You're probably used to LEDs in their most common form, which is a diode (the emitter of light) covered by a tiny plastic pill-shaped dome. That's what I expected to be inside LED light bulbs
. It turns out I was wrong, at least for some types. One in particular is Home Depot's EcoSmart LED light bulb, which is marketed as a replacement for 40 watt bulbs at around $20 with a five year guarantee. The inside of the EcoSmart LED light bulb is quite interesting.
A Different Approach to LED Light Bulbs
What struck me most about the inside of EcoSmart LED light bulbs is the shape of the LEDs; whereas most LEDs have a tiny pill-shaped plastic cover, the LEDs inside the actual EcoSmart bulbs are flat. There is no protruding pill-shaped plastic covering. The large surface area of these flat LEDs allows the light bulbs to provide softer, more diffuse light than the pill-shaped LEDs. The more pointed pill-shaped LEDs have a very bright center and blast their light to a relatively small area, lighting it very well but providing little ambient light.
Providing wider diffuse light is something that has been missing in LED light bulbs, so this EcoSmart line and similar light bulbs will probably do well. The price is much closer to seeming reasonable to consumers, the technology is improved, and overall I think this is the road down which LED light bulbs will need to travel to succeed. Certainly there will still be use for more spotlight-esque lights, and that is where early generation LED light bulbs will excel when their prices come down.
LED Light Bulbs and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescents have obtained a sizable share of the lighting market. Their energy efficiency, light quality, and prices have all come together to put incandescents to shame. There are a lot of holdouts who prefer incandescents and point to mercury content in compact fluorescent light bulbs
, and I don't think their minds could be changed by anything short of removal of mercury. That's where LED light bulbs, specifically these flat LED diffuse light types, come in. They have all the benefits of CFLs and none of the mercury. The one wall to purchasing LED light bulbs continues to be price, but as years pass that will change for the benefit of all.