The Las Vegas Strip may not be converting to them just yet, but LED lights have quickly become a popular home lighting method. These energy efficient light fixtures have been used for decades in a variety of applications, from alarm clock displays to Christmas tree ornaments; technology advances in recent years have enabled them to be used as regular light bulbs for domestic use, instead of incandescent or fluorescent lights. Home owners using LED lights can reduce their power consumption considerably, save big on electricity bills, and help protect natural resources.
The technology for LED, which stands for light emitting diode, was developed in the 1920s by the Russian scientist Oleg Vladimirovich Losev, and largely ignored for the next 30 years. American scientists began reporting on the technology in the mid 1950s, and by the 1960s LED lights were being refined for consumer electronics. This method of lighting was modified over the next few decades, and saw its largest breakthrough in recent years with the development of white LED, which enabled the technology to be used in home lighting.
LEDs work by carrying a charge across semi conducting material that has been impregnated with impurities. The impurities cause the charge to fall to a lower energy level as it travels, and emit light in the process. The color of LED light can be controlled by the materials used as impurities in the semi conducting material. The most common LED colors are red, blue, white, and yellow.
Beyond home use, LEDs have many applications, including exit signs, railroad and traffic lights, sensor lights, machine vision light sources, flashlights, and phototherapy for skin conditions. LED is so versatile partly because its spectrum of light can be controlled more accurately than other types of light.
The main disadvantage of LED lighting compared to other light sources is that it is hard to direct. While high directivity is not usually required for home use, it's often needed for industrial or commercial applications like laser technology.
The advantages of LED technology far outweigh the drawbacks, especially when energy efficiency is considered. For home owners, LED is too good an option to ignore.