LED Lamps Go Where Compact Fluorescents Cannot

From The New York Times, Wednesday, September 8, 2010:

Mention “new lighting technology” and what leaps to mind is probably a compact fluorescent curlicue. Shaped like a soft ice cream cone, it is viewed as a replacement for the ubiquitous 60-watt incandescent light bulb, which looks almost like it did 90 years ago.

But a profusion of light-emitting-diode lamps is about to hit the market, many of them in applications that are awkward or impossible for compact fluorescents.

LED’s are still mostly specialty items sold on the Web. But by the end of this month, the 2,200 Home Depot stores around the United States will stock seven types, including two substitutes for the classic incandescent bulb, one of which my colleague Leslie Kaufman reported on recently.

But those are “not the most compelling use” of LED technology, according to Zachary S. Gibler, chief executive of the Lighting Science Group Corporation, which makes the lamps that Home Depot will stock. Replacing a standard 60-watt bulb, an LED will produce roughly the same amount of light per watt of electricity as a compact fluorescent; its only advantages, he said, is that it is fully dimmable and lasts a lot longer.

Another product his company is marketing is something most consumers can identify, but not name: a round lamp with a face about the size of a silver dollar, with a base consisting of two metal pins, often used for accent lighting in kitchens or retail stores. Called an MR16, it is almost always halogen, which is only slightly more efficient than a standard incandescent. It is much too small to allow for a fluorescent version.

But Lighting Science is selling an LED version. Installed over my kitchen sink, it casts a much whiter light than the yellowish halogen it replaced. It can take a bit of getting used to, but vegetables in the sink seem truer in its light. A 6-watt version can replace a 35-watt halogen, which is a consideration if it’s the light you leave on all night.

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