Incandescent lighting had existed for almost 100 years before, in the 1980s, strangle-looking bulbs called “CFLs” (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) appeared on the scene. Fluorescent lighting itself wasn’t new; it had already been used for about 50 years in the form of tubes. But then these odd, worm-like bulbs began filling store shelves. They didn’t sell as well as expected.
CFLs have improved a great deal in the last 30-40 years in every respect, but now they have LED retrofit bulbs to compete with. If you’re looking to replace inefficient incandescent bulbs, which are better: LED or CFL bulbs?
There isn’t a huge difference between the energy efficiency of modern-day fluorescent and LED technologies, though you will save significant money by replacing old fluorescent lighting with LED (up to about 60%). The main benefits of LED over fluorescent lie elsewhere, as follows:
- LED bulbs have lifespans of up to 50,000 hours, compared to the typical 8,000 to 15,000 hours of a fluorescent bulb.
- Very few fluorescent bulbs can be dimmed, whereas LED bulbs are widely available in dimmable and non-dimmable forms.
- Fluorescent lighting needs a warm-up time to reach full brightness; LED lighting achieves full brightness instantaneously.
- Because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, they are complicated to dispose of. LED bulbs have no toxic mercury.
- LED bulbs can be frequently switched on and off with no ill effect, but the same treatment will shorten the lifespan of a fluorescent bulb.
- LEDs are extremely compact, so retrofit LED bulbs can fit into most existing light fixtures. CFLs tend to be larger and can’t always fit into old lamp holders.
- Because LEDs naturally emit a directional light, less light is wasted in many commercial light fixtures by being sent in the wrong direction. CFLs emit an omnidirectional light.
- LED lighting works well in cold temperatures (down to around -20°C). Fluorescent bulbs are sometimes adversely affected by cold temperatures, consequently emitting less light.
Although fluorescent bulbs are often a bit cheaper than LED in stores, you may be able to score a deal online.