LEDs Find Their Way Home

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A study published yesterday by Osram, a German Lighting company, proves once and for all that LED bulbs and lamps require less energy to manufacture than incandescent bulbs. And the differences don't stop there: While incandescent bulbs last 1000-2000 hours, LEDs have a lifespan of 25,000 hours, and can reduce energy bills by as much as 80 percent.

So why doesn't everyone own an LED lamp?

"It's expensive," said Liz Johnson, a manager at Green Culture, a California-based retailer of environmental products. "You can go to Target and buy a lamp for $50, but an LED lamp might be $150." And that's just the sale price – the LED lamps sold at Green Culture normally range from $282 -$394.

Another problem: You can't simply screw an LED light bulb into a lamp you already own. "LED technology has been perfected for outdoor and architectural applications, like bridges and tunnels or traffic lights and exit signs," said Susan Bloom, communications director at Philips Lighting, the largest lighting manufacturer in the world.

But no such luck for consumers. "The holy grail of the whole LED industry is to create the LED equivalent of a 60 or 100 watt bulb," she said.

Last month, however, Philips came that much closer to this goal: The company launched a line of retrofit LED bulbs intended to replace incandescent bulbs in recessed, track, or accent lighting, as well as chandeliers and wall sconces. The bulbs are sold at Home Depot and range in price from $16-$70.

Bloom hopes that the accessibility of Home Depot and the easy incandescent-to-LED switch will brighten the bulb's prospects, despite the initial expense. "It's a new approach to lighting – a bulb that can, theoretically, last 25 years can be treated like an appliance. When you move, you take it with you," she said.
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