Say hello to your future Light Bulb.

Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are currently the best way to save money while lighting your home thanks to their low power consumption and long life, but they also require careful handling and disposal due to the mercury they contain. That’s why the next best thing just over the horizon will be LED based lighting. You can already buy some LED bulbs for use in your home, but it’s largely limited to spot lights and other highly directional lighting. What we need is a configuration that includes some sort of diffuser to spread out the light and the folks at Philips now have something that fits the bill:

Philips’ Master LED bulb has the same form factor as the old-fashioned kind, making it “simple for people to use and feel good about using.” The bulb draws just 7 watts but gives off light equivalent to 40 watts’ worth, and lasts 45,000 hours, as opposed to the 1,500 of its incandescent predecessors. Already available in Europe, the Master LED should make its way to North American shores sometime before July.

The good news is that it’s form factor mimics a traditional bulb so it should fit into any lamp/fixture designed for incandescents. The bad news is that initially these things will set you back somewhere between $50 and $70 making outfitting your entire home an expensive proposition. With any luck, however, we’ll see some competition in the market bringing the price down relatively quickly just as it has with the CFLs.

As far as I’m concerned these can’t get here soon enough. The lower energy use and longer life of these bulbs will make having at least a couple in your most-used lamps worthwhile.

City of Ann Arbor, MI switches to LED lighting.

I live not far from Ann Arbor, it’s only about a 20 minute drive away, so it’s pretty cool to see them getting some attention for their efforts to switch all public lighting to LED bulbs:

The city strung its holiday cheer with about 114,000 LED lights and plans to convert all of its downtown public lighting starting with more than 1,000 LED streetlights. The effort is aligned with other North American cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Toronto, which have both started similar energy-saving efforts.

When Ann Arbor reaches its ambitious goal, city officials expect to see energy use for public lighting cut in half and a reduction of 2,425 tons CO2 annually. The city also expects a short payback of 3.8 years on its investment, which was funded in part with a $630,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

A pilot program on one city block with 25 LED lights helped bring the LED idea from theory to application with three years of research on how the technology saves the city about 50% on energy and maintenance costs. Based on their research, Ann Arbor city officials project an annual savings of over $100,000 on just the first 1,000 retrofits alone. The city plans to complete the conversion to LED over the next two years.

Hopefully more cities will be making the switch soon.