How bright are led light bulbs?

LED lights can be made just as bright as regular incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, but they will be expensive. You will need multiple diode elements per bulb to mimic a high-wattage incandescent, which raises the cost. (The somewhat-dimmer LED bulbs tend to be more cost-effective.) There are also practical considerations with LEDs that you don't get with other bulbs:

· Color rendering -- LEDs don't produce a full black-body light spectrum, so some colors won't look quite right. You can get used to this pretty quickly unless you're doing color-sensitive lighting like for art or fashion. This is getting better as the technology matures.

· Beam direction -- LEDs are much more directional than other bulb types. They shoot photons in one direction and must be spread with a diffusing element, whereas other bulbs radiate in all directions and use reflectors to aim the light. So LEDs work extremely well in spotlight/flood/accent applications, but not as well for ambient or mood lighting.

· LEDs get dimmer with age. But they last so much longer than incandescents, you're still coming out on top.

· Small form factor bulbs like MR16 (for 12v recessed lighting) are hard to find as LEDs.


Personally, I use a mix of bulbs:

· LEDs for lights that are on for large parts of the day, because of the large electricity savings. 3000K color temperature or less, please!

· CFLs for bright full-room lighting like overhead fixtures and low diffuse lighting like bedside reading lamps. I like "instant on" 2700K CFL bulbs because they mimic incandescents pretty well.

· Incandescents and halogens for difficult fixtures that won't fit other bulb form factors, and for lights that I rarely use since the bulb cost outweighs the infrequent electricity savings.

The best bulb will depend on the application.