Incandescent, CFL or LED lighting?

Incandescent, CFL or LED lighting?

The energy efficiency has become a paramount concern in the last years, due to the ascend of technology and environmental awareness.

It is common knowledge that choosing the right bulb will reduce your power bills. But, which one should you choose?

Understanding the difference between incandescent, CFL and LED light will make your decision process much easier.


  1. Incandescent lights

The incandescent light bulb or lamp is a source of electric light that works by incandescence, which is the emission of light caused by heating the filament. They are made in an extremely wide range of sizes, wattages, and voltages.

  1. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL bulbs) are created as a more energy-efficient option for conventional incandescent applications. CFLs screw into a medium base socket and utilize a spiral design –– as opposed to a long tube –– making it "compact." Many CFLs also have an integrated ballast, unlike traditional fluorescent tubes. 

  1. Light Emitting Diode (LED)

A Light Emitting Diode (LED) is an electrical light source that only allows an electrical current to flow in one direction. LEDs contain two conductive materials that are placed in contact with each other - once electricity is applied to the diode, the atoms in one material become charged with energy. This energy is then released in the form of electrons into the other conductive material - this release of energy is what creates light. The process of generating light is what distinguishes LEDs from traditional lighting, as regular incandescent bulbs produce light by creating heat.

Also, we should define the terms of watts and lumens. A watt refers to the amount of energy required to power a bulb. Lumens, on the other hand, indicate the actual amout of light emitted by the bulb. For instance, an incandescent 40W light bulb draws 40 watts of power and provides about 400 lumens of brightness.

Until recently, most homes used incandescent light bulbs. These type of lighting emit light by generating heat. Unfortunately, 90% of the power required to provide the desired brightness is emitted in heat rather than visible light. Taking this into account, incandescent bulbs are gradually being phased out. CFLs have been touted enthusiastically in the past decade, but LEDs are beginning to surpass them because they require as little as half the power and last 10 times longer than a CFL.

The table below contrasts the three technologies. 




Life Span

1,000 hours


50,000 hours









Heat Emitted

56.6 BTUs per hour

20.3 BTUs per hour

2.3 BTUs per hour

CO2 Emissions

3000 pounds per year

701 pounds per year

301 pounds per year

Contains Mercury




Kilowatts of Electricity Used*

2190 KWh per year

531 KWh per year

228 KWh per year

As you can see LED bulbs outperform CFLs in almost every category, and you recover any initial cost investment relatively quickly. Your original investment will be recouped in less than a year. You can choose either to install LED fixtures or just use replacement LED light bulbs in your existing fixtures. All in all, choosing LED lighting means you will have energy-efficient, attractive light that will save you money as well as help conserve the environment for years to come.