LED (light emitting diode) LIGHTING FACTS
The promise of LEDs is that if you change your light bulbs today when your child is starting kindergarten, they won’t need to be changed again until he or she is a couple years out of grad school. What’s the payback for the average homeowner? If you’re replacing incandescent or halogen bulbs, in most cases you can recover your increased investment within the very first year.
One aspect in the LED debate that has so far received little attention is the safety of the light source itself. Skin starts to burn at about 140°F, but standard incandescents can easily reach 200°F. CFLs (fluorescents) are a bit better, reaching about 160°F, but an MR16 halogen accent light, used widely in decorative pendants and lamps, burns at a scorching 400°F. LEDs, by comparison, run at a relatively cool 120°F. Having toddlers or a live-in senior parent in your home, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose safer LED bulbs on this basis alone.
If LEDs have a downside, dimming is it. If you thought dimming fluorescents was complicated, try dimming LEDs. According to electricians, phase-cut dimming works well with resistive loads such as incandescent or halogen, but not necessarily as well with electronic loads like CFLs or LEDs. Consequently, sophisticated LED dimmers often cost more than standard dimmers, even though they are the same size. (However, they also run cooler because they handle far less load.) It’s important to make sure that the LED fixture/lamp says it is “dimmable” and to what extent. Most LEDs dim nicely down to 10 percent but may not go to zero, like an incandescent bulb can.
Good lighting is subjective; what works for one may not work for another. If you haven’t had experience with LEDs, here’s a thought. Pick up three or four LED bulbs that you think may work. Where you shop matters. The big-box stores have a broad selection, and a lighting showroom will have live dedicated LED fixtures on display. Choose several color temperatures between 2,700K and 3,500K. Back home, try for a side-by-side trial by replacing your kitchen incandescents with the LEDs. (You can even use a free light-meter app on your smartphone to compare light levels.) Live with the new lamps for a weekend, keep your favorite, return the others, and buy more of the winner. If the bulbs perform as advertised, you won’t have to buy lamps again for at least 13 years. But save the receipt; every now and then an LED experiences early failure.