May 18, 2011 — First there was the incandescent bulb. Then came the compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. Now, light-emitting diodes — the tiny bulbs already used in automobile headlights and tailights — are available for use in household and office lighting.
Osram Sylvania, based in Danvers, Mass., and Switch Lighting, based in San Jose, Calif., have both announced that they have an LED bulb that’s as bright as a 100-watt incandescent bulb, but consumes just 14 watts of energy. This is huge news for anyone looking to save money on their utility bills. Where a CFL bulb provides three to four times the energy savings of an incandescent bulb, LEDs offer 10 times the savings of a CFL and last 25 times longer. In fact, they have an operational life of 100,000 hours, or 11 years of continuous operation. LEDs produce less heat and do not contain trace amounts of toxins, such as CFLs.
The cost of LED bulbs is still much higher than CFLs. Those coming to market from both Osram Sylvania and Switch Lighting (as well as Philips, who has a bulb that’s about as bright as a 75-watt incandescent bulb) cost between $40 and $50, while CFLs cost under $5 each. But as more manufacturers get into the act, the costs should come down. This kind of bulb could be extremely attractive to large office buildings, where electricity and the cost to maintain it (that is, changing thousands of light bulbs) can cut deeply into an owner’s pocket.