Oct 30, 2008

Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED Light Bulbs

Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED Light Bulb Challenge

By: robert o'neill From Product Dose

Light Bulb Challenge Main

For anyone out there dragging their feet about switching to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs in the home, we’ve put together some data about long-term usage in comparison to incandescent bulbs. As anyone paying attention has noticed, incandescent bulbs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past in terms of price, output, and performance. In an attempt to [forgive us, but we couldn’t pass it up] shed some light on the issue, we’ve crunched some numbers and put together an Excel sheet that compares various facets of incandescent, CFL and LED bulbs. Read the rest of our analysis after the jump, and feel free to download our Light Bulb Comparison Spreadsheet, which you can customize for your own home bulb comparisons.

Next time you’re out looking for light bulbs for your home, consider your options and bear in mind a few factors that go into differentiating your options: individual bulb price, lifespan, lumens (brightness), and wattage/electricity cost (how much electricity it takes to light the bulb). Before you try to figure out which bulb you want to buy, consider what your goals are. Do you want to the longest-lasting bulb you can find? Do you want the most efficient bulb? Do you want to stop changing bulbs for 15 years? These days, there’s an option for each of these concerns.

Like we said, the incandescent bulb is a dinosaur. About the only thing it has going for it in comparison to more efficient and longer-lasting options is that the price of an individual bulb is still comparatively low. But if you use a little foresight, you’ll realize there are better options out there that cost just a little more. If you want a bulb that’s going to last for extended periods between replacements, you’ll want to go with the LED. The bulb features a lifespan of 60,000 hours versus the CFL’s 10,000 hours and the incandescent bulb’s 1,500 hours. Considering the bulb’s low energy expenditure, the cost (over its 60,000-hour lifespan) is significantly lower than either of the other bulbs. Simply put, if using as little energy as possible is your goal, the LED bulb is for you.

Vivid LED

Of course, the standard LED is generally less bright than a traditional bulb. We tested the Spotlight LED bulb, which is made by the same manufacturer as the bulb we compared in our analysis (but with a lower lumen count), and we found it to have only a slightly less brightness than the traditional bulb. The LED also has the major drawback of featuring a very direct field of light, which makes it most useful only when aimed directly at what you want to light. Standard floor and table lamps equipped with an LED tend to offer streams of light aimed at the ceiling, which may not help with that book you're reading.

As a versatile bulb that burns comparably bright to a standard incandescent, but still costs less over the long term and burns more efficiently, the CFL Bulb may be your best bet. An advantage the CFL has over the LED is an upfront-cost that is considerably lower and far closer to the incandescent. In fact, if overall cost is your only concern, the cost of new LED bulbs may be more than you want to spend. Over the life of an LED, you are only going to see dramatic savings over the CFL if you are in an area that has high energy costs. For example, we compared LED and CFL bulbs at a standard $0.10 rate, and found that you would save about $11 over 60,000 hours. We also compared the two at $0.33 (what a friend pays) where the savings jumps to $120 over the life of an LED.

While the CFL is twice as expensive as the incandescent upfront, the former buries the latter in a pile of long-term cost. Each individual setting—not to mention the user’s view’s on energy conservation—is going to call for a unique bulb.


  1. I think both are very nice for the street light as well as home light. But I first prefer LED light because it consume very less energy and give us best light result and it is not much more expensive to compare with CFL lights.
    LED Manufacturers

  2. Anonymous11:38 AM

    i am doing a school research report on different light bulbs and it would be a big help if you could tell me the sources you used. thanks.

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM

    What is the current status of CFL bulbs containing mercury and being a disposal hazard both in the home with breakage or longterm in landfills? Has this issue been addressed?

  4. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Thanks for the link to the EPA website. After reading the detailed instructions for how to clean up after a broken CFL Bulb I am even more concerned that the public is not fully aware of the degree of risk involved with CFLs. Hopefully both a more safe and energy efficient solution will soon be available.
    Anyone who cares to read this EPA paper will understand how breaking or disposing of a CFL is a serious matter:

  5. Anonymous1:58 AM

    The information provided is very interesting and usefull but my observation is when we shift from normal bulb to CFL we have to go for higer wattage of CFL than the corresponding wattage as per your chart. Also reading or working in CFL causes more strain on eyes, and even dries them quickly.

  6. CFL's are better than all of them from year 1, it takes 17 years for LED's to beat CFL's but then need replacing after year 35. LED's beat Incandescent globes after 3-and-a-bit years.