Energy Saving Lighting – Comparing Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) to Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) (By Luthando)

An important part of a green lifestyle is improving the energy efficiency of the home. One of the easiest, and most important ways to accomplish this is the installation of more energy-efficient lighting. The average household in America uses about 15% of its overall energy consumption for lighting.

Incandescent lighting inefficiency

Given the incredible inefficiency of the incandescent light, it is a testimony to the lack of viable alternatives that the standard light bulb we have known for years ever found broad usage. Incandescent bulbs are incredibly energy-inefficient. They convert only about 3-5% of the energy consumed into light. The rest is dissipated largely as heat. Indeed, incandescent light bulbs are more aptly thought of as miniature heaters that happen to give off some light.

Bring on the CFls

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) have become the most popular replacement for incandescent bulbs. CFLs consume 75% less energy to produce the equivalent amount of light and last up to 10 times longer. They are also noticeably cooler, helping to lower cooling costs during warm-weather months. And at prices of about $2-5 per bulb, CFLs have become good value as well, saving consumers an average of about $30 in energy costs over their lifetimes. Using CFLs for home lighting is a no-brainer.

But there is an even more promising alternative for lighting that is entering the market: light emitting diodes, often referred to by their short-hand name of LEDs.

The Advantages of LEDs

LEDs are far more energy efficient than even CFLs. An LED light uses 30% less energy than a comparable CFL and last 5 times longer. The advantages over an incandescent bulb are even more impressive: an LED uses 84% less energy and lasts an astounding 50 times longer. LEDs also work with dimmers, something that is still being perfected with CFls. Another advantage of LEDs is that, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury at all.

Given the operational advantages, should you be making the switch to LEDs? I would not make the change yet, at least not for most of your household lighting. LED bulbs are still being perfected. The light produced from most early LEDs is still not as bright as that from incandescents and CFLs, although improvements are coming rapidly. However, the biggest barrier to widespread usage of LEDs right now is the cost-up to a whopping $100 per bulb.

Prices are coming down. A CFL recently introduced by Cree and reviewed in Consumer Reports sells for a less wallet-emptying $50 and provided excellent light and dimmability. Though it will save you about $300 in energy cot over its lifetime, the average consumer will have huge problems investing that kind of money in a light bulb, especially if you need 20-40 of them around your house.

But keep an eye on the continued development of the LED. In a few years, prices will come down dramatically, the quality of the light will continue to improve, and the energy saving benefits will make them as obvious a choice as CFLs are now.


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