LEDs light-emitting diodes are basically computer chips. They make light through the movement of electrons in a simple (and tiny) semiconductor.
They make a lot of light very efficiently: 200 lumens per watt. That makes them 85 percent more efficient than a standard incandescent bulb. They also offer exceptionally long life (sometimes decades per LED) and great color quality.
LEDs offer the same lighting choices as familiar incandescent bulbs soft, bright and daylight. They're also dimmable and instantly turn on with the flip of a switch.
The color of their light is tied to temperature. But the terms "warm" or "cool" light are actually opposite the temperatures they imply. "Warm" or soft golden tones are produced by lower temperatures than "cool" or blue-tone light, which is at the opposite end of the scale.
"Soft white is warmer, similar to incandescent light," explained light bulb expert Alyssa Steele of the Home Depot. "Bright white is a crisper light. Daylight is brighter, like being outside. It's also bluer, kind of like a sky blue."
Soft white is the choice for most of the house, she added. "It's the preferred light for living space. It's easy on the eyes. That's the light you want in the bedroom, den and living room."
Soft white also is the light that's most complimentary to skin tones. People look better in soft white light.
Bright white a midrange light is good in the kitchen where you want a bright, crisp feel while providing the right light for cooking. It's also a good choice for the home office.
"Daylight" is best for visual tasks. Use it for reading. It's also best for the bathroom mirror.
www.myledlightingguide.com: Basics of how LEDs work and what to look for. Good resource for LED products.
www.sestaklightingdesigncom: Michael Sestak's website has a gallery of his work and an extensive glossary of lighting terminology and answers to frequently asked lighting questions.
www.homedepot.com/lightingfacts: The Home Depot offers design tips and ideas for lighting projects as well as online demonstrations of how different lighting will look in different rooms. It's also handy for picking out new bulbs and comparisons among lighting options.