LED lights make for a better (and cheaper) way to light your apartment

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Now that many of us have made the switch to incandescents and compact flourescents comes word from the New York Times about a new type of low-cost LED lights available to the public. General Electric has announced the new “Bright Stik” brand of light bulbs which for G.E., per the Times, "are a way for cost-conscious consumers to finally move away from the much-criticized compact fluorescents.” They're planning to market them to hotels, but many lighting experts are predicting the eventual end of compact fluorescents across the board. We spoke with Zackry Wiegand, lighting designer with the NYC-based Focus Lighting, to explain what that means for your New York City apartment. 

The most common lighting options for homes are currently incandescents and compact fluorescents. The difference between the two and LEDs is dramatic. According to Wiegand, an incandescent bulb will last about a year, compact fluorescents 11 years, and LED bulbs 22 years. “LED replacement bulbs have been around for a number of years, but only recently have become affordable enough to compete with CFLs as renter-friendly solutions for lighting apartments,” he explains. LED replacement bulbs can now be found at most major home improvement stores for as little as $5 for a two-pack. The Bright Stik brand will be in Home Depot at a cost of $9.97 for a three pack, according to the Times

Focus Lighting of NYC installed LED lights in this dramatic staircase in an East 12th Street apartment.

Something that's turned people away from using LED lighting in their home is the harsh lighting and the inability to dim bulbs with standard wall-box dimmers. But new technology is taking care of those problems, too. Manufacturers have developed some LED lighting with features like "warm-dim" bulbs that shift color to a warm, amber tone. And many LED lights will work with dimmers – just make sure to check the LED manufacturer's website for a list of compatible dimmers. “Dimming still isn't totally predictable with LEDs and it does take some trial and error to find the perfect match,” said Wiegand.

He also notes another trend in LED home lighting known as "connected lights" or "smart lights." These are lights that can be controlled over wifi, bluetooth or mobile apps. An apartment owner can control dimming, colors or set up specific timers. Some lights, like Philip's Hue, are customizable by the third party app, meaning that you could set up a trigger for your desk lamp to blink when you receive an email.

So what's this all mean for lighting your apartment? LEDs are still going to cost more than your incandescent or compact fluorescent lightbulbs, but they will last significantly longer. So while it may not make tons of investment sense if you're a short term renter (unless you plan to pack your lightbulbs with you), it's a no-brainer for a long-term property owner or landlord to switch over.

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