LED lights get cheaper, and greater variety of bulbs available

Image of LED lighting options from IKEA

Better versiom of bulb that was $30 three years ago is now available for as little as $8

LED technology was first available to general consumers as an energy-efficient lighting solution in 2011. And in less than five years LEDs have gone from being a nice, but impractical idea, to the best option available. And they also offer the greatest number of options.

It's far less expensive to consider LED bulbs to replace incandescent, or even halogen, bulbs in your light fixtures. In 2012, the standard LED bulb cost between $25 and $30. Today it's as low as $8 and rarely more than $12. And they use 75 per cent less electricity, saving you some $104 over the life of the bulb.

"Rebates that were offered in the early days helped establish the market," explains Cristian Suvagau, an engineer with Power Smart. And the consumer understanding of LED was raised, he added, because in all the stores where there were rebate promotions there were also information displays explaining the benefits of LED technology.

The LED revolution is well underway.

Specialty LED bulbs available for nearly every fixture

LED lights are not just cheaper, they come in greater varieties. Three years ago, bulbs were only available for standard fixtures, says Suvagau, but now there is a great assortment of speciality LED bulbs.

Home Depot has an entire catalogue of LED lights including candelabras, globes, and reflectors. And they come in a range of wattages, brightnesses, and colours. Even the standard A-line bulbs vary in size and shape.

And manufacturers like Big Ass (the company's mascot is a donkey) are designing LEDs from the ground up to provide powerful and efficient lighting solutions.

The Big Ass Garage Light, for example, is built to last. An anodized aluminium frame not only gives the light near indestructibility, but it also works to dissipate any heat generated by the LEDs, ensuring a long life span. It outputs 13,000 lumens, which Suvagau says is about the same as 15, 60-watt incandescent bulbs. The Garage Light can also be mounted on a ceiling or wall, and is available with an optional occupancy sensor so it will turn off and on independently, saving energy when you're not in your garage.

IKEA committed to selling only LED globally

Starting in September, the only lights and light bulbs you'll be able to buy at IKEA will be LEDs. The company is following through on a promise it made two years ago, when it pledged to convert its entire lighting range to LED.

Lucy Fréchette is a spokesperson for IKEA Canada. On the phone from Toronto she explained the move. "IKEA is committed to inspire and enable people to live a more sustainable life at home," she said.

In making the transition, IKEA's LED bulbs are compatible with existing light fixtures, so you don't have to purchase new lights.

But in the new product offering are dozens of lighting solutions in which the light is part of the design. With long lasting — up to 20 years — and efficient lights, there's no need to have replaceable bulbs. And the prices aren't as expensive as you might think. The IKEA PS 2014 pendant lamp, a Red Dot award winner, for example, retails for $90.

One mandate of IKEA, said Fréchette, is to "offer great design at affordable prices to everyone".

LED bulbs that do more than light your home

Because LEDs use a computer chip, they can be designed to do more than just cast light on things.

The Sengled Boost is also a Wi-Fi extender, and can be used to improve your home wireless network, giving you better Internet access throughout your home.

A JBL speaker is built into the Sengled Pulse Solo, which you can connect to with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone for streaming music or talk radio.

And Belkin's WeMo Lightify strips are flexible, and were created to fit into hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. You can cut them to the length that you need, and because they have an adhesive strip, you can install them with ease. The colour and brightness of the Lightify strips is configurable, and they can be controlled from your mobile.

IKEA, meanwhile, has the Varv table lamp, that is equipped with charging base for smartphones that can be charged wirelessly. Great for shared spaces like living rooms and dorm rooms, the lamp is a good example of how LED light fixtures and the technology that goes into them, are giving us entirely new options.