A Few Reasons Why LEDs are a Better Choice Than CFL Lights
We can all agree with this fact:
At some point in your life, you will be faced with the decision to find the best lighting fixtures for your home, offices, outdoors, and institutions.
And during that time a lot of questions will arise.
- How much will it cost to buy and maintain the new light fixture(s)?
- How efficient is the lighting technology?
- Are there any health risks you should be worried about?
- Will the light fixture provide adequate lighting?
- What about maintenance and durability?
- Will you get enough value from your purchase?
- And if you are switching from one lighting technology to another; how much will it cost to upgrade?
Let’s face it:
The list of questions you are bound to ask yourself is endless.
However, if you are here, you are in luck.
In this post, well focus more on everything you need to know about CFL vs LED Lights.
Therefore, sit back, relax, and enjoy your reading…
Chapter 1: What Does CFL Bulb Mean?
If you’ve been reading our posts on LEDs, then you probably have a good idea of what these fixtures are and how beneficial it is to use them.
Have you ever wondered what a CFL light fixture means?
If so, here a brief explanation plus history about this fixture…
CFL is an abbreviation of the words Compact Fluorescent Lamps – or as most people call it Energy-Saving Light; it was first developed during the 1930s but started to gain popularity and wide-spread adoption from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
They are made using fluorescent light technology and designed to fit into incandescent bulb fixtures.
The reason why it was dubbed the Energy-Saver bulb was because it was meant to replace inefficient, low-performance, and flimsy Incandescent Lights.
Back then, CFLs were the best lighting option offering more efficiency, light, and lower operational costs.
The outlook and future of CFLs took a turn when LED lights hit the market and were found to be better, more efficient, and safer.
And that led to a decline in CFL production and sales.
Nowadays, there are still people who use CFLs, but a large number of them are considering (or are in the process of) switching to LEDs.
Anyway, back to the main question here – CFL bulbs vs LED: which one is the best?
Read on to find out…
Chapter 2: Is a CFL Bulb the Same As an LED?
A lot of people have been asking this question.
And the truth is:
If you compare LEDs and CFLs to other lighting technologies, a lot of similarities will pop up.
- Both LEDs and CFLs are efficient lighting systems.
- Both last longer than other lighting technologies.
- And both are brighter but use less power.
Comparing LEDs against CFLs gives you a more detailed overview of how different these two lighting technologies are.
Long story short: LEDs are better than CFLs in all aspects.
But we’ll get into that shortly.
For now, let’s look at the safety of CFLs.
Chapter 3: Are CFL Light Bulbs Dangerous?
We all know that:
Safety is always a major concern when it comes to adopting lighting technologies.
When it comes to CFLs, there are several safety concerns that often come into play.
The Health Risks Posed by Mercury in CFLs
Yes, Compact Fluorescent Lamps contain Mercury.
Basically, these fixtures generate light by passing an electric current through Mercury.
When a CFL bulb is broken, it releases some of this toxic metal into the air and environment.
A lot of research has been done to find a much safer replacement for mercury in CFLs, but no other heavy metal has proven to be as effective as mercury is.
A standard CFL bulb contains at up to 4 milligrams of mercury. But there are some manufacturers who’ve lowered that amount to 1.4 milligrams.
So, why does the mercury in CFLs make these lighting fixtures dangerous?
- For one, this heavy metal is very poisonous.
- It can affect the development of children in utero and early life.
- When inhaled, it can disrupt your nervous, digestive, and immune systems.
And that’s just the effect of mercury exposure to human health. If you take a look at its effects on the environment, you’ll find that:
- Mercury accumulation leads to the formation of toxins like Methylmercury which greatly affects our Central Nervous Systems.
- This heavy metal also affects ecosystems and can lead to imbalances and collapsing of vital food webs.
But hey, don’t fret.
However, constant exposure might have an effect on your health and the environment around you.
To be safe, carefully dispose of broken down CFLs or switch to LED lights that are much safer and more eco-friendly.
