Advances in technology over the years have brought several different ways to provide light to homes and businesses. Over the past 150 years, we've gone from primarily using candles and lanterns to numerous light bulb types.
Three of today's most popular light bulb options are LEDs, CFLs, and incandescents.
In the beginning, the only thing we had was the standard incandescent bulb. The original design goes back to 1802, although Edison receives credit for making it a commercially viable option. Now we've got more choices to consider that could potentially save energy, money, or both.
Where do you fall in the LED vs. CFL vs. incandescent debate? With each providing specific advantages and disadvantages to consider, a careful look at each bulb type is helpful.
LEDs were invented in 1961 by Gary Pittman and Robert Biard. While the pair was working at Texas Instruments, they created an infrared light that functioned, but was microscopic in size. It was only a year later, in 1962, that Nick Holonyak, Jr. started a commercially viable product that created a red light via his employment with General Electric.
The 1960s was a decade where engineers and researchers looked for ways to make LED technologies more efficient. That's how they discovered that different substrates could produce unique colors.
In 1972, M. George Craford put a green and a red diode together to produce a pale yellow color, setting the cornerstone for what would eventually become a viable light bulb. Craford's work also led to LEDs that were ten times brighter than the original design while working for Monsanto.
Most people know Monsanto for its chemical and agricultural products, including Roundup. They were also the leading manufacturer of LEDs during a portion of the 1970s.
LED bulbs use heat sinks to absorb the product's heat to dissipate it to the surrounding environment. That technology is necessary to prevent it from burning out because it overheated.
When you can control the thermal environment around an LED bulb effectively, you're maximizing its potential lifespan.
When comparing LED vs. CFL vs. incandescent light bulb types, the advantages and disadvantages of light emitting diodes require a careful review.
LED bulbs have a higher initial investment, but the product eventually pays for itself with regular use. That's why it's a first-choice option for many home and business owners today.
CFL stands for “compact fluorescent lamp." It's designed to replace incandescent light bulbs in standard bases and fixtures. The design uses a tube that folds or curves to fit into the space of a traditional bulb with a compact electronic ballast in its base.
The principles of lighting remain the same for CFLs as they are for other fluorescent options. Electrons bound to mercury items get excited to a state where they radiate ultraviolet light. That gets converted into a visible spectrum as the bulb's coating gets struck and heat absorbs into the other materials.
When comparing LED vs. CFL vs. incandescent light bulb types, the advantages and disadvantages of compact fluorescent lamps require a careful review.
CFL lamps provide the same lighting type as fluorescent tubes, but with a more compact shape. Although they're more efficient than incandescent lamps, LED lighting options offer more durability and placement options.
Incandescent light bulbs are the technology that many people picture when they think about turning a switch on or off. It's made with a wire filament that gets heated to create a glow. Since it's enclosed in a glass bulb with inert gas or vacuum, the metal components are protected from oxidation.
Today's incandescent bulbs come in several sizes, output, and voltage ratings. Some models go up to 300 volts without needing external regulation equipment.
When comparing LED vs. CFL vs. incandescent light bulb types, the advantages and disadvantages of traditional incandescent lamps require a careful review.
In 2007, the United States signed the Energy Independence and Security Act into law. One of the first standards tiers to take effect was to phase out 60W incandescent bulbs between 2012-2014.
Although another round of restrictions was scheduled to take effect in 2020, the Department of Energy reverted back to previous standards. That's created a patchwork of lighting availability, so what is available locally is what your home or business is currently permitted to use.
LEDs and CFLs have essentially the same brightness level when compared in generalities. You can find options in both categories that offer more or less contrast when compared to their counterparts.
Before LED lights became omnidirectional, CFLs could provide better support as a floor lamp because of the broader coverage. The next generation of diodes surpasses the compact fluorescent design while offering improvements to color, energy consumption, and pricing.
Incandescents provide the warm, soft lighting many homeowners recognize while delivering different wattage ratings. Although the light bulbs are bright, they don't compare to LEDs or CFLs.
When comparing lumens between LEDs vs. CFLs vs. incandescent bulbs, all three types deliver a similar outcome. You'll find outputs from 400 lumens to over 2,700.
That means the primary comparison point between these bulb types is the wattage requirement needed to achieve the desired lumen result. LEDs require less than CFLs and significantly less than incandescents.
If you use a standard 60W incandescent light bulb in the bathroom, the CFL equivalent for lumen output would need 18 to 22W. When upgrading to LED lights, you'd use 13W or less to achieve the same result.
The lumen rating for each light bulb should be on the package or the product description. If you see only wattage ratings posted, you could be holding an older model.
That creates a luminous efficiency rating of 150 lumens per watt for some white LED bulbs. CFLs top out at 60 lumens per watt, while incandescents are just 16 lumens per watt at their best.
LED lights provide options throughout the entire color and temperature spectrum. You can find choices that simulate the warm, soft lighting from incandescents or the daylight replication that CFLs offer.
When you choose smart LED light bulbs, an entire RGB color spectrum is available to use. That means you can apply 16 million choices to your environment to create whatever mood you prefer. The RGB lights provide daylight and warm temperature options in addition to the different shades and hues found on the color wheel.
Today's best LED lights have a lifespan rating of 50,000 hours or more. Even if you take the L70 or L50 rating, which indicates receiving 70% or 50% of the original lumens power, you'll still exceed the 8,000 to 10,000 hours that CFLs are rated to provide.
Incandescent light bulbs have a maximum rating of 1,000 hours. Some products exceed that amount, but there is always a higher risk of breakage.
Everyone has different needs, but the superiority of LED technology shines through in most situations. That's why you'll find so many recommendations online to upgrade to these light bulbs!