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LED Light Bulbs Vs. CFL Light Bulbs: Which is Best for Me?

Posted by Michael Richards on

LED Light Bulbs vs. CFL Light Bulbs

Before we had LEDs, there were compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs for short. CFLs are fluorescent lamps that emit light from a mix of phosphors inside the bulb, and were designed to replace incandescent lamps (a lamp that produces light as a result of being heated). When compared to an incandescent bulb producing the same amount of light, CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and last eight to fifteen times longer. Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain toxic mercury, which complicates their disposal. In many countries, governments have established recycling schemes for CFLs and glass generally.

A light-emitting diode, or LED for short, is a lamp that emits light in a very narrow band of wavelengths. Because of this, LED’s are far more energy efficient than incandescent or fluorescent lights, which emit light in a much wider band of wavelengths. LED’s produce light that renders a color similar (but not identical) to natural daylight, which is measured on a scale called CRI, or Color Rendering Index. CRI’s range from 0-100, 100 being identical to natural daylight. Typical LED’s are around 70-95 CRI, but it is not recommended to put anything indoors below 75 CRI. Like incandescent lamps and unlike most fluorescent lamps, LEDs come to full brightness without need for a warm-up time.

So how much more efficient are LED’s?

On average, an incandescent bulb may last around 1000 hours, while a fluorescent (CFL) bulb producing the same amount of light (in Lumens) may last around 8,000 hours, and an equivalent LED bulb may last around 25,000 hours. Because of their efficiency, LED’s are generally more costly, but the energy saved on your electric bill pays off when compared to incandescent bulbs.

When looking at a 60-Watt incandescent bulb, the price of running that single bulb for 20 years (based on 6 hours per day) is $360. The price of running a 60-Watt LED equivalent for the same amount of time is only $72. So while an incandescent might only be around $1.00/bulb in comparison to $10.00/bulb for the LED, think about how much you would save by replacing every bulb in your house!

The 20-year savings on replacing a single candescent bulb with an LED would be $288, but when you multiply that by (as example) 20 light bulbs in your home, you’re saving $5760 in the long run. If you have even more, lets say (as example) 40 light bulbs in your home, you’re saving $11,520 over 20 years. That’s $576 dollars a year!

While these numbers are estimates, it is clear that LED’s are the most energy efficient option for light bulbs on the market, and the savings from switching out your old incandescent bulbs can keep some extra dough in your pocket.

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  • CFLs what a ripoff! They don’t produce the lumens as advertised, don’t last any longer than incandescent bulbs. Are very expensive and contain deadly mercury! l purchased some LEDs, so far so good!

    SIgnet SIlver on
  • LED bulbs in 2016 are now becoming to be competitive with CFL bulbs. I just purchased a 4-pack of LED general purpose soft white 14 watt 1100 lumens for $11,84 ($2.96/bulb). It is equivalent to a 75 watt incandescent bulb. I have a globe type fixture on a ceiling fan that uses 2 bulbs. When I first installed the fan years ago I used incandescent bulbs and the globe was hot to touch. Later I installed CFL bulbs. They were cooler but the globe was still warm to touch. I just installed 2 of the above LED 14 watt bulbs and the globe is slightly warm but only under the bulbs. The rest of the globe is cool. That means more of the wattage energy is being converted to light than the other 2 bulb types. These LED bulbs can be used indoors/outdoors and in enclosed fixtures (some LED bulbs cannot be used in enclosed fixtures). They closely resemble general purpose incandescent bulbs in size and shape. I expect LED bulbs to go down in cost just like the CFL bulbs did. No toxic mercury in LED bulbs.

    Alvin Guidry on
  • I like the LED. Also we use to play with mercury as a kid…. After 60 years, I still have all my fingers and toes.

    Mark on
  • I listened to a woman on PBS that broke a CFL light bulb and the package said that if this happens to call an 800 number, which she did. They told her absolutely do not vacuum up the pieces and to close the door and leave if possible, someone would be over to clean it up. They came in hazmat suits, cleaned it up, and left her a $2,000 bill! So this is an extreme case, but why even chance it when there are better and more efficient options? We get enough mercury in our life, it crosses the blood brain barrier, is even more toxic to children, and there is no easy way to get rid of it, except with Chelation (check out: which is hard to find, pricey, and not covered by insurance. The ‘silver’ dental fillings are amalgam and constantly release mercury into our system. It just all continually adds up over time causing a multitude of benign to toxic symptoms. Then we just throw these CFL light bulbs away where they break, releasing their poison into the air and ground system! The tiny print on the back of their product “Contains Mercury” is not enough. It should be all over the package in red, along with instructions on how to dispose of them, and what to do if one breaks… NOT just a web site to go to for questions! Wake up folks! And guess where most of them are made… CHINA! One more poison they are sending us… don’t get me started on that!

    Casa on
  • Several years ago my electric company sent two cfl’s to each customer. I installed them and found that their light output was less than the 60 watt equivalent that they were supposed to be. I got used to it and bought some more, trying 75 and 100 watt equivalents, which gave good light, in areas where I needed more light. A couple of years went by and I noticed that, contrary to the hype, these bulbs didn’t last any longer that incandescents. Then one day I smelled something burning and tracked it down to one of these cfl’s overheating to the point that the white paint on its base has turned brown. This happened a second time, with a different brand of bulb. At that point I removed all my cfl’s and went back to incandescents. Now that LED’s are getting cheaper I’m starting to go to them. Their 60 watt equivalents seem to produce more light than 60 watt incandescents. A while back a two tube 4’ shop light in my garage died, so I bought a single tube Feit unit. I have a 2nd two tube fluorescent nearby. The 1 tube LED is substantially brighter than the 2 tube fluorescent. Last week I discovered earthled and ordered 4 Luceco 18W tubes and just finished retrofitting two 2-bulb shop lights whose ballasts had died. I’m impressed with the light output and will be buying more. LED is the way to go.

    George on

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