CFL vs. LED

Energy efficiency has long been a concern for consumers. Our reliance on artificial lighting has made particularly true when considering the type of lamp you wish to use. From illuminating parking lots at night to providing ample interior lighting for businesses and residences – the right lamp (light bulb) makes a substantial difference in more ways than one.

Below, our experts here at Action Services Group help to define both the CFL and LED, as well as provide a synopsis of several factors you should consider when comparing CFL vs. LED.

CFL vs. LED: A Lighting Evolution

Years ago, the standard light bulb was made of a tungsten filament and inert gas surrounded by a glass enclosure. Known as an incandescent light bulb, a metal stem at the base of the glass structure allows an electrical current to trigger the filament and provide lighting. In 2014, however, incandescent bulbs over 40 watts were discontinued.

That is where the Compact Florescent Lamp (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps come in. Both are considered to be energy efficient and highly effective. However, some major differences should be considered when looking to invest in quality lighting.

Before we get to that, however, it is important that you understand the difference in lamp construction when comparing CFL vs. LED.

  • CFL Construction: CFLs are often irregularly shaped, coiled lamps. Functionally, CFL lamps work the same way the older incandescent lights did. Using a gas-discharge, the electrical current provided to the lamp causes the mercury vapor to create ultraviolet light that heats a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass enclosure. This process generates a chemically induced glow that creates the visible light.
  • LED Construction: LEDs utilize solid-state technology to create light. Within each lamp is a self-contained component that houses both an anode and cathode. When an electrical current passes through these components, the semi-conductive materials create visible light. For durability, these anodes and cathodes (collectively referred to as a diode) are encased in a thin shatter-resistant plastic.

Interested in learning more about how LEDs are made? Do you have a desire to know everything there is to know about LEDs? Read our in-depth review of LEDs and LED Retrofits.


CFL Brightness vs. LED (Performance)

Both CFL and LED lights are known for their brightness. However, when it comes to comparing CFL brightness vs. LED sources – experts agree that LED lamp performance exceeds that of the CFL.

If you have ever used a CFL light, you will notice that it takes time for these lamps to become fully illuminated. That is because it takes roughly 30 seconds to 3 minutes for the electrical current supplied to the lamp to fully heat the phosphor coating and reach maximum illumination. By comparison, an LED will reach maximum illumination immediately.

That being said, both lamps often come with “lumens,” in addition to or in place of wattages. This can be confusing as most of us are used to buying light bulbs based on wattages. You may find yourself asking what these lumens mean to you and how they translate to your previous wattage search.

Understanding Lumens

Because of the energy efficiency of both CFL and LEDs, manufacturers have switched to listing lumens. Lumens provide you with a specific brightness level; wattages, however, define the energy consumption of each bulb. Nevertheless, what does it mean to you? While some lights will exceed 1600 lumens, the below standards are the most common lumens/wattage translations used:

  • 450 lumens equates to roughly 40 watts;
  • 800 lumens equates to roughly 60 watts;
  • 1100 lumens equates to roughly 75 watts; and
  • 1600 lumens equates to roughly 100 watts.

If you are researching a new LED lighting solution for your organization, having a firm understanding of a lumen and luminous efficacy is a necessity for choosing the right solution for your company. We suggest reading Understanding Luminous Efficacy. Bonus, it’s our third most-read blog.


CFL vs. LED Energy Savings

Both CFLs and LED lamps consume less energy than incandescent lights do. However, when it comes to CFL vs. LED energy savings, the LED is the clear winner.

It is a fact: CFLs use 25% to 35% less energy than their incandescent predecessor. However, 80% of the energy they do use is released as heat into the environment. LEDs, on the other hand, use 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb. Because of their construction, LEDs release little to no energy as heat; this means that the energy consumed by an LED is used much more efficiently than both the incandescent and CFL lamps.

But if you are buying based on lumens, what are the energy consumption impacts? Let’s take a look.

  • 400 Lumens: CRLs use 10 watts; LEDs use 5 watts;
  • 800 Lumens: CRLs use 13 watts; LEDs use 10 watts;
  • 1100 Lumens: CRLs use 16 watts; LEDs use 15 watts; and
  • 1600 Lumens: CRLs use 20 watts; LEDs use 19 watts.

Interested in learning more about LED Energy Savings? We have a whole section in our Education Center on this topic. We recommend checking it out!


CFL vs. LED Maintenance Comparison

Both CFL and LED light lamps will last longer than the incandescent model. When it comes to maintaining a CFL vs. LED lamp, however, experts again agree that you will likely need to replace the CFL model more frequently. In fact, the typical CFL has a lifespan of roughly 10 years. By comparison, an LED is expected to last at least 15 years, with some models exceeding 25 years. At roughly 1.5 (or more!) times the lifespan of a CFL, the LED will need to be replaced far less often.

In addition to this, because LEDs use solid-state technology, they are much less susceptible to damages caused by vibrations or falls. This means accidentally bumping your lamp, or sudden vibrations are far less likely to damage the lighting elements within the LED, leading it to be replaced due to damages less often than you would a CFL.

This saves you money on maintenance costs and helps reduce your overall cost impacts over time.


Are you looking for more information on an LED’s lifespan? Our blog, Understanding LED Lifespan, breaks down life ratings and how to measure the life of your LED.


CFL vs. LED Cost Comparison

At the end of the day though, most people want to know what are the true CFL vs. LED cost impacts. To understand this, however, let us take a look at the costs of the four most common lumen ratings we have been comparing. Below, we list the annual cost of operating an individual light based on the average national energy costs.

  • 400 Lumens: A CFL costs $1.34; an LED costs $0.67;
  • 800 Lumens: A CFL costs $1.74; an LED costs $1.34;
  • 1100 Lumens: A CFL costs $2.14; an LED costs $2.00; and
  • 1600 Lumens: A CFL costs $2.67; an LED costs $2.54.

From the above, the cost savings becomes readily apparent, especially at the lower lumen level. Here is a bit more on CFL vs. LED cost comparison from energy.gov.

LEDs – The Ultimate Efficiency Lighting

Based on brightness, energy, maintenance, and cost comparisons above, the LED clearly exceeds the overall value of the CFL. If you have questions about what LED lighting will work best for you, contact Action Services Group today at 800-223-0982 or email info@actionservicesgroup.com.

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