Dear Umbra,

Where are the LED replacement bulbs for normal household incandescents? They’re supposed to be more efficient, cheaper, cooler, longer-lasting, and less toxic, right? So why aren’t there any LED bulbs similar to CFLs? I’ve been looking around but haven’t been able to find any yet besides flashlights, holiday lights, and the like.

Still in the dark,
Eureka, Calif.

Dearest Tim,

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As you suspected, LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are indeed more efficient, cooler (on both the temperature and eco-chic scales), and longer-lasting than incandescents. One thing they are not yet is cheaper, at least in the household light-bulb form. We already use LEDs in a wide range of electronics and other gadgets — not to mention headlamps for hiking and camping — but their use as household lighting is not yet widespread. You could be the first on your block to go LED. Ooh la la!

You light up my life, you give me hope …

Photo: Boca Flasher

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Bulbs made from LEDs for use in normal household sockets are out there, they’re just more difficult to find than the oft-touted compact fluorescent bulbs now available in grocery, hardware, and mega-stores everywhere. The internet is a useful tool here. You can find LED-bulb hawkers with a simple search using terms like “LED light bulb.” You might want to shop around a bit to get a good deal and to see what’s out there, as the LED-bulb world is fairly new to most of us.

Though CFLs are now widely touted as an eco-conscious lighting choice, LEDs offer even more environmental benefits. For one thing, there’s no mercury in LEDs. On top of that, they tend to last longer — up to 10 times longer — and though they will be more expensive now up front, most models of LED bulbs will actually prove cheaper in the long run. Buying LED bulbs now will also help make them cheaper for the rest of us, eventually. So it’s kind of a public service, too.

If for some reason you’re not satisfied with the LED bulbs you find in your search but you still want to light up your life with LEDs, you could always use those increasingly popular LED holiday lights for mood lighting, or employ an LED headlamp for lighting at home on occasion. The headlamps aren’t nearly as bright as LED standard-socket bulbs, which use many more individual LEDs to make one bulb, but I have one ascetic friend who uses a three-LED headlamp in his apartment for reading and even some cooking. While that might feel a little too much like spelunking for most people, it could be a fun option for low-maintenance types who don’t like having to turn on a different light switch in every single room they enter. What a pain!


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