Well, what else should you be worried about when using CFLs?
Ultra-Violet Radiation from CFL Lights
Compact Fluorescent Lights also expose you to UV radiation.
Well, the UV rays are generated when mercury collides with an electric current.
On the plus side:
The phosphorous layer (another toxic component of CFLs) helps to actively absorb UV radiation in these lighting fixtures.
However, if there’s a crack in the phosphorous layer, some UV radiation can slip through causing exposure.
Short-term exposure to UV rays from CFLs may not be that harmful, however, if you are exposed to them more frequently, there are a few health problems you may start to exhibit.
With all that in mind, are CFL light Bulbs Dangerous?
Yes, but only in a small way if they are not used extensively and disposed of correctly.
Chapter 4: CFL Vs LED: How Do These Two Compare?
You are given a choice between a CFL bulb and an LED light fixture; which one should you choose?
The best and easiest way to answer that question is by looking at the perks that each of these lighting technologies has over each other.
To help you do that, we’ll have to do a few comparisons.
Here’s what you need to know:
LED Vs CFL Brightness
When shopping for a lighting fixture, brightness is always one of the most important factors to consider.
You want to know how bright the fixture will be; to be able to calculate how many of them you’ll need to light up your space properly, right?
Brightness is often measured in Lumens (lm).
And in terms of brightness, LEDs offer more lumens than what you’ll get from a CFL – given that the wattage remains constant.
A standard LED fixture can generate between 90 and 120 lumens per watt. On the other hand, CFLs will give you 50 to 70 Lumens per watt.
Looking at those figures, it’s easy to note that LEDs are “almost” two times brighter than CFLs – almost…
If you take a 20W, 90lm/W LED fixture and turn it on, you’ll get at least 1800 lumens of light (brightness).
However, a 20W, 50lm/W CFL fixture will yield at least 1000 lumens.
Therefore, despite both fixtures having the same wattage, the LED offers you 800 more lumens than what you get from a CFL with the same wattage.
Overall Winner of LED vs CFL Brightness: LED Lights
CFL Vs LED Wattage
Brightness aside, you also have to consider power consumption.
A light fixture’s power consumption is measured in Watts. The higher the wattage, the higher the consumption.
From our example above, let’s assume that you have a space that needs at least 4,000 lumens of light to be well lit.
How much power will an LED or CFL light consume to give you that amount of brightness?
Case 1: LEDs
4000 lumens divided by 90lm/w LED efficacy rating will give you ~ 45Watts.
Case 2: CFLs
4000 lumens divided by 50lm/w CFL efficacy rating will give you ~ 80Watts.
Long story, short:
An LED fixture uses less power (in our example, 35Watts less) to produce the same amount of light as a CFL bulb.
To better understand this, here’s a simple CFL wattage equivalent chart:
Lumen Output (Brightness)
CFL fixture (in Watts)
LED fixture (in Watts)
400 – 500
8 – 10W
5 – 6W
650 – 850
13 – 17W
7 – 10W
1000 – 1400
20 – 28W
12 – 16W
1600 – 2000
32 – 40W
18 – 23W
* Given that the luminous efficacy of the LED light is 90lm/W and 50lm/W for the CFL bulb.
So, yes, that’s another point for LEDs.
Overall Winner of CFL Vs LED Wattage: LED Lights
CFL Vs LED Health
Which of these two lighting technologies offers fewer health problems?
In terms of health, LEDs and CFLs have similarities and differences.
Both of these light technologies are notorious when it comes to blue light exposure.
Basically, blue light is often responsible for keeping us awake and alert.
When you get exposed to too much blue light, several health problems might begin to pop up including:
- Eye/Visual Fatigue.
- Increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.
- And other health effects caused by sleep deprivation.
Moving on to the differences…
While the only health risks found in LEDs come from blue light exposure, CFLs have other risks you should be worried about.
- Compact Fluorescent Lamps contain a poisonous heavy metal called Mercurythat’s not only bad for human health but also for the environment.
