Difference between Incandescent, CFL’s and LED’s

Updated On

We may collect a share of sales from items linked to on this page. Learn more.

Incandescent, compact florescent lights or CFLs and LEDs are all popular light bulb types that have varying advantages and disadvantages. Incandescent lights can be found in almost any type of light fixture and are the cheapest and easiest to produce. Of the three they also give off the most natural lighting. CFL’s are a newer form of lighting that last longer than incandescent lighting, and use the same technology employed in the type of florescent lighting seen in industrial light fixtures, but in a more compact form. LED’s are tiny lights that use a semi-conductor light source. Below we take a closer look at these three popular bulbs and what some of their advantages and disadvantages are.


Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent light is much cheaper and easier to produce than most other forms of lighting. It also gives off a more natural looking light. The biggest problem with incandescent lighting is its impact on the environment. An incandescent light bulb gives off more heat energy than any other type of bulb. This means that much of the energy used to produce the light coming from the bulb is wasted. While this has some negative consequences on the environment, namely the fact that incandescent lights use more of the limited resources to produce energy that other types of lighting, it also has a negative effect it terms of the cost. It will cost $3.80 per year in terms of the energy it uses to light this type of bulb. While that may not seem like much, most homes and businesses have many different lighting fixtures with many bulbs in them.

Another negative effect of incandescent lighting on the environment is that these bulbs do not last very long. While it is true that an incandescent bulb has been burning in a firehouse for 112 years, this is unusual and has to do with number of mitigating circumstances. For one thing the bulb has never been turned off. This means that it is using energy 365 day year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The average lifespan of an incandescent bulb is just 1,200 hours, meaning that not only is the overall cost of incandescent higher, there are many more of these bulbs in landfills, as well as the packaging they are shipped and sold in.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Compact Fluorescent Lamps, better known as CFL’s, are a newer form of lighting that is known for being more environmentally friendly. They do have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Many consumers balk at the initially high cost but consumers should keep in mind that the cost over the lifespan of a properly handled CFL will be much lower than the cost of the more common incandescent bulb. If used properly under the right conditions, a CFL will last up to 8,000 hours, nearly 7 times the life span of an incandescent bulb.

Another factor that can discourage consumers from buying CFL’s is that they give off harsher, less natural light. Many people think of the harsh industrial lighting seen in supermarkets and some schools when they think of florescent lighting. While it is true that earlier CFL’s did have this effect, the technology has developed to the point that the effect is barely noticeable. As scientists continue to work towards a solution for this problem it is likely that this effect will disappear altogether.

Unlike other types of lighting CFL’s take some time to warm up before turning on to their full capacity. While this in and of itself may not be a major disadvantage for most people it is the secondary effect that concerns people. Because they take a longer time to “warm up” CFL’s will have a very short lifespan if they are constantly being turned on an off very quickly. This can be a huge concern in high traffic areas where many people are coming in and out and turning on off lighting. This problem can be combated by educating people about how CFLs work and how they should be used.

LED Lighting

LED’s are the third most popular form of lighting. They were developed in the late 1960’s and until recently most people were only familiar with them because of their use in certain types of billboards, such as highway construction signs, and other types of industrial uses. More recently scientists have developed ways of using them in flashlights, and have come up with several different types of energy efficient LED lights.

There are two major advantages of switching to LED’s. They are much more energy efficient than almost any other type of bulb, with 7.5 watts being equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb. They also last much longer than other types of bulbs- up to 50,000 hours, which means that most bulbs never have to be changed in a person’s lifetime. In fact, in most of the ways they are used industrially, the other components wear out long before the LED does.

LED’s are much brighter than other types of light, and produce a much harsher, less natural form of lighting, which many people see as a disadvantage. While scientists are working hard to find a solution, this is still a problem. LED’s also generate mostly direct light, and give off very little incidental lighting. This is perfect for places where a spotlight is needed, such as a reading light or in a very small room. In case of a large room this would mean that many more bulbs would have to be used, possibly mitigating the positive effects of the very low energy usage.

While all of these lighting types have advantages and disadvantages, it is clear that environmentally LED’s and CFL’s are the best choice. Eventually as technology advances LED’s may emerge as the clear winner, but for now environmentally conscious people should choose a combination of LED’s and CFL’s.

What do you think? Leave a comment!