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Traditional forms of lighting - like incandescent - emit light in the form of radiant energy. This light is emitted in all directions, and so lighting fixture design often incorporates reflectors, lenses and shades to point the light in a desired direction. When such design is lacking, light gets wasted.
With LED lighting, light emission works a little differently. Where the LED components are housed on a flat surface, light is emitted in a hemispheric manner, rather than spherically. Because of this inherent property, LED lighting is well-suited for task-lighting and other functional purposes that require directional light. On the flip side, lighting arrangements that require omnidirectional illumination may be better off with an alternative light source, at least until better LED designs emerge.
Many consumers balk at the notion of paying double-digit figures for a light bulb. One can hardly blame them. Traditional incandescent light bulbs are fragile things; we are used to them breaking quite easily.
LEDs, on the other hand, are quite resistant to breakage from direct impact and vibration. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs do not contain glass - not only does this add to their sturdiness, it also provides additional piece of mind when used in areas of the home where broken bulbs would otherwise be a safety concern, like a playroom or children's bedroom.
LEDs are also perfect for cold temperature. These conditions have prove problematic for fluorescent bulbs, but LED performance actually improves as the temperature drops, making them a great fit for cold storage (refrigerators and freezers) as well as for outdoor applications.
While it is possible to achieve dimming functionality with LEDs, it's not as straightforward as it is with traditional incandescent bulbs. Like CFLs, LEDs are sometimes incompatible with dimmer controls that have been designed for incandescent bulbs. With the typical dimmer designed for incandescent bulbs, an electronic switch is toggled on and off 120 times per second. Using phase control, power to the lamp is regulated, and instead of seeing a flicker the user sees continuous dimming.
Most electronic dimmers operate the same way, although the specifics of the technology can vary across different brands. While these variations do not affect incandescent lights, they can have a decisive impact on the performance of LEDs and CFLs.
Not all dimmers will be compatible with LED fixtures. Sometimes the LED driver will not receive enough power to function when the dimmer is set low; other times the LED can become damaged with current spikes. To ensure that an LED is compatible with a dimmer, look for labels on the dimmer packaging that indicate it is designed to be used with LED products. Some LED manufacturers and products will list compatible dimmers.