- CFLs can expose you to harmful Ultra-Violet radiation.
- They also contain a Phosphor layer that deters blood from clotting, hence, it poses a danger to people who get cut with any phosphor-coated glass pieces from broken CFLs.
Evidently, you’ll have more reasons to worry about your health when using CFLs than when using LEDs.
Overall Winner of CFL Vs LED Health: LED Lights
CFL Vs LED Cost Calculator
Lastly, how much will it cost you to buy, use, and maintain either of these lighting fixtures?
In terms of costs, there are a few sub-aspects that come into place.
1. Purchasing Expenditure
The initial cost is always high with LEDs due to their superiority and durability.
And that’s why, on one hand, you should expect to spend between $3 to $20 on a good LED light fixture today.
On the other hand:
CFLs are a bit cheaper; with their price ranging between $1 and $8 per piece.
So, +1 points for CFLs and 0 for LEDs.
However, costs start to change after the initial purchase.
2. Operational Expenditure
With regard to operational costs, LEDs have proven to be very cost-effective.
That’s because they use almost 50% less power than CFLs.
If you have a CFL fixture that costs you $100 per month to run, installing an LED with the same lumen output rating can help to bring that figure down to around $55 a month.
So, 0 points for CFLs and +1 for LEDs
And lastly, we have…
3. Maintenance Expenditure
This is, basically, the amount of money you are bound to spend to repair/replace broken down light fixtures.
With up to 100,000 hours of runtime, LEDs are the most durable light fixtures on the market today.
CFLs offer 10-times less the number of hours you get from LEDs with the most durable ones maxing out at 10,000 hours.
That means that it might take you at least 15 years before you have to replace an LED or two to three years for CFLs.
In simple terms:
If you bought an LED and a CFL fixture today, you’d probably have to replace your CFL bulb five to eight times before having to replace your LED for the first time.
0 points for CFLs and +1 for LEDs
The final score on CFL vs LED costs is 1 point for CFLs and 2 points for LEDs
Therefore, the Overall Winner of CFL Vs LED Cost Calculator: LED Lights
Comparison Chart Between CFL and LED
To summarize these comparisons, we’ve come up with this simple chart:
Compact Fluorescent Lamps
Lumen Output (10Watt fixture)
Average Luminous Efficacy
Average purchasing cost
Wattage Needed for 1000 lumens of Light
Can it be used in spotlights?
Is it Eco-friendly?
Any risk of UV radiation?
Complicated (especially if broken)
Average Color Rendering Index?
This comparison chart between CFL and LED only goes to show how superior LEDs are.
In fact, the only advantage that Compact Fluorescent Lamps have over LEDs is the fact that they are slightly cheaper to buy.
However, when it comes to long term use, LED lights offer more cost-effective lighting solutions.
Let’s look at CFL to LED conversion…
Chapter 5: CFL to LED Conversion
For anyone looking to switch from CFLs to LEDs, one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face is finding the right fixtures.
You might find yourself asking:
Which is the best LED fixture equivalent to the CFLs you are currently using?
Or, in other terms…
Which LED fixture wattages will offer you the same amount of brightness you get from your current CFLs?
If so, this CFL to LED conversion table might just come in handy:
CFL Light Bulb Wattage
Its LED Equivalent
With all that in mind, you now know which LED wattages to go for when replacing your CFL fixtures.
If you have a 30-Watt CFL bulb and want to replace it with an LED fixture, you’ll need to shop for a 16-Watt LED light.
That way you get to enjoy the same amount of illumination at a fraction of the lighting costs.
Anyway, durability is always a hot topic in any CFL Vs LED lights comparison.
So, let’s give it a look.
Chapter 6: Do LED Bulbs Last Longer Than CFL?
Without a doubt, LEDs last longer than CFLs.
And that’s because on average, LED fixtures come with a 75,000-hour lifespan.
When you compare that with CFL bulbs’ 10,000-hour runtime average, it is quite easy to see why LEDs offer you great value for money.
