Like incandescent lamps and unlike most fluorescent lamps (e.g. tubes and CFL), LED lights come to full brightness without need for a warm-up time; the life of fluorescent lighting is also reduced by frequent switching on and off. Initial cost of LED is usually higher. Degradation of LED dye and packaging materials reduces light output to some extent over time.
With research into organic LEDs (OLED) and polymer LEDs (PLED), cost per lumen and output per device have been improving so rapidly according to what has been called Haitz's law, analogous to Moore's law for semiconductor devices.
Some LED lamps are made to be a directly compatible drop-in replacement for incandescent or fluorescent lamps. An LED lamp packaging may show the lumen output, power consumption in watts, color temperature in kelvins or description (e.g. "warm white") and sometimes the equivalent wattage of an incandescent lamp of similar luminous output.
LEDs do not emit light in all directions, and their directional characteristics affect the design of lamps. The light output of single LEDs is less than that of incandescent and compact fluorescent lamps; in most applications multiple LEDs are used to form a lamp, although high-power versions (see below) are becoming available.
LED chips need controlled direct current (DC) electrical power; an appropriate power supply is needed. LEDs are adversely affected by high temperature, so LED lamps typically include heat dissipation elements such as heat sinks and cooling fins.