CFL vs. LED: Choose the Right Efficient Lighting Option for You

CFL Glow

All about LEDs

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs and can last more than 25 times longer. But are they the right choice for you? Read on for a few things to keep in mind when making your decision.


Image courtesy of Kit

How LEDs work

LEDs are small light sources that illuminate by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material. They can be integrated into a variety of products to provide white and colored light, such as flashlights, light bulbs and integrated light fixtures. These energy-saving bulbs emit light in a specific direction, whereas an incandescent or fluorescent bulb emits light and heat in all directions. So, for direct lighting applications LED lighting uses both light and energy more efficiently.

LEDs also produce a much smaller amount of heat than both incandescents and CFLs. In a well-designed LED, all heat is released backwards into a heat sink, making the bulb basically cool to the touch.

Light color

Like fluorescent lamps, Energy Star qualified LEDs are available in a variety of shades of white light, from warm hues comparable to traditional incandescent bulbs to cool colors that mimic natural daylight.

Consult the Lighting Facts label on the bulb’s packaging to choose the light color that suits your needs best. If you’re unsure about the color, head to your local home improvement store. Many retailers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, allow you to test out light color in the store, Jantz-Sell says.

Special features

LEDs are available with loads of special features to suit all applications, including dimmable bulbs and recessed lighting. Keep in mind that dimmable LEDs may not be compatible with all dimmer controls designed for incandescent lamps.

It may be necessary to replace existing dimmer switches with ones that are compatible with the LED bulb of your choice. Check the packaging or accompanying instructions to find out if an LED is dimmable and which dimmer products are approved for use with the bulb, Energy Star suggests.

Outdoor use

Both CFLs and LEDs are suitable for use outdoors, but fluorescents may have trouble producing light in severely cold weather, meaning LEDs may be a better fit for you if you call a cooler state home, Jantz-Sell advises. LED bulbs are also less likely to shatter, which is another perk for outdoor use.

“LED bulbs perform really well in cold temperatures,” she told Earth911. “They are also very durable, so they’re good all year round outside.”

Choose the right bulb for your fixture

The cost of LEDs is significantly higher than that of both incandescents and CFLs (click the link below for more questions about pricing). So, look at your LED bulbs as an investment, and use them in the parts of your home that will yield the best return, Jantz-Sell suggests.

“You’re going to get your fastest payback on LEDs in the places where you’re leaving the lights on the longest,” she says.

If you’re ready to commit to LEDs, start by replacing the bulbs in your home you use most often, such as your living room or kitchen lights, Jantz-Sell says.

Next: What about price?

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