Inhabitat is thrilled to host the Bright Ideas Lighting Design Competition, because we believe that LEDs are the future of lighting technology. From their incredible energy-efficiency, to their amazingly long lifespans and all-around eco-friendliness, light emitting diodes offer a number of benefits over outdated conventional incandescent light bulbs.

LEDs are energy efficient

LEDs are designed to operate using minute amounts of power compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. This means that a 17-watt LED bulb like the Philips EnduraLED can produce the same amount of light as a 75-watt incandescent while cutting energy use by a factor of four. If you switch out your old incandescents to LED bulbs, you could save substantial money each month on your energy bill.

LEDs last longer

LED bulbs such as Philips AmbientLED also last much longer than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or incandescent bulbs – today’s most efficient light emitting diodes can last for up to 100,000 hours of use. Compare that to the average incandescent bulb, which has a maximum lifetime of around 1,000 hours, and the average CFL bulb, which lasts for up to 10,000 hours, and it’s clear that LEDs are the longest-lasting option.

LEDs do not contain mercury

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are often championed as eco-friendly alternatives to incandescent bulbs, and for good reason: they are more efficient and last longer than incandescents. However, they do contain a minute quantity of mercury vapor (four milligrams on average) which can be released into the air if they are broken. This means that care must be taken when handling CFL bulbs, and it is essential that they are properly disposed of at the end of their lifecycle – otherwise mercury could be released into landfills and the environment at large.
LED bulbs are more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs AND they contain no mercury.

LEDs are eco friendly

Since LED lightbulbs consume much less energy than incandescent bulbs, they can significantly reduce your home’s energy consumption, saving money on your utilities bill and alleviating strain upon our over-stressed energy grid, which is all too often powered by non-renewable CO2-spewing sources such as coal and gas. The long lifespan of LED bulbs also means that they need to be replaced 50-100 times less often than incandescents, which saves on the energy and resources needed to mine materials, produce bulbs, and package and ship them. This also translates to a lower level of household waste as there are fewer bulbs to dispose of at the end each light’s useful life.

LEDs don’t emit heat

Since LEDs are highly efficient, most of the energy the consume is given off as light – not heat, as is the case with incandescent bulbs. This means that LED bulbs will not contribute to ambient heat gain in a room the way that incandescents uncomfortably do on a hot summer night.

LEDs are design-friendly

The fact that LEDs are flexible, long-lasting and don’t emit heat opens up innovative new possibilities for lighting design – since LEDs are generally cool to the touch while in operation, they can be incorporated into lighting fixtures made from paper, fabric, or even soap! Check out our full list of Bright Ideas Design Competition finalists for a look at more inspiring examples of beautiful, sustainable, innovative low-energy LED lamps.

LEDs are the future

As the cost of fossil fuel soars and energy demands increase, energy efficiency will become an increasingly important consideration for all household products and appliances. LEDs are 10x more energy efficient than incandescent lights, more durable, and last about 400 times longer. As we write this article in 2011, LED bulbs are currently more expensive than incandescents or CFLs, but the upfront additional cost is well worth the money saved in electricity bills and in purchasing new lightbulbs every six months. The current steep prices on LED bulbs is just due to limited economies of scale, so expect the prices of LED bulbs to drop significantly in the next 2-5 years as demand grows and more and more manufacturers start producing them. Despite all the green hype you may have heard about compact fluorescents, CFLs are just interim technology – in 10 years, the whole world will have shifted to LEDs – the light of the future.