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LEDs using the color-mixing principle can emit a wide range of colors by changing the proportions of light generated in each primary color. This allows full color mixing in lamps with LEDs of different colors. In contrast to other lighting technologies, LED emission tends to be directional (or at least lambertian). For applications where non-directional light is required, either a diffuser is used or multiple individual LED emitters are used to emit in different directions.

LED lamps are intended to replace screw-in incandescent, compact fluorescent and fluoresecent light bulbs. They are made in standard light bulb shapes and are compatible with the voltage supplied to the sockets. LED lamps include circuitry to rectify the AC power and to convert the voltage to a level usable by the LED.

LED lamps replace incandescent bulbs rated from 5 to 60 watts. A standard general-purpose incandescent bulb emits light at an efficiency of about 14 to 17 lumens/W depending on its size and voltage. Some models of LED bulbs work with dimmers as used for incandescent lamps. LED lamps often have directional light characteristics. These bulbs are more power-efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs and offer lifespans of 40,000 or more hours, reduced if operated at a higher temperature than specified. Incandescent bulbs have a typical life of 1,000 hours, compact fluorescents about 8,000 hours. The bulbs maintain output light intensity well over their life-times. They are also mercury-free, unlike fluorescent lamps. LED lamps are available with a variety of color properties. The higher purchase cost than other types may be more than offset by savings in energy and maintenance.

The technology is improving rapidly and new energy-efficient consumer LED lamps are available.