic instruments and other devices have relied on LED lighting -- and if you're old enough to remember the first geeky calculator you bought in the 1970s, there's a chance it may have been lit with LED light.

2. LEDs Can Create a Warm, Soft Glow

leds
General Electric/Polar-Ray

Some users associate LEDs with a harsh, cold, glaring light, but newer LEDs are capable of producing a warm, soft -- dare I say romantic? -- glow, just like the inefficient incandescent lights that are still widely used.

3. LEDs Are Ridiculously Energy-Efficient

LED lights use 75 to 80 percent less energy than older incandescent lights. And because lighting consumes a significant amount of household energy, the savings can add up fast.

4. LED Lights Will Save You Money

led lights
Polar-Ray

If you're more motivated by cash than by environmental concerns, here's your catnip: LEDs will save you money over both CFLs and regular incandescent lights. One study found that over the lifetime of an LED light (estimated at 50,000 hours), LEDs cost just $95 to operate -- CFLs, by comparison, cost $159 over the same period, and incandescents cost a whopping $652. These figures don't even include the hassles of buying and replacing lights. LEDs cost more up front, true -- you can expect to be at least $10 per bulb, depending on the type and the manufacturer -- but like most new technologies, that cost is dropping every year.

5. LEDs Might Outlast You

If you hate changing burned-out light bulbs, raise your hand -- or, on second thought, don't. LEDs are generally estimated to last at least 25,000 hours, and often up to 50,000 hours. Incandescents only last 1,200 hours, so you'd have to replace an incandescent light 42 times to get the light of a single, solid-state LED. CFLs, by comparison, usually last 10,000 hours, so you'd only have to change them 5 times to match one LED light. And speaking of changing light bulbs...

6. LEDs Contain No Toxic Mercury

light emitting diodes
Cree/Polar-Ray

I would be a big fan of CFLs if they didn't contain mercury, a toxin associated with birth defects, brain damage and other disorders. That's why CFLs can't be thrown in the trash -- and it's very tricky to clean up a broken CFL. LEDs' biggest advantage over CFLs is that they contain no mercury or other hazardous materials. None. Zip. Nada.

7. LED Lights Are Cool - Literally

Ever try to unscrew a hot light bulb? (Not twice, I'll bet.) Incandescent and halogen lights can be very hot, which leads to a number of safety issues. LEDs, on the other hand, are totally cool even after several hours of use -- they're even cooler than CFLs.

8. LEDs Can Be Dimmed

led
DOE

LED lights can be dimmed, which is not always the case with CFLs. Additionally, LEDs come on instantly (again, better than CFLs) and don't flicker (ditto). Finally, their light output is constant over the lifetime of the lamp, fading only when the lamps are at the end of their very, very long life.

9. BUT - Not All LEDs Are Created Equal

leds
DOE

Unfortunately, the Department of Energy and others have noted that there are some poor-quality LED manufacturers out there selling inferior products that grow dim, shift in color or begin to flicker after just 1,000 hours or so. (Note the two photos at left, after 100 hours and after 1,000 hours.) To protect yourself from these problems, look for Energy Star-qualified LED lights made by reputable manufacturers.

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