Should you buy a LED or CFL light bulb in 2017? The technology behind the light bulbs is advancing day by day.
The best light bulb should be economically viable, meaning cheaper. After all, that is the first thing we pay attention to when we are buying a light bulb at a store or website.
But there is something more important when we buy a light bulb. We want the same warm light that we get from incandescent light bulbs for so long. It’s really about color quality, it’s about the richness of color. These are the real reasons why we choose the light bulb we choose at the end of the day.
It should also be comfortable, it should match the needs of the room it’s placed at. You don’t want very bright lights in your bedroom or dimmed light at a study room.
Last but not least, it should be environmentally friendly. Environmental effects of light balls are something you should not ignore because it effects our health in a big way.
We compared LED and CFL bulbs to figure out which one is the best according to these attributes.
LED is more efficient compared to CFL
As you can see from the above chart, LED beat other types of light bulbs at every brightness level, also called lumens. The reason behind this is LED technology is advancing at a much rapid rate compare to CFLs. LED last longer and cost you less on your electric bill.
A few years ago when we compared the light bulbs, the price of CFL was cheaper than LED. But in 2017 this is no longer the case. You can find LED lights that are as cheap as CFL. This is due to simple market dynamics. There are more and more companies making LEDs compare to CFLs. There is a big price war going on in the LED market. You can get a very good LED light for a dollar these days.
Another big factor is durability. LEDs are very durable, you can bounce on the floor and they won’t break. CFLs, on the other hand, break very easily just like an old light bulb would. Also when CFL burn out, they look really burned out. Check out the picture blow, it looks fire hazard. This is what happens when a CFL burns out at the end of its usage.
LEDs are cheap, more efficient, durable and they last a lot longer than CFLs. There is no competition here. LEDs wins hands down.
LED is more comfortable compared to CFL
This is the most important aspect for a lot of people. After all, you have to be able to see clearly using a light bulb in the living room, and not be blinded when you turn on the light at night.
Let’s learn some color theory and ophthalmology. There is a false assumption that yellow light causes eye strain. Firstly, yellow doesn’t cause eye strain (Asthenopia); flicker and lack of sufficient lumens do. CFL’s flicker and cause eye strain, LED’s do not; low lumen bulbs in work areas (kitchen, reading desk, work desk, etc) cause eye strain because your eyes aren’t getting sufficient light for the task.
As far as the color itself, 5000k to 6000k is close enough to natural lighting for the untrained eye to not notice the difference, while 6500k is noticeably blue. Blue colors stimulate the brain, and are great for activity/productivity, but not so much for relaxation and trying to wind down for bed. 2700k to 4000k are shades of yellow, which relax your brain instead of stimulating it; this is great for relieving stress at the end of a long work day, or for reading in bed before you go to sleep.
So, buy 6500k if the blue doesn’t bother you, you don’t have any stress in your life, and you want to be productive at home. Buy 2700k if your life is stressful and you’re not really concerned with high productivity in your living room. Buy 3500k to 5000k if you want a happy medium.
This way you can choose the warm colors you want with LED bulbs. Unfortunately these options are not present with CFL bulbs.
Another factor to consider is dimming. You can’t dim CFLs if you want to adjust the lighting in your room. But you can get a LED light with dimming capabilities, although they are more expensive compared to regular LED lights.
Performance wise, they are about the same, except some LEDs light downwards direction. CFLs are just like old light bulbs, they light all directions. Sometimes you have a light fixture that needs light going in all directions. Latest LED models in 2017 are capable of lighting all directions as well, at a higher price compare to CFLs.
There is also the Ultraviolet factor, CFLs might emit UV lights. This is another health concern about this light type. LED lights, on the other hand, don’t have UV.
Lastly, LED lights turn on much faster than CFL lights. CFLs don’t have an Instant on function. It takes a few seconds to turn on compared to LEDs. LEDs turn on with a small delay as well, but they are much faster than CFLs.
LED is better for the environment by a lot
This is the most important part for us since our website’s main goal is to raise awareness about climate change.
From the above graph, you can see our 2012 comparison of CFL vs LED lights. The red is CFL and green LED in 2012. LEDs were better environmentally compare to CFLs back then.
The purple line in above graph is the ratings for LED in 2017. CFL did not change in the last five year. In five years LED technology advanced enormously, while the CFL has not changed at all. Resource impacts of LED bulbs are much lower now. They create less hazardous, radioactive and none hazardous waste landfill as you can see from the graph. LEDs waste a lot less abiotic resources as well.
Air Impact results are 3 times lower compared to 5 years ago. LEDs cause less acidification and photochemical oxidation in the air. Stratpsjeroc Ozone depletion is 4 times lower compared to CFLs as well. LEDs are less toxic for humans, and their effect on global warming is 3 times less.
CFLs contain mercury, this results in direct impact in our air and water supply. Freshwater and marine aquatic ecotoxicity levels are much lower for LEDs as well. CFLs cause more eutrophication, by lowering the oxygens levels in our water. This has a direct impact on animals living in water.
LEDs are better for our soil as well, because the ecosystem damage is cut in half compared to CFLs. Terrestrial ecotoxicity is an important factor because it has a direct impact on our soil and our food.
Well, the final table speaks for itself. LEDs are much better than CFLs. There should be no reason why you would go for CFL in 2017. CFL industry gave up the fight against the LED industry long time ago, so why should I still support them by buying their products.
- Aquicore. 2016. Take Building Efficiency to a New Level: Reducing Water Consumption by 45%.
Washington, DC: Aquicore.
Arnold, G. 2016a. “Advanced Lighting Controls.” Presentation to the 2016 Better Buildings
Summit, May 9–11, Washington, DC.
- 2016b. “Commercial Advanced Lighting Control Demonstration and Deployment.”
Presentation to the 2016 Building Technologies Office Peer Review, April 4–7, Falls
- BEEx (Building Energy Exchange). 2014. Related Companies Office Lighting Retrofit. New York:
- 2015. Living Lab: Lighting the Future. New York: BEEx.
- CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). 2011. Guest Room Occupancy Controls: 2013
California Building Energy Efficiency Standards. Sacramento: California Utilities Statewide
Codes and Standards Team.
- DiLouie, C. 2014. “Lighting Control and Demand Response.” Lighting Controls Association.
- DLC (Design Lights Consortium). 2016. “Networked Lighting Controls QPL.”
- DOE (Department of Energy). 2015. “Chapter 5: Increasing Efficiency of Building Systems
and Technologies.” In Quadrennial Technical Review: An Assessment of Energy Technologies
and Research Opportunities. Washington, DC: DOE.
- FPL (Florida Power and Light). 2016. Building Controls. Juno Beach: FPL.
- Frank, Y., T. Guarnieri, C. Quan, and S. Selkowitz. 2015. “Living Lab NYC: Advancing
Lighting Controls in Iconic Office Towers.” Presentation to the Lightfair International
2015 Conference, May 3–7, New York.
- Jackson, C., K. Cunningham, K. Papamichael, K. Graeber, and M. Siminovitch. 2015.
Achieving Energy-Efficient Lighting in California. Davis: University of California.
- Lee, E., L. Fernandes, B. Coffey, A. McNeil, R. Clear, T. Webster, F. Bauman, D. Dickerhoff,
D. Heinzerling, and T. Hoyt. 2013. A Post-Occupancy Monitored Evaluation of the Dimmable
Lighting, Automated Shading, and Underfloor Air Distribution System in the New York Times
Building. Berkeley: LBNL.
- Swenson, K. 2016. “Fault Detection Meets Your Building’s ‘Check Engine Light’.” Switch
Automation, May 25.