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Light-emitting diodes (LED) were once looked upon as a novelty, in part because they weren’t available for most lighting applications and the cost was often 10 times higher than a comparable light bulb. Fast forward to today, and the LED replacement bulbs are becoming more popular thanks to their advancements and lower cost.

Take a look inside any new automobile and you’ll probably notice LED light sources where incandescent bulbs were just a few years ago.

“We are seeing more customers feeling the LED market out, in part due to the increase in quality and the decrease in price,” said John Begnoche, the owner of Haig Lighting and Electric, (586) 791-2380, haiglightinginc.com. “They are certainly more wallet-friendly these days and hard for people not to justify using them for replacements. In fact, bulbs that were in the $40 and $50 range can now be found for around $10.”

Begnoche said that with the increased popularity of LED replacement bulbs, more manufacturers are offering entire fixtures with an LED lighting engine.

“They have a much cleaner look than standard incandescent fixtures with a replacement LED bulb,” he said. “The potential downside is you can’t replace the bulb when it goes bad, but they last so long most people won’t need to.”

Begnoche recommends using LED bulbs and fixtures where the lights will get a lot of use, such as recessed and under-cabinet lights, exterior lighting or areas that make changing bulbs difficult, such as recessed lights on a vaulted ceiling.

Not only are they economical when you buy them, but the cost savings over time provides a very good return on investment. He said that a local gym that leaves lights on 24 hours a day found that replacing their bulbs with LEDs saved them as much as $50 per bulb annually.

According to statistics on DTE’s website, dteenergy.com, the cost of using a 60 watt LED in one year is only $1.58 versus $7.88 for an incandescent bulb. And while the cost savings over time is certainly worth considering, the bigger advantage of LEDs is the life span, which can reach as many as 25,000 hours or 25 years.

Begnoche said that consumers need to do their homework and buy quality LED bulbs because, like everything else, you get what you pay for. “If they are really cheap, that generally means the quality won’t be very good,” he said.

While improvements in LED’s make them a more viable alternative as replacements, many consumers still lean towards incandescent bulbs. With the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 phasing out the manufacture of old-fashioned, inefficient light bulbs, finding the higher wattage incandescent bulbs is getting very tough. That will make LEDs even more popular.

Today you can find virtually every wattage and style LED, and they come in various color tones such as soft white or daylight, as well as dimmable and three-way bulbs.

Some national retailers, including ACE Hardware, acehardware.com, now feature LED Lighting Centers in their stores. Manufacturers offering competitively-priced LED’s are Cree, cree.com; Feit, feit.com; Philips, lighting.philips.com; and Sylvania, Sylvania.com.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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