LED vs. CFL - Which Should I Choose?

When considering different lighting options for your home, you’ve probably heard of two decent solutions, both of which are more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs: LED and CFL light bulbs. If you’re not sure which would be better for your household, here is some key information about LEDs and CFLs to help you decide.

LEDs Explained

While the shape of an LED bulb resembles that of a conventional incandescent bulb, there is much more advanced technology at work inside it.

How LEDs Work

LED stands for “light emitting diode.” When electrons pass through light emitting diodes, they turn into light. It takes less energy to create light this way than it does with CFL and incandescent bulbs. When compared to a CFL bulb, an LED bulb’s light-creating process is more energy efficient and radiates less heat.

LED Characteristics

You may have encountered the complaint that LED lights are directional. While the LEDs in LED bulbs today still shine in one direction, omnidirectional LED bulbs have become available to replicate the lighting effect of incandescent bulbs.

Another interesting characteristic of LED bulbs is that they become dimmer over time instead of suddenly burning out altogether. This is quite useful because you’ll have some warning that an old bulb should be replaced, although the need to replace them won’t be very frequent. As an industry standard, LED bulbs should last for a minimum of 25,000 hours with at least 70 percent of their original brightness.

LED Cost

In terms of upfront cost, you can expect to pay more for an LED bulb than you would for a CFL bulb. However, although LED bulbs are still fairly new to the market, they have thus far proven more cost-effective in the long run than CFL, as well as longer lasting by over 15,000 hours.


  • More energy efficient

  • Radiate less heat

  • Longer lasting than CFL (25,000 hours as opposed to 8,000 hours)

  • More cost-effective in the long run


  • Higher cost up front

  • Newer to market

CFLs Explained

CFL bulbs are another eco-friendly and energy-efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs, but are they a better choice than LED? It’s time to find out!

How CFLs Work

CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) produce light differently than both incandescent bulbs and LEDs. When you flip on the light switch, you’re sending an electric current through a tube in the bulb that contains both argon and a tiny amount of mercury vapor. This generates ultraviolet light inside the tube. The tube has a fluorescent coating on its interior that then gets excited by the ultraviolet light, causing it to emit the light we actually see.

As stated previously, this process to produce light does take more energy and radiates more heat than it does with LEDs. Also, some people notice a slight “start-up” time for CFLs to gain their full luminosity after first being turned on. However, CFLs are still a smarter energy choice than incandescent bulbs, consuming around 70% less energy.

CFL Characteristics

If you’re wondering if you’ve ever seen a CFL bulb, you probably have without knowing what they were actually called. CFL bulbs have an unmistakable curly-Q shape to them. Also, while it may not be something to write home about, many people remark on how sturdy they are, at least when compared to incandescent bulbs

One of the disadvantages of CFLs (as opposed to LEDs) is how they react to being turned on and off quickly. If you frequently switch a CFL on then off, the bulb’s lifespan will most likely decrease, whereas LEDs lifespans aren’t affected by this at all.

CFL Cost

CFL bulbs make for a long-lasting light source--just not as long as LEDs. However, they are priced somewhat lower than LEDs, which might better suit some households that would still like a more energy-efficient alternative than incandescent bulbs.


  • Lower upfront cost than LED bulbs

  • Lasts about 6,800 hours longer than incandescent bulbs

  • Omnidirectional lighting


  • Less energy-efficient

  • Radiates more heat

  • Shorter lifespan

  • Affected by how quickly they are turned on and off

  • Contains mercury; dangerous to discard in a landfill

In Conclusion

Due to their longer lifespan and better energy-efficiency than CFL bulbs, LED bulbs do “win” in terms of cost-effectiveness. That being said, CFL is not a bad option and will definitely save you money over traditional incandescent lighting.

Interested in going all out with LED lighting? All Electric Services offers a wide range of lighting services, including LED retrofits. Renovating your old standard or modular light fixtures to LED luminaires increases overall lighting output while reducing heat emissions and your energy costs.