What makes LEDs so durable?
Their durability has a lot to do with these fixtures’ design and architecture.
- LEDs aren’t affected by temperature changes– Unlike gas-dependent light technologies (like CFLs, fluorescents, low-pressure sodium lamps, and metal halides), LED lights perform as expected during extremely hot or cold seasons.
- LEDs aren’t made of brittle components like glass that break when exposed to too much shock during operation – Basically, most LEDs are manufactured using aluminum and strong plastic diffusers. Therefore, they don’t break easily.
- No filaments in an LED Light – The semiconductor used to generate light in LEDs is very rigid and not easily breakable.
- LED lifespans are not affected by switching the fixture on and off – Did you know that a Compact Fluorescent Light’s lifespan shortens every time it’s switched on and off? Well, with LEDs you don’t have to worry about that because they are never affected by switching.
LEDs are the most durable lighting fixtures on the market.
In fact, some often last for up to 100,000 hours – no CFL fixture comes anywhere close to that.
As we summarize this post, there’s only one question left to answer…
Chapter 7: Which Is Better; LED or CFL?
By now, you know that the shortest answer to this question is definitely LEDs.
For anyone who still feels like that’s not a straight answer, here is a “question and answer” recap of everything we’ve discussed all through the article:
1. What are the Similarities Between CFLs and LEDs?
- Both emit blue light.
- Both can be manipulated to yield different color temperature lights.
- LED and CFL fixtures were designed to replace incandescent bulbs.
- Both can be molded into creative shapes and designs without affecting light output.
2. In Terms of Health, Which Lighting Technology Is Riskier?
LEDs expose you to blue light which can cause eye fatigue and insomnia among other sleep-related problems.
However, aside from blue light, CFLs also expose you to poisonous metals like mercury, phosphorous, and also Ultra-Violet radiation.
Therefore, CFLs are riskier than LEDs and you are better off with the latter than the former.
3. What about Brightness?
LEDs offer more brightness than CFL fixtures.
In fact, you get almost 50% more light from an LED than you’d get from a CFL fixture on the same wattage.
4. Between CFLs and LEDs, Which One Is the Most Efficient?
In terms of efficiency, LEDs are far more superior to CFL fixtures.
That’s because LEDs use less power to generate more light (almost all of the energy used is converted to light instead of heat).
A 10W LED fixture can yield up to 1000 lumens of light while a CFL of the same wattage will only give out around 600 lumens.
5. How Are LEDs More Cost-Effective Than CFLs?
Despite their initial purchasing cost being slightly higher than Compact Fluorescent Lamps, LEDs are more cost-effective in the long run because:
- They don’t need a lot of maintenance.
- Have an impressively long lifespan; hence, no need for frequent replacements.
That said, let’s wrap this post by quickly looking at…
Chapter 8: The Pro and Cons of Both CFL and LED Light Fixtures
Fairly affordable (cheaper than LEDs)
Less energy-efficient compared to LEDs.
Can last up to 10,000 hours.
Cannot be used outdoors without a protective covering.
Offer a myriad of color options to choose from.
Lifespan is affected by switching the fixture on/off.
Can be used for spotlights.
Disposal is a bit complicated especially if the fixture is broken.
Poses more health risks than LED lights.
Causes UV radiation.
Blue light pollution.
Blue light pollution.
Expensive to buy (but cheap to maintain).
Not affected by switching on/off.
Works well in any environment; indoor or outdoor.
Eco-friendly because it doesn’t have toxic components and has a very tiny carbon footprint.
Easy to dispose of.
Minimal maintenance needs.
Offers more color options.
Does not heat up.
There you have it – everything you need to know about CFL Vs LED lights.
And the results are quite clear.
LED lights are better than CFLs in all aspects except the cost of buying these fixtures.
With their impressive lifespans and low maintenance, LEDs easily make up for their expensive price tags.
Basically, if you are looking for a stress-free, cost-effective, and high-performance lighting system, you should buy LEDs the next time you go shopping for light fixtures.