Like cell phones in China, light emitting diodes (LED) have the potential to leapfrog CFLs as a technology in parts of the world that are looking for a replacement to the incandescent bulb for residential lighting. The ability of diodes to produce light was first recognized in the 1920's, so LEDs are not new technology. They are currently used in everything from traffic lights, Christmas lights, watches, exit signs, and slowly making their way into the residential setting.
The advantage of LEDs is that they consume MUCH LESS power than incandescents and a fraction of the power of CFLs, without the worry of Mercury. So why doesn't everyone have this wonderful and amazing light in their homes? While LEDs exist for residential setting, they are still an emerging technology, which means they are very expensive.
The Energy Star residential LED guide is a decent place to learn about the technology, but doesn't give too much information on where you can actually buy the products and how you would use them in your house. Part of this is due to the "newness" of residential LEDs.
In order to find more info for how you or I would purchase an LED for use in a standard light bulb socket, I did an Amazon search for LED. Which unfortunately didn't really yield any product that got a very high rating that could be used to replace a 60 Watt incandescent. Most of the LEDs on Amazon are for task lighting.
One of the LED lighting companies I have heard of is Cree. I looked on their website for the Cree LED Lighting for residential and commercial applications. The website had some good information, but it looks like their residential solution that would replace a 60 Watt bulb is currently only used in recessed lighting (it looks like they only have a recessed solution due to the necessity of a heat sink surrounding the bulb). Since they didn't have prices on their website, I had to do a quick search on Froogle for the Cree LR6 model of recessed LED light, which runs around $88-$100 bucks! Compare this to the recessed $1.25 N:vision CFLs I've had in my kitchen (which are on a motion sensor) that have been working flawlessly for over a year.
For now, if you are upgrading your lighting I would suggest sticking with CFL's until the technology for Residential LEDs advances and brings the price down. In a later post I will do a cost comparison between incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs, much like I have done in my cost comparison between CFLs and Incandescents.
Have you had any experience with a LED replacing a 60 Watt incandescent bulb? If so, tell me in the comments below!