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

CFL Glow

What about price?

CFLs and LEDs sell for higher prices than traditional incandescent bulbs, but both of these efficient lamps will save you loads of energy and pay for themselves over time, Jantz-Sell says.

No matter what type of bulb you choose, look at it as an investment and keep in mind that not all bulbs are created equal. Poorly designed CFLs and LEDs can skimp on efficiency, burn out before their time and provide inconsistent or unpleasant light. So, opt for bulbs with the Energy Star certification to ensure top quality.

“There is a difference between an energy-efficient bulb like a CFL or an LED that hasn’t earned the Energy Star and one that has,” Jantz-Sell advises. “We have over 10 different tests that these bulbs have to pass…so they’re going to be reliable.”

CFLs are the more budget-friendly option, priced anywhere from $2 to $15 for Energy Star qualified specialty bulbs. Payback for CFLs is typically about six months, and you’ll save $40 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb.

“CFLs are the workhorse for energy efficiency,” Jantz-Sell says. “They’re low cost, quick payback and they save a ton of energy.”

It's tough to deny the energy and cost savings of efficient lighting after taking a look at this graphic. Photo: EPA Energy Star

It’s tough to deny the energy and cost savings of efficient lighting after taking a look at this graphic. Photo: EPA Energy Star

Specialty LEDs, such as those used for recessed lighting, are priced in the $25 to $75 range, while standard Energy Star qualified LED bulbs are priced between $16 and $25. Using these prices, typical payback for an LED bulb is three to four years, based on three hours of use per day. Although payback time is a bit longer than CFLs, you can expect to save more than $70 over the lifetime of the product, Jantz-Sell says.

“I’ll also say with LEDs you do get what you pay for,” she advises. “So it’s very important to look for the Energy Star and read the package carefully.”

If you’d like to give both options a try at home, Jantz-Sell suggests choosing LEDs for the fixtures you use most often to get the fastest payback. Choosing LEDs for fixtures that are difficult to reach is also a good idea, as the bulbs’ long lifespan means you won’t have to climb up on a ladder as often.

For more tips and tricks for choosing and using your energy-efficient bulbs, check out Energy Star’s Choose a Light Guide and Bulb Purchasing Checklist.

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Mary Mazzoni

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