LED vs CFL: An Exhaustive Comparison

That the incandescent bulb is on its way out is no secret. Edison’s legacy has illuminated our world for more than a century now.  But the light bulb is akin to a dinosaur today. It has had a long innings but leaner competitors are here and like the dinosaurs the light bulb must yield. It is a matter of debate as to which of the two heir apparent technologies shall inherit the light fixture. Technologically speaking, LED's is certain to trounce the fluorescent lamps.

Below is a list of factors that demonstrate the superiority of the LED technology over CFLs and put an end to the LED vs CFL debate.

Update: We recently compared LED and Metal Halide and put an end to the LED vs Metal Halide debate. Read that by clicking here!

1. LED's use less power

A 6 watt LED fixture produces as much light as a 50 watt traditional bulb. The figure for CFL is close to 13 watts. An LED thus uses half the amount of electricity compared to a CFL. In the era of carbon emission controls, tight budgets, and awareness about the need to preserve the earth for our children – Solid State LED based lights easily score over CFLs. An LED bulb uses 50% of the energy of a CFL and that means lower utility bills and fewer carbon emissions.

2. Unlike LEDs, a CFL may require the replacement of the expensive light fixtures

When it comes to CFL vs LED, CFLs are less suited to be used as retrofits in existing sockets. Given that a CFL must accommodate an electronic powering device and long tubes, they are often too large for existing light fixtures. One must either do without the beautiful light covers or else change the light fixture itself. Any cost advantage that the CFL enjoys over LED is wiped out the moment one factors in the need to replace the light sockets and fixtures.

3. LED's lasts up to 10 times longer than CFL technology

This means lesser recurring costs to be incurred to purchase new lights, fewer trips to the market, fewer anxious moments, and almost nonexistent headache of replacing burnt out lights. This also means less solid waste to be disposed and makes this light ideal for hard to reach locations. The life cycle of an LED can and does last much longer than that of CFLs.

4. LED fixtures generate less heat than CFL fixtures

This reduces the risk of burn injuries and places a smaller heat load on the air conditioner.

5. LEDs do not contain Mercury or other toxic heavy metals

CFL lights contain a small amount of mercury and must be disposed off in accordance with the regulations for hazardous substances. LEDs, on the other hand, contain no heavy metal and can be safely disposed off with common waste.
The mercury poisoning due to CFL lights is often underplayed. It is true that the amount of mercury in a single CFL is only 5 mg and much more mercury is emitted by burning coal to provide electricity to operate an incandescent bulb. However, if every light fixture were to be converted to CFL light an average household would dispose close to 10 CFL lights every year.

Back of the envelope calculations show that the 115 million households in the US will together release close to 5 tons of mercury in the environment every year – contaminating rivers, landfills and ground water. LED bulbs comply with ROHS regulations meaning that they do not have any of the toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury or cadmium.

6. LED'S does not emit UV radiation

CFLs produce UV light that can damage cells, reduce folate levels in the body and may even lead to skin cancers. LED lamps on the other hand do not produce any UV light. Another disadvantage of CFLs is that the emitted UV light can damage precious art objects and paintings.

7. LED's are not sensitive to on- off cycling

CFLs are not suited to uses that involve a high rate of on- off cycling like outdoor lights, motion sensors etc. A high rate of on-off cycling drastically shortens the life span of a CFL. An LED on the other hand is unaffected by on – off cycling. This is the reason LED devices are preferred for traffic lights.

8. LED lamps produce unidirectional light

Comparing LED with CFLs is like comparing oranges and apples. For starters there is no relation between the wattage and light emitted by a CFL and an LED. Moreover, LED’s produce unidirectional light – this means that it is easier to control the light. You can choose to focus it for spot lighting or use a lens for diffused lighting applications. On the other hand, light emitted by a CFL, like that from incandescent bulbs, is multidirectional and difficult to control. A lens can easily collect all the light emitted by an LED and disperse it. A CFL on the other hand relies on a reflector to achieve to spread the light and a portion of the light is always wasted. An LED lamp can thus be used to replace a CFL or incandescent lamp with a higher light output.


LED Lights are better than CFL Lights

9. CFL lamps take inordinately long to achieve full brightness

A big disadvantage of CFLs is that they take a long time to achieve full brightness. The problem is particularly accentuated in cold climate. This makes CFLs unsuitable for some applications like garage lights. An LED bulb on the other hand achieves full brightness at the flick of a button.

10. CFL's can break if dropped - and they contain Mercury

Breakage risk is much higher with a CFL than with an LED. Accidental breakage further reduces the expected lifespan of a CFL besides exposing the residents to mercury vapors and the possibility of laceration injuries.

11. LED lights are better for stage performances

Light produced by an LED can be mono chromatic i.e., they can emit light of a single color. This means that multicolored papers need not be used to get the desired colors. Moreover an LED has a much lower chance of failure and is cool to touch allowing it to be safely changed.

LED lighting systems have a clear advantage over CFLs. It is estimated that should LED products be widely adapted, it would slash the use of electricity for lighting by 88%. The total savings over a 20 year period are estimated to be around $265 billion. Moreover, LED bulbs could potentially help the US avoid setting up 40 new power plants and help reduce electricity demand. These savings would go a long way in helping the US meet its commitment to the world community on the carbon emission reduction front. While the CFL was an able competitor of the light bulb and has done a great job in convincing people of the merits of modern lighting technology – The LED offers many clear advantages over the CFL. In all probability the death of the incandescent bulb will occur at the hands of LED bulbs and lights.

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