LEDs: Taking Over

When the first light bulb finally became practical in the 1880s after 80 years of tinkering, one factor was a dramatic drop in price because of new materials–and this is happening again today. LEDs are now conquering store shelves, and while they do cost more initially, they actually save you a lot of money. Here are a few ways that LEDs are an improvement on other bulbs–in applications from outdoor lighting to plant growth.

Photo By: Jared Tarbell

Longevity

The average 60-watt incandescent burns out in about 750 hours, and this is where LEDs really put them to shame. The best solar lights, for example, will last 25 years. Not because the bulb will burn out, but because the plastic housing will deteriorate. In fact, it’s impossible to replace the bulb. In other areas where incandescents aren’t the norm, like plant lighting, LEDs still enjoy this advantage. A metal halide bulb has a useful life of 18,000 hours, but an LED lasts 50,000 hours and may even reach 100,000 with foreseeable technological advancements. That’s more than eleven years of continuous use.

Efficiency

An LED is more than eight times as bright as an incandescent of equivalent wattage. Part of the reason is that most of the energy the incandescent uses is wasted as heat, of which LEDs generate very little. So not only will LEDs last longer but they will save you money on your electric bill while they do it (solar lights, of course, save even more money–the sun is still free). If you install a lot of lights in one place, as for plant growth, then the heat becomes a major problem. Some plant growth bulbs are so hot as to melt plastic shields, and they are impossible to handle. You will also need to buy cooling fans and vents in order to keep the temperature down with larger setups. LED grow lights avoid all these headaches. And, any time you walk past your path lights, you’ll be glad that there are no extension cords required.

Incandescents Are Being Phased Out

Governments have recognized the superiority of LEDs too, and consequently some of them are phasing out incandescents–such as the US, which will replace them in 2014. But while LEDs have already achieved a lot, some problems remain: if you use LEDs and want to display plants, you will have to deal with an alien, blue glow.

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