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Light Bulbs: Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED

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Incandescent light bulbs are what we have had for over 100 years.  These bulbs produce light by changing electrical energy into heat by heating a filament wire in a bulb where the air has been evacuated.  They are not very efficient but they do produce a very pleasant light and they are very, very inexpensive.  Incandescent bulbs do produce a lot of heat.

CFL bulbs, or compact fluorescent bulbs, are similar to the fluorescent bulbs you are used to seeing in overhead lighting applications.  They are a great deal more efficient than incandescent bulbs.  Many people do not like the color of the light of CFLs and many also do not like that the light output does not reach it's maximum until the bulbs has been on for a minute or two.  These bulbs are rated in watts but they are not equal to the output of incandescent bulbs.  In general, a 9 watt CFL is equal to about a 40 watt incandescent, a  14W equal to 60W, and a 23W equal to a 100W.

LED lights are probably the lighting of the future though they have some ways to go.  LEDs are very, very energy efficient and the bulbs will outlast some of their owners.  They do not have quite the color that most people prefer and they are still very expensive.  But, prices are continually going down and manufacturers are working on improving the color temperature of the light output.  LEDs produce the same light of an incandescent with 90% less energy.  LEDs have large heat dissipating fins that many people find objectionable. Again, improvements will come and the bulbs will look a little more conventional.

To compare the three types of bulbs here is a sampling of light output at 60 watts for an incandescent

    LED                   CFL                Incandescent
6 watts            15 watts                  60 watts
800 lumens    800 lumens             800 lumens
50,000 hrs      8.000 hrs               1,200 hrs
330 KW/year   770 KW/year         3,300 KW/year


LED, CFL, and Incandescent at outputs relative to100W incandescent.
erick99 posted Feb 19, 2012

I have a few LED's, one outside for a security light, I never turn off. ( 3w = $2.50 a year. )

and a few of them for night lights for my kids.....

they still are very expensive. even on clearance.

encorez (rep: 10k) posted Feb 19, 2012


I am hoping that they come down in price. A good LED that gives the kind of "warm" color temp is still pretty expensive. But I do believe that they will be pretty affordable within two years.

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Feb 19, 2012


CFL are a waste of money IMHO. They tend to fail over time and not last the 7 years they claim...and when they do, they will lose their brightness. LED's are too $$ for I still do incadescent.

nthsll (rep: 12.5k) posted Feb 20, 2012


All LEDs require gallium. China has better than 95% of the world's known deposits of rare earth metals, and in 2010 started putting severe restrictions on their export. A lot of modern electronics would be impossible without these elements. What happens to the price and availability of LEDs is pretty much up to China.

fluffy (rep: 2.2k) posted Feb 20, 2012