Comparing LED vs Compact Fluorescent vs Incandescent Light Bulbs
Over the years, advances in technology have brought about innovations in how to light our homes and commercial buildings. In the beginning, all we had was the standard, incandescent light bulb. Now we have compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diodes or LED for short. We are going to tackle the question… which light bulb type reigns supreme? There are many variables, so let’s dig in!
LED VS CFL Brightness
Are LED lights brighter than or equal to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs? The trick is to understand the technology. In short, LED and CFL as technologies do not have a difference in brightness intrinsically. Brightness is determined by lumens. Lumens is best described as the measurement of light. A single CFL and LED bulb might have the same lumen (brightness) output but vary greatly in the amount energy needed to generate that level of brightness.
Many LED bulbs in the past were not omnidirectional which gave the upper hand to CFL in various scenarios. For example, in a floor lamp, a CFL would perform better because of the light coverage was, at the time, much broader. In most recessed lighting (ceiling), however, the LED would have greater efficacy. Fast forward to new LED generations, and we see the little light-emitting diodes surpassing CFLs in overall energy consumption, color and even becoming more competitively priced in the marketplace.
Lumen & Wattage Comparison
The chart below illustrates the amount of brightness in lumens you can expect from different wattages of light bulbs. LED bulbs require much less wattage than CFL or Incandescent light bulbs, which is why LEDs are more energy-efficient and longer lasting than their competitors.
How to understand this table – look at the lumens (brightness) in the far left column, then compare how many watts of power each light bulb type requires to produce that level of brightness. The lower the wattage needed, the better.
To compare different light bulbs, you need to know about lumens. Lumens, not watts, tell you how bright a light bulb is, no matter the type of bulb. The more lumens, the brighter the light. Labels on the front of light bulb packages now state a bulb’s brightness in lumens, instead of the bulb’s energy usage in watts. When shopping for your next light bulb, simply find the lumen output you’re looking for (the bigger the brighter) and choose the bulb with the lowest wattage (the lower the better).
Are CFL or LEDs more cost-effective?
To examine the cost comparison, let’s take a look at a standard 60-watt replacement incandescent bulb in this example. The energy consumption to use a bulb like this would cost about $90 over the course of 10 years. For an LED, running over the course of 10 years the actual cost would be only $18 to operate. Take a look at the table below for a breakdown.
Winner: LED (in the long run)
The above chart shows a clear-cut winner when considering the price over time with energy consumption factored in.
Do CFL or LED bulbs last longer?
Quick Answer: LED
Although LED technology for use in bulbs has not been on the market for long, the lifespan estimates for the new technology are astounding and leave CFL and incandescents with little to show for in comparison. With an astonishing lifespan of 25,000 hours, LED light bulbs are the undisputed, heavyweight champion in longevity. The next best are CFL bulbs which bring in a respectable 8,000 hours of average life expectancy. Keep in mind, most tests are based on a running time of 3 hours per day.