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5 reasons why LED lamps are better than CFLs

The Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulb is a popular lighting choice among the different lighting technologies in existence today. CFLs were the first real challenger to regular incandescent bulbs starting in 1995, primarily as a result of their energy efficiency/cost savings, superior lifetime, and environmental friendliness.  But does that mean we should remain complacent—just because they outperform a 100-year old technology?

While CFLs might be a good choice, are they really the best choice?

The newest lighting technology on the market today is the Light Emitting Diode (LED). How do LED lamps stack up to CFLs? Let’s take a look!

1. LEDs use less power (watts) per unit of light generated (lumens)

Using a standard 75-watt incandescent bulb as a basis of comparison:

Lamp

Watts

Lumens

Efficacy

LED

                12.5

1000

80 lumens/watt

CFL

20

1150

57.5 lumens/watt

Benefits:

  • Lower electricity bills
  • Less greenhouse gases

 

2. LEDs have a longer lifetime

Lamp

Lifetime (hours)

Replacement frequency

(40,000 hours)

LED

40,000

1

CFL

10,000

4

Benefits:

  • Fewer bulb replacements
  • Less landfill
  • Lifetime not shortened by power usage patterns (see “On off cycling effects”)
  • Lifetime not shortened as a result of installation method (for example, when a CFL is inserted upside down in a hanging, enclosed fixture, the power supply heats up. As a result of inadequate heat sinking capabilities, CFLs tend to bake and die much faster than their published lifetime).

 

3. LEDs have less impact on the environment and human health

Impact

LED

CFL

Contains Mercury (toxic to both environment and health)?

No

Yes (~5mg)

RoHS-compliant (Restriction of Hazardous Substances – directive in controlling the use of six* hazardous materials)?

Yes

No

Carbon Dioxide Emissions (CO2 is the main greenhouse gas)?

4.4 kg/yr (1300 lm @

2 hrs/day)**

Note: Lower energy consumption decreases CO2 emissions

7.3 kg/yr (1300 lm @

2 hrs/day)**

Infrared or ultraviolet radiation emissions?

Extremely low IR

Yes

* lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium metals, as well as polybrominated biphenyl and polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants.
**source: www.green2light.com

Benefits:

  • Less environmental contamination
  • Less personal exposure to hazardous material
  • No degradation of artwork, furniture, carpets, etc.

 

4. LEDs are more robust

Impact

LED

CFL

Turns on instantly?

Yes

Delay

Light flicker?

No

Yes

Heat emitted?

Very low (3btu’s/hr)

Medium (30btu’s/hr)

Temperature sensitivity?

Slight

-LEDs are sensitive to installation where there is no way to vent the excess heat, but much less sensitive than CFLs.

Yes

-low/no light emitted in freezing temperatures

-lifespan significantly shortened depending on how bulb is installed (ie. Upside down or within enclosure traps heat).

Durable?

Yes

Fragile

On/Off cycling effects?

No

Yes (shortens lifespan)

Benefits:

  • Immediate light (no-wait period)
  • No risk of triggering migraines or epilepsy attacks (no light flicker)

Note: The relationship between CFL light flicker and migraines/epilepsy has been contended, even though cases have been reported (see http://bit.ly/PTUA23 for more information).

  • Minimal risk of fire
  • Superior lamp performance in all weather conditions
  • Less risk of breakage (solid-state technology)
  • More dependable – lifetime unaffected by frequent use

 

5. LEDs offer greater cost savings

The math is pretty simple:

Less energy used → greater electricity savings

Using a standard 75-watt incandescent bulb as a basis of comparison:

Lamp

Watts

KWh/yr (@24 hours/day)

Cost/year (@0.119/kWh)

LED

12.5

109.58

$13.04

CFL

20

175.32

$20.86

While some argue the higher initial cost of LED bulbs isn’t worth the cost savings in reduced energy use, time and again studies have illustrated the return on investment is recovered quickly (from a few months to a couple of years, depending on usage).

Note: While dimmable LEDs do cost slightly more than non-dimmable LEDs of similar wattage, you can scale back the light to ~10% of its full output, thereby reducing the amount of energy required.

There’s also a hidden savings: that which is achieved through cost avoidance. A longer lamp lifespan means you don’t need to spend valuable time performing maintenance tasks (for example, buying new bulbs or replacing dead bulbs).

Benefits:

  • Reduced electricity bill

To obtain a fuller picture of the savings you personally can achieve with LED lamps, see Leapfrog Lighting’s Savings Calculator.

  • Reduced maintenance (increased productivity)

So, when you need to replace your old incandescent lamps, are you going to replace them with CFLs or LEDs?

9 Responses to 5 reasons why LED lamps are better than CFLs

    • @Ally, good question. LEDs can be used in various applications: indoors and outdoors. As a matter of fact, the electronics in LEDs are quite happy in colder temperatures (unlike CFLs). The one thing you want to avoid is moist environments. You can certainly use LEDs in an exterior capacity, such as for porch lighting, but ensure it’s enclosed/sheltered/recessed and not exposed to the environment. Hope that answers your question.

  1. I had no idea that CFLs were affected by how they were installed. Good to know there’s an alternative for fixtures where the bulbs need to be upside-down!

  2. Thanks for all the good info. I am surprised at how many people feel the jury is still out on LED. The comments made here are a big step in helping them to see things in a different light.(no pun intended)

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