What is LED Lighting?
LED (or light emitting diode) technology is one of the fastest-growing lighting technologies on the market. This energy-efficient alternative to halogen incandescent and the well-know compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is at least five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and will last up to twenty-five times as long. An ENERGY STAR-labeled LED light bulb may use as little as 75% less energy than an incandescent and last for over 25,000 hours. That's some serious lighting improvement.
LED Tech Check
An LED bulb is made of semi-conducting chips that can produce 30 to 150 lumens. A bulb may have a single chip or multiple chips for a higher lumen output. (A lumen, for those who don't know, is a measurement of light production. Read more about Lumens.) LED technology is used everywhere, from traffic lights and digital watches to remote controls and appliances. The LED light bulb is simply a small circuit board containing multiple LED devices, housed within a light bulb design.
LEDs in the Home
LED lighting for the home is still rapidly evolving. LED bulbs designed to replace the outdated incandescent bulbs may be more a more expensive purchase than their inefficient predecessors, but they will also last up to 25,000 hours of use (as opposed to 1,000 hours in an incandescent), resulting in a savings that can well exceed $100 over the lifetime of the bulb. And that's just for one bulb! Think of the household savings potential from switching over every bulb in the house.
The prevalence of LED bulbs in the home has given rise to an increasing number of LED lighting fixtures. Designed specifically for LED bulbs, LED lighting fixtures run the gamut to include everything from ceiling pendants, table lamps, wall sconces, outdoor lighting and more. Many LED lighting fixtures accommodate readily available replacement LED bulbs, but some are built to use specialty bulbs. It's an important detail to consider when shopping for LED lighting fixtures. With that said, the long-lasting qualities of LED bulbs are such that replacing them is not something a consumer needs to worry about frequently.
On the Horizon
As LED technology continues to permeate our homes, the folks in the R&D labs are busy at work taking this form of lighting to the next level. Already OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) are making in-roads into devices, appliances and the like. Similar to LEDs, OLEDs are made from thin films of organic molecules that create light. In device like televisions, OLEDs can provide brighter and crisper images while using even less electricity than LEDs.
Additionally, there has been mention of Wi-Fi LED light bulbs that can be controlled through connected devices like smart phones. Wi-Fi technology built into each individual light connects the bulb to a "lighting gateway," which is in turn connected to the home's Internet router. The lights then get controlled - turned on or off - through an App on a smartphone. While it's not entirely different from existing lighting control schemes found in "smart homes" today, building the connectivity directly into the bulb enables easy plug-and-play capability to any home, eliminating the installation of wires and outlet plug-ins.