An Introduction to Light Emitting Diodes

When it comes to lighting, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are a giant step forward when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, and TreeHugger recommends them for everyone. Even though CFLs offer superior energy efficiency and life expectancy, another light source is on the consumer products horizon with the potential to revolutionize the way we flip the switch: light emitting diodes.

Better known as another three-letter acronym, LEDs offer a similar efficiency upgrade over CFLs that CFLs offer over incandescents; whereas CFLs boast about 66% less energy usage and a lifespan of about 10,000 hours, LEDs can reduce energy consumption by 80-90% and last around 100,000 hours. They light up even faster than incandescents (and way faster than CFLs, which take a minute or two to warm up), which is a nice feature in your house, but could be a life-saving feature if they’re installed as your car’s brake lights.

Since they’re just now beginning to break into the consumer market, LEDs (and the fixtures that they usually come built in to) are almost always more expensive, though they have the potential to be cheaper over their lifespan because you’ll only buy one every 100,000 hours, rather than ten CFLs or dozens of incandescents. As is typical with a burgeoning movement, we’ve seen some high-end, designer-oriented implementations of the technology help break it in; Herman Miller and Yves Béhar’s Leaf Light (pictured; learn more about it here [] and Lucesco’s Halley Light (read more about that one here [] are a couple pretty chic examples, but Sylvania [] and Koncept [] have more affordable desk lamps for sale. Though many fixtures and lamps come with bulbs pre-installed, companies like Mule [] and Enlux [] are leading the charge for screw-in bulb replacements, allowing you and I to slowly start replacing LEDs in your everyday life and light fixtures.

The prices are steadily heading south, and we know that it’s no coincidence that the Millennium Technology Prize went to the inventor of the LED. Learn more about green lighting at TreeHugger’s How to Green Your Lighting Guide [], and get ready to get the LED out.