Has the future of LEDs arrived?

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Eric Taub of the Times has a story this morning saying that the coming age of LED lights is just about here, but I don't know if he hit it just right.

The story touches the usual points about LEDs — very expensive, but lasts longer, has no mercury, and can generate any color — but on the question of white-light intensity, he devotes no more than an aside: "L.E.D. bulbs, with their brighter light and longer life, have already replaced..."

I've been interested in LEDs since I ran across a booth boosting the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2005. It's a technology that plugs right into two of my natural highs — energy savings and cool gizmos — and when I found out that Color Kinetics, a leader in the field, was located in Boston, I assigned a story for the Life at Home section.

That story did address the shortcoming, and though I'd forgotten that until I searched it out for this post, the issue is still coming up as the technology's chief concern in conversations with interior designers and architects. At the AIA convention in May, I stopped by the booth of Color Kinetics, now located in Burlington and known as Philips Solid State Lighting Solutions since being acquired by Philips Electronics, and I was told that it will probably be 3-5 years before the issue is resolved.

The Times story names price as the chief stumbling block, and certainly, price is going to be another bar. But CFLs' explosion in popularity has begun to smooth the way — unlike in many areas of lifecycle pricing, consumers appear to get the idea that paying more up front for different light bulbs can save money in the long run.

They even seem accepting of the fact that the more expensive bulbs have drawbacks — for CFLs, mercury content and limited dimming ability, among others. But until you can read by the light a bulb is putting out, I can't see its gaining much ground.

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