What’s Best, LED or Incandescent Lights?

 In LED Lighting

Q. I’m replacing the lights in my home before putting it on the market. Is it better to install LED fixtures, if it’s true that incandescent bulbs are being phased out? 

A. From a sales perspective, high-efficiency LED lighting is a nice perk, said Ron Lense, an associate real estate broker at Douglas Elliman in Manhattan. But it may not significantly affect your selling price.

Steven Miric/Getty Images

Steven Miric/Getty Images

“Everybody loves going green,” he said. “They just don’t necessarily want to pay a lot of extra money for it.”

LED lighting is becoming increasingly popular, he said, and if you install it now, “you’ll be ahead of the curve.” Just be cautious about the fixtures you choose, “because this is emerging technology that is quickly changing.”

If you buy fixtures with technology that is outdated by the time you sell your home, he said, “You’re spending money that might not come back.”

That’s one of the reasons that Doug Russell, a lighting designer who owns the Lighting Workshop in Brooklyn, usually recommends buying standard incandescent fixtures and adding LED bulbs as a retrofit.

“I feel better about putting today’s best LED technology into an incandescent downlight as a retrofit,” Mr. Russell said, “because I know that in three years it’s going to be obsolete and I can unscrew it and put in the latest technology. If I put in a downlight that’s an integrated LED, you’re stuck with it.”

And incandescent bulbs aren’t being phased out entirely, he said. Under new legislation, “there are efficiency standards that lamps need to meet,” so some types of traditional incandescent bulbs are disappearing, he said. “But there will always be replacements for them.” The qualities of traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs, for example, are being emulated by 72-watt halogen bulbs, which are more energy efficient.

But when you are picking out LED bulbs, Mr. Russell has a recommendation: “There are a lot of really bad LED-retrofit household bulbs out there that will make your home look terrible, because the color’s awful.”

Some of his preferred replacements are made by Philips, and the best ones tend to be a little more expensive, he said. But they “have great color, are really warm and flattering, and are dimmable.”

Which brings us to a potential complication of replacing an incandescent bulb with an LED model: you may not be able to control it with a standard dimmer, and you may have to replace your dimmer with one that is LED-compatible.

Mr. Russell said that there are a few exceptions to his advice about avoiding fixtures specifically designed for LEDs. Under-cabinet lighting is one.

“Under-cabinet lighting in kitchens is a great application for LEDs,” he said, “Because you bring the light source close to the task and don’t increase heat loads” — welcome news to anyone who has halogens that get so hot they occasionally melt the contents of the cabinet above.

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