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LED stands for light-emitting diode. It’s not a light bulb, but it acts like one.  

An LED is actually a tiny semiconductor that generates light when electricity is passed through it. If you have a microwave oven or DVD player in your home with a digital display, it probably contains an LED.

Over the past few years, lighting engineers have figured out how to use LEDs in light fixtures that you can use at home. At first, LEDs could only emit blue, red and green light. But now, they come in all kinds of colors, including warm white and amber, so they’re close to the color of a traditional light bulb.

But that’s their only resemblance to the energy-inefficient incandescent bulb. LEDs use only about 10 percent of the energy of a traditional light bulb, and they last up to 15 years, so you’ll rarely have to buy a new one or change the old one.

Some people like them better than energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) because it’s easier to dim LEDs, and they turn on without the slight pause that you get when you switch on a CFL. Plus, they don’t contain any mercury. CFLs contain trace amount of mercury.

Still, LEDs are expensive. You can buy an incandescent bulb for $1 or so; a CFL for less than $5; and an LED for $20 or more. The payback, of course, will be in lower energy bills and far fewer replacement bulbs.  


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