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LEDs efficient alternative to phased out incandescent

August 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
New federal regulations on energy efficiency have been going into effect in California that will phase out standard incandescent light bulbs.

California decided to replace the least efficient incandescent bulbs one year earlier than the rest of the country. That means 100-watt light bulbs are out because they need to be 72 watts or less.

Light-emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs, are a good alternative because they last a long time, are cooler to the touch and give off great color.

Consumer Reports put a variety of LED bulbs through tests in its labs. These bulbs are expensive, anywhere from $17 for a table lamp bulb to more than $60 for a floodlight.

"Even with an LED's high cost, you can still save $100 or more over its life compared to a standard incandescent," said Bob Markovich of Consumer Reports.

LEDs last longer. Consumer Reports has some that have been on continuously for nearly 9,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs typically last 1,000 to 2,000 hours.

"LEDs have some distinct advantages over CFLs (compact fluorescents). They reach full brightness instantly and some are also better at dimming," Markovich said.

But not all LEDs are good at distributing light. For example, a Sylvania 60-watt ultra LED shines most of its light up towards the ceiling. It doesn't give you much light to read under.

Far better for table or floor lamps is a 40-dollar Philips AmbientLED. It's the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb and claims to last almost 23 years.

For outdoor floodlights, try an Eco Smart Par 38 for $45 dollars. It promises to last even longer.

If you replace an incandescent bulb with an LED, Consumer Reports says it will take four to 10 years before you recoup the costs and start saving. CFLs cost much less and will save you money much sooner and Consumer Reports' latest tests show they've improved.


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