LED Light Bulbs: FAQs From Consumers

Light emitting diodes (better known as LED light bulbs) illuminate from the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material. These energy-saving bulbs, once reserved for only the saver or the wealthy, have become quite affordable. With consumers worried about the safety of CFLs and prices now accommodating the masses, many are turning to LEDs. They produce less heat than both the nearly retired incandescent light bulbs and the controversial CFLs. Properly designed, it releases all heat from the bulb backwards into a heat sink. These light bulbs are almost cool to the touch. Still, the public has many unanswered questions and research often points to information from 2 or more years ago. In the evolution of energy efficient bulbs, that is ancient history.

What kind of light does it produce?

LEDs come in a variety of different colors depending on the bulb’s coating. For weeks, I thought the warm light in my desk lamp was my beloved, incandescent bulb… the last my household would ever enjoy. As it turned out, it was a very inexpensive LED light bulb that had a purchase price of around nine dollars. My lamp, though, holds a simple bulb with no extravagant features.

Can you use them with a dimmer switch?

According to Popular Mechanics, LED light bulbs can be used on a dimmer, but not just any dimmer. The dimmer switch may need to be rated for these light bulbs. Levitron and Lutron are two reputable manufacturers that provide lists of bulbs that will work on their dimmers. You will need to make sure to buy the bulbs that will work on your dimmer. Sometimes these light bulbs will work on older dimmers, but consumers should do their homework.

Are LED light bulbs safe?

Experts feel that they are much safer than CFLs. Research published in Environmental Science & Technology, however, questions this safety assertion. They often contain lead, nickle, arsenic, and other metals that have been associated with kidney diseases, rashes, neurological damage and even cancer. The biggest concern doesn’t seem to be in their actual use though, but in their disposal. Currently, most consumers dispose of them with their normal trash. Environmentalists are concerned about these metals entering our waterways and damaging wildlife and humans.

How long do they last?

They are said to last a decade or more. A consumer watch group, according to The Daily Mail, tested this claim. While they certainly have long lives, the reality of their life expectancy is less bright than many manufacturers claim. The report claims that 66 of 230 bulbs tested by the watch group failed before ever hitting 10,000 hours even though they claimed to last 15,000 hours.

Are they really that efficient?

According to the US Department of Energy, eliminating incandescent bulbs is expected to prevent over 40 new power plants from being needed in the next two decades. It’s believed that LED bulbs have the potential to reduce lighting electricity use by 33 percent in 2027.

[Photo by Geoffrey A. Landis]