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We have all seen LEDs become more and more prevalent in our daily lives. They are as common as traffic signals in major cities (after the whole energy rate fiasco a few years ago) and power indicators on most items. They are also as frivolous as LED hats to support your favorite team.

Manufacturers and retailers are starting to see the future in LED items as well, as they realize that a lot of people are looking to save energy. People want to support being "greener," sure, but they also want to keep a few more dollars and cents in their bank accounts.

Here are a few items I have come across that demonstrate how LED products will continue to make inroads in new categories of retail.

Probably one of the "greener" new items I have seen is a replacement for old-school tiki torches. The regular, run-of-the-mill torch uses oil as a fuel source for a wick that burns; the oil usually contains citronella. The new LED version uses 3 LEDs to both provide light and to simulate the flicker of flame.

I know that nothing can replace an open flame for ambiance, but if you have small children or pets, having an open flame in the yard can be a nerve-wracking experience. This torch eliminates the worries that go with having dancing flames, and also eliminates the smoke and soot that traditional torches can produce.

The LED torch has a solar cell on top, with rechargeable batteries underneath, so you don't ever have to worry about whether or not you need to fill it up that evening. It also has a photocell built in, so you also don't need to worry about lighting it or turning it on. It automatically "fires up" and provides a nice amber glow to your patio or yard.

Porch lights are also getting the LED makeover. Now that LED makers can make a bright, white -- OK, slightly bluish -- LED, makers of some decorative outdoor lanterns (porch lights) are replacing the traditional socket with LED fixtures.

This cuts energy usage hugely, as a lot of porch lights are burning 60w-100w from dusk to dawn. Even if the fixture that gets replaced was on a motion sensor to limit its energy consumption, it's still safer and more energy-efficient to run the LED fixture all night.

Flashlights have also made the jump to LED. Originally, the only place to find these bulbs in flashlights was in hand-powered units. Due to the need for extreme energy efficiency when people provided their own power to the flashlight, through shaking or cranking, LEDs were the obvious choice.

Now even major flashlight player MAG has a battery-powered flashlight that uses LEDs to provide the illumination you need for extended periods of time. So, the next time you see a video of rogue cops smacking someone with their flashlights, it may just be that they are giving a beatdown with LED technology.

The true test of LED in the home will be whether the LED replacement for the incandescent bulb can get down in price far enough to make it competitive. Right now you're looking at about US $28 to replace a 60w incandescent with a LED unit. Not many of even the most rabid tree-huggers will tell you with a straight face that it's a good buy.

Sure, you can save up to US $300 over the life of the bulb, compared to a standard bulb, but when you look at the very energy-efficient CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) options that have become so cheap, LEDs take a back seat. If LED replacements get down to the prices of CFL bulbs, and major retailers start to carry them, we may see an even greater explosion of LED in our homes. It's all about economies of scale.

The energy efficiency and extreme long life of LED fixtures is sure to make them more and more inviting to consumers, and therefore to manufacturers and retailers. So make friends with the technology now because this is a juggernaut of a technology that is still building up steam.

A search in Google, Yahoo, or whatever search engine you prefer can help you find more LED items in the works. Just remember: no matter what the price is now, it will continue to fall, as demand for this green technology continues to grow at an astronomical rate.

Also remember to read every one of DIY Life's articles on the subject: a little shameless self-promotion never killed anyone!


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