Pros vs. Cons: LED Light Bulbs
Keep these in mind if you're thinking of replacing bulbs in your energy-efficient home with LED bulbs.
Light-emitting diodes, better known as LED light bulbs have come a long way in recent years – in accessibility, cost and variety. With new products and designs hitting the market all the time, we can now say with confidence that there’s an LED bulb for pretty much every type of light fixture. But – are they for everyone, and do they work well in every room? Learn about the pros and cons to help you make smart decisions about improving your home’s efficiency.
They're Energy Efficient + Long-Lasting
There’s no denying that the rise in popularity of LED bulbs is linked to efficiency compared to incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL) and fluorescent bulbs. It takes less energy to illuminate small LEDs, which means lower energy consumption, reduced energy bills and better for the environment (since many products can be recycled). The bulbs themselves last much longer than the filament in older lights, with some products claiming a lifespan of more than 10 years or anywhere from 10,000-50,000 hours of use. When you’re looking at dollars and cents, some products estimate you'll see a $15 savings every year for each bulb when you upgrade from an incandescent to an LED.
They Look Like Normal Bulbs
For many years, the best, most efficient alternative to an incandescent light bulb was a curlicue CFL. It was efficient, but it wasn't stylish.
The CFL was not designed for use in exposed pendant or chandeliers, and the LED bulbs do a much better job at bridging the gap between design and energy efficiency. Modern LED bulbs continue to evolve with shapes and finishes that complement fixtures while still offering energy efficiency. There are even bulbs that mimic the filament you’d find in an Edison bulb.
They're in Many Smart Home Upgrades
LED efficiency has enabled shifts in how manufacturers look at other home products, too. When upgrading switches and outlets in my own home, we selected products that had built-in night lights and other smart home-friendly features. “LED lighting products are energy-efficient, don’t generate heat, and last longer than other bulb types,” explains Adam Hayes, senior product manager at Legrand, North America. “With this in mind, homeowners should look for LED technology in multi-functional essentials like night lights with tamper-resistant outlets, locator lights with switches and dimmers, and under-cabinet lighting to help homeowners conserve energy and funds.”
They're More Affordable Now
The cost of LED bulbs decreases every year. While they’re still an investment compared to CFL bulbs, the cost is considered mainstream. You’ll find a range of LED products available in the hardware store. Look for bulk packages to get the best cost per bulb.
They're Excellent at Directional Light
LEDs are great at spotlighting a target, such as a countertop beneath cabinetry or over the mirror in bathrooms. For a long time, they were criticized for inabilities to offer a diffused light preferred in a living space. Product evolution continues to adapt, offering omnidirectional lights with reflective surfaces that strive to provide an even, diffused glow.
They’re Not Always Dimmer Compatible
Even when paying a premium for LEDs that claim to be dimmer compatible, you may still experience mild flickering from time to time with LED bulbs, regardless if the light is dimmed or turned up to maximum brightness.
Why does this happen?
One main cause for flickering or strobing LEDs is the incompatibility between the dimmer switch, the transformer, the fixture itself, and the light bulbs. Choose a product from a brand that is well-tested, but remember that the quality of the dimmer switch and the age and condition of the light fixture are also factors. There's no guarantee your dimmable bulb will meet your expectations.
They Have Blue Light
Blue light – on the cooler end of the LED spectrum – is categorically more similar to natural midday daylight, which a lot of homeowners prefer. Lighting experts suggest that the cooler shades work better in kitchen and bathroom lighting, but not in bedrooms or living spaces. Linked to health issues including sleep deprivation, the wavelengths produced by blue LED lights can be found in smartphones, televisions, and the bulbs we use in our night lights and bedside lamps. Researchers suggest avoiding screens before bedtime to get a more restful night sleep, and eliminating exposure to these blue light waves is part of their logic. Choosing amber and soft white LED lights in the bedroom and living areas can help offset effects caused by the faux daylight rays. Some criticize this opposite end of the spectrum as not bright enough – depending on your wall color, it may feel warm or too yellow.
They Depreciate in Brightness
The inner workings of an LED light bulb are more complex than an ordinary bulb. While manufacturers can claim that LEDs are functional for 10,000+ hours, it’s not uncommon for the bulb circuitry to overheat depending on where the bulb is situated. Overheating (and the general age of the bulb and everyday usage) can contribute to the inner workings burning out ahead of the 10,000-hour mark. It may only operate at its peak capacity for 80 percent of its lifespan. In many cases, the bulb will produce less light over time (you might not even notice it since it’s a gradual change) and in other cases, the bulb will stop working altogether if the circuitry is damaged.