As your incandescent burn out, it's a good time to consider switching to LED bulbs
. By now, you probably know that LED bulbs have an impressive lifespan (20-something years!) and are very cost-effective. You probably also know that while they've come down in price quite a bit, some options are up to five times more expensive than traditional bulbs.
Despite the cost, now's the right time to switch to LED bulbs. LED bulbs have made significant advances over the last few years, finally delivering the warm light incandescent have comforted us with for decades. More than ever, there is also an overwhelming number of LED varieties, and choosing an LED is entirely different from picking up an incandescent. Before you head to the store, find out what you need to know about choosing the right LED bulbs.
The brightness of LED bulbs, however, is determined a little differently. For incandescent, there is an accepted correlation between the watts drawn and the brightness, but for LED bulbs, watts aren't a great predictor of how bright the bulb will be. (The point, after all, is that they draw less energy.) The lumen (lm) is the real measurement of brightness provided by a light bulb, and is the number you should look for when shopping for LEDs. Get a sense of the brightness (in lumens) you need before heading to the store, and throw away your affinity for watts.
You can always count on incandescent providing a warm, yellowish hue, but LED bulbs come in a wide range of colors. As shown off by the Philips Hue, LED bulbs are capable of displaying an impressive color range, from purple to red, to a spectrum of whites and yellows. For the home, however, you're likely looking for something similar to the light that incandescent produces. The popular colors available for LEDs are "warm white" or "soft white," and "bright white."
As Martin LaMonica points out, LED bulbs are like hybrid cars: cheaper to operate but pricey upfront. Luckily, competition has increased and LED bulbs have come down in price (like this $5 LED from Philips), but you should still expect to pay much more than an incandescent. Eventually, the LED bulbs will pay off, and in the meantime, you'll enjoy less heat production, longer bulb life, and even the option of controlling them with your smartphone.