We've been enamored of LED lighting for awhile now, so it's good to get word that functional LED-based light bulb replacements are going to be hitting store shelves "in a few more months." Advantages: ten times the life of incandescent bulbs, one-tenth the energy consumption (making them more efficient than compact fluorescent, too), less heat, and plastic bulbs that don't shatter when dropped. Disadvantages: three times the cost of incandescent bulbs... and still not yet available.
A bit disorganized but very informative and trustworthy page on LED development is at http://members.misty.com/don/led.html - I have followed it for years, and it really seems that the best white LEDs are finally approaching the efficiency of fluorescents.
The only problem with this story is that if you actually look at the Polybrite / Westinghouse website about their bulbs ( http://www.w-led.com/products.htm ) you'll see the bulbs aren't bright enough to replace anything but night lights, emergency lights, or gentle-mood-light lamps. (they're equivalent to incandescent 5 watt or 15 watt bulbs at most). And for those applications, you might as well use electroluminescent wire.
But it's still a good step, and surely in a year or two they'll have usefully bright bulbs.
The LED bulbs on the site seem to be the ones now available; the bulbs discussed in the article remain several months off (hence the "real soon now" of the title).
For the most accurate and plausible information about LEDs, look at Rensselaer's Lighting Research institute - www.lri.rpi.edu.
As far as I have been able to determine, LED technologies will not hit mass market applications for approximately 5 years, and will not significantly displace existing technologies for about five years after that, though energy costs could potentially drive faster uptake.
Thanks Hans -- and for those of you reading along, it's actually the Lighting Research Center:
The main boon of led over other forms is with mass prod the lights themsevles get VERY cheap and as such you can think of 500 .1 watt lights in a single room in the form of such things as ceiling tiles with 20 .1 watt lights randomly sprinkled about it and walls with lines and patterns of little lights.
Also as the lights can be turned on and off so many times you can think of rooms that glow only where you are or are heading and that only grow bright where you sit or are walking. You can think of a room with 2-4-8000 tiny lights that can provide everything from stary midnight to noon day lighting.
You can think of a room where the "spotlight" moves as you move the furniture around. And where if you have a toddler you can watch em wander around in a glowy halo of light that grows very bright and flashy as he gets close to the door or whatever.
A bit of thinking outside the box.
Instead of buying a light or lamp for every location you are going to visit, wiring it up to swiches and sensors (more expense), worrying about turning it on and off, tuning the sensors to the right distance, being subject to power failures, why not simply have everyone wear spectacles that have a night vision capability? A lot less energy would be used, both in manufacturing and use.
In order to avoid installing lamps, though, everyone who is likely to visit your home at night would have to have such glasses, or you would have to keep some spare ones for them. So, this is not likely to happen soon, everyone would almost have to switch over at once. But, I think it's worth shooting for as a goal, and would come in handy even today in some situations.
Well concidering genetic engineering I plan to replace me eyes with modfied eyes that can see perfectly in the dark...
I'm sure 20/20 replacement eyes will be grown in the lab someday, but not everybody will be convinced to take the risks of the surgery to "install" them, just like today not everyone wants to take the risk of corrective eye (lens) surgery even if they can afford it.
With the spectacles, if something goes wrong, you just take them off :) You get a lot more early adopters that way. It also requires no training to "install" the spectacles on your face. It is easier than even installing lamps, and each person controls their own lighting level.
But yeah, a cat-eagle-human-chimera eye solution might use even less energy, I'll grant you that. (But, will you feel an urge to chase after rapidly scurrying creatures after that?)