The latest LED bulbs are brighter and give off a more even light than their predecessors, making energy-efficient LEDs more versatile.
The latest line up
At this point, my home has become a bit of a testing lab for LED lightbulbs and the experiment has gone well. Pictured here are some of the more recent bulbs to come to market, including the Philips 17-watt A21 LED light on the front right, which is a 75-watt equivalent priced at $39.97 at Home Depot. On the front left is Lighting Sciences Group 60-watt equivalent which uses 13 watts and costs $34.97. LED bulbs qualify for utility-sponsored rebates in some states.
At the back left is the Philips 12-watt A21 LED Light, which gives off as much light as a 60-watt incandescent and at the back right, a 40-watt equivalent bulb from Pixi Lighting.
LED light sources give off light in one direction, which makes them great for spot lights or to put in recessed cans in a ceiling light. But the latest bulbs are designed to give off more even light as CFLs or incandescent lights do. Inside this fixture is the Lighting Sciences Group bulb which has its latest light-dispersing design. As you can see, the light is pretty even, not only in one direction.
Here's another demonstration of how light dispersal has improved with the latest LEDs. On the left is the Lighting Sciences Group 13-watt bulb with the new design. The lamp on the right has the "snow cone" design of an LED with the light coming out of just the top. (It's also a less bright bulb.) As you can see, the light is even on the left but it's mostly coming out of the top on the right.
One thing to consider when buying LED bulbs is that they come in different shapes than the familiar Edison bulb. The recently released Philips 17-watt A21 LED light on the left is noticeably larger than the 12-watt version on right because it has a longer heat sink. It's longer than a traditional incandescent, too. With a ruler, I found that the Philips 17-watt was about a half inch longer than an incandescent bulb. That's significant enough that I wasn't able to fit the Philips bulb into a small, overhead light fixture.
Residential LEDs need to be designed with a heat sink, which helps ensure their long life, which should be on the order of 20 years. That also means they'll look different than what we're used to. Under a lamp shade, nobody will notice what they look like, but the shape of the bulb may be something to consider in specialty fixtures like this one.
LED lightbulbs are supposed to last many years--it could be 15 to 25 years depending on how many hours a day the lights are on. But what about disposal? In theory, many of the components, including the aluminum metal heat sinks, can be recycled. LED bulb maker Pharox says that its products can be recycled in municipal recycling programs.