Energy Technology

Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED Light Bulbs


You probably know by now that incandescent light bulbs are being phased out, and really just don’t make much sense compared to the alternatives of CFLs and LEDs. Hopefully being the green-minded consumer you are (about both your wallet and the environment), you’re ready to make the move to either LEDs or CFLs if you haven’t already.

Let’s explore the differences between CFLs and LEDs. Both CFLs and LEDs are considerably more efficient, but with some differences. LEDs and CFLs can be used seamlessly in place of a incandescent light bulb. On average CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the energy compared to incandescent light bulbs, while LEDs use even less.



Comparing CFL, Incandescent, and LED Light Bulbs

CFLs emit light from a mix of phosphors inside the bulb, and last eight to fifteen times longer than the average incandescent. One disadvantage to CFLs is that they contain mercury, making them difficult to recycle responsibly. On average CFLs cost about $2 a bulb and last about 8,000 hours. That is only twice the price of an incandescent for 8 times the output! Where else can you find a consistent ROI like that?

LED is short for light-emitting diode. They emit light in a narrow band of wavelengths and are far more efficient than either fluorescent or CFLs. Due to the narrow band of wavelengths, they mimic natural daylight. On average an LED 60-watt equivalent bulb costs about $2.50-$8 and can last between 20,000 to 50,000 hours. Compare that to only 1,200 hours for a fluorescent bulb.

In summary, CFLs cost less upfront, but LEDs use less energy over time and last longer, so there are more cost savings in the long run.