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Guide to selecting & installing LED type light bulbs used in building light fixtures - LED building lighting options.Our page top photo of four types of Edison-base LED light bulbs (lamps) illustrates some of the LED bulb options for conventional indoor or outdoor lighting fixtures. Most LED bulbs of this type include warnings about use limitations such as suitable or not for damp locations and a requirement for use only in open light fixtures. This article series details guidelines for selecting and installing interior lighting to meet the requirements for different building areas.
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As manufacturers ramp up production quantity prices of LED lamps can be expected to fall. In 2012 we paid as much as $35.00 for a quality LED type light bulb used to replace an incandescent, halogen, or compact fluorescent bulb.
Life Expectancy & Wattage Advantages of LED Light Bulbs
The life expectancy of all types of light bulbs has seen tremendous improvement since the 1920's and 1930's when Phoebus cartel, including ELIN, GE, Osram, Tungsram, and Phillips controlled light bulb life and prices by penalizing its members if they made a bulb that lasted more than 1000 hours - about 10 months for a bulb left on for 3 hours a day.
Today, GE's 13-W A19 LED bulb, equivalent in brightness to about a 60-watt incandescent bulb, is expected to last 25,000 hours - about 20 years by GE's estimate. 
Beyond a longer life, LED bulbs offer lower electricity costs over the life of the bulb and significantly for some applications, lower wattage and cooler operation for an equivalent light output as the incandescent (and some flouresencent) bulbs that they can replace. The lower wattage and temperature mean that when desired we can often and safely obtain a greater total light output from an existing light fixture without exceeding its rated bulb wattage and temperature.
For example, the GE 13-Watt (60W) A19 Omni Directional, dimmable light bulb mentioned above uses less than 1/4 the wattage (13 watts) as the 60-watt bulb that it can replace.
Extending this logic, a Phillips PAR 38 LED flood light that produces light at a brightness roughly equivalent to a 120W incandescent light bulb draws just 19.5 watts! Our TABLE of LED BULB PROPERTIES shows the comparable brightness and wattage of LED bulbs and the traditional incandescent bulbs that they can replace.
In January 2013 we purchased similar capacity bulbs for under $15.00 and other LED replacements for standard light bulbs were under $10.00 and promised cutting energy savings over incandescent (or some halogen) light bulbs by a factor of ten and increasing life by about a factor of ten as well..
The savings in energy use and expected life, depending on bulb model, can be substantial and costs are expected to continue to fall.
At left our photo shows mini track light fixtures that we converted from halogen to LED lamps. The halogen bulb is on the right is a GE-made BAB/CG constant-color 20W, 12V, MR 16 flood lamp rated for three year life. .
OK so in the photo at below left I'm using LED flashlights to make a more general point about LED bulbs & lights: Not all LED bulbs, even LED bulbs that look alike, are all equally bright. But you will see that both brightness and light pattern can vary significantly among LED bulbs, flashlights, and light fixtures.
Take a look at the Lumens rating provided by the bulb manufacturer. At above right we show two LED light bulbs intended for ambient indoor lighting: mini floods from EcoSmart (at left in the photo) and Phillips (at right in the photo). Both of these are GU-10 base mini floods that can be used to replace halogen type GU-10's used in track lights or similar fixtures.
The cost, brightness measured in lumens, estimated annual energy cost, and watt-equivalent bulbs vary among LED bulbs that may otherwise (out of the package) look a lot alike. There is no single right or wrong LED bulb - pick the one that meets your needs for brightness, energy consumption rate, life expectancy (I'm old so I'm not sure I should be buying 25-year-life bulbs). .
The LED lamp (bulb) shown in my hand at left is a 20-Watt GU10 type used as a mini-flood or spot in individual light fixtures or in track lights. We like this Ecosmart bulb it's bright, at 320 lumens.
We replaced 50-watt 430-lumen Halogen bulbs with this LED version for a 10x reduction in annual energy cost.
A second advantage of the much lower wattage requirement of the LED bulb was that we could install additional track light fixtures in the same lighting track to provide more area illumination without overloading and without overheating the lighting circuit.
Our photos below offer a subjective comparison of the appearance and relative apparent brightness of the LED mini flood with a 5.3 base bulb (at the left in each photo) and a halogen GU 5.3 base bulb in the same track light fixture (at the right in each photo). This LED bulb was about as close as we could get to the brightness of the origial halogens.
Watch out:similar -looking LED-based GU10's are also available but in lower lumen ratings - which may be disappointing if the level of illumination is a concern and you fail to notice the lumen rating of your replacement bulb before purchasing it.
In the table lamp and bulb photos below you can observe that LED bulbs used in conventional lighting fixtures can offer soft and warm color temperatures similar to incandescent lighting, overcoming an objection to the color temperature some fluorescent bulb types.
Warm Temperature Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Compared with Bright White LED Bulbs
The photo at left makes clear, however, that many modern bulbs used in building lamps or light fixtures are available in a wide range of color temperatures.
The bulb at far left is a "warm-color-temperature" fluorescent bulb, while the bulb at the right side of our photo is an LED lamp made by Phillips and offered in a bright-white color temperature.
The three most-common LED light bulb brands we find (in 2012-2013) in building supply stores in North America were Ecosmart, General Electric, and Phillips. A wider variety of bulb manufacturers, brands, and bulb types is quickly found online. The following table compares the key features of various types of LED light bulbs used for building lighting & light fixtures.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LED bulbs for building lighting fixtures
Questions & answers or comments about how to choose, buy, install or troubleshoot LED bulbs or LED lamps for building indoor or outdoor lighting fixtures.
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Technical Reviewers & References
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