Pros and Cons of Incandescent, CFL and LED Bulbs

Not very long ago, a light bulb meant nothing but a one-of-its-kind incandescent bulb. All one had to do was, go to the store, and pick an incandescent bulb based on the wattage, depending on how much light was needed to light up a space. But now, there are many energy-efficient options like CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) Bulbs and LED (Light Emitting Diode) Bulbs available in the markets, putting energy-consuming incandescent bulbs to shame.

This article basically covers the technicalities that go behind the functioning of these 3 bulb types. We also focus on pros and cons of each of these types so you can make a wise choice basis where you live and for what purpose you need the light. For the unawares, however, incandescent bulbs are being phased out because of the enormous amount of energy they consume. So basically, you are left with CFL bulbs and LED bulbs to make a green choice.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs gave the world a new meaning. They helped make the days longer and hence, more productive. However, they are being phased out. The reason is while they do not cost much, they use a lot of energy out of which only 10 per cent converts into light while the bigger chunk of 90 per cent dissipates as heat.

They last only about 1,0000 hours. Economically speaking, while their price tag is comparatively less, the running cost is very high, and they end up burning a hole in your pocket.

They are inexpensive Consume huge amount of energy
Instantly emit a warm light Last only about 1,000 hours
Emit uniform light in all directions Produce only warm hues of lighting

CFL Bulbs

CFL is a type of fluorescent light that is filled with a combination of argon gas and mercury. They emit a type of UV light when electricity is passed through them. It then interacts with the fluorescent coating present on the interiors of the bulb, thus producing a visible light.

CFL bulbs use up to 75 per cent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs. CFL lamps are available in a wide range of colours and types of lights. The most commonly used CFLs are more towards the white spectrum but you can also get the ones that produce light similar to that of incandescent bulbs.

They last approximately 10,000 hours but this lifespan reduces to a great extent if you frequently switch the lights ON/ OFF. They provide a spread-out even lighting and hence are not good directional light. This means, they are not good for spotlight situations but are perfect for table lamp lighting.

The presence of mercury in a CFL bulb means you cannot dispose it off like another piece of trash. When it surpasses its lifespan, it should be taken to a recycling centre so that environmental contamination can be reduced. If a bulb breaks, you are required to sweep it off immediately and place it in a sealed plastic bag before disposing it off responsibly.

Doesn’t hum - quieter Uses slightly more energy
Casts uniform, even light Cannot be used in spotlights
Variety of color options Cannot be used outdoors unless covered
Less expensive May not work with some dimmer switches
Lasts up to 10,000 hours Cannot be disposed of in the trash
- If broken, needs to be contained quickly
- Contains toxic metals
- Cannot be turned on and off frequently

LED Bulb

LED light is actually an SSL (Solid State Lighting) Bulb. It does not produce light and heat through something but with the help of diodes or semiconductors. An important thing to note here is that while switching to LED lights, you may need to replace your dimmer switches as using a dimmer meant for an incandescent bulb may lead to a buzzing sound.

Initially, LED lamps were available in a single colour spectrum, but today, they are available in a wide range of colours. LED lights are known to use only 1/3rd of the amount of energy used by CFLs.

LEDs cast light in a single direction and hence are useful for cabinet lighting, track lighting, and recessed lighting fixtures. If you need your LEDs to cast even and consistent lighting, you can use a diffuser.

An LED light lasts up to 50,000 to 100,000 hours and this is not affected by how many times you turn them ON/ OFF. While they cost you a little too much initially, the cost comes down as you use them. Since they do not use mercury, they are less hazardous. You can dispose them off in standard ways, unlike CFLs.

You can now also get LED decorative bulbs easily. LEDs can be used both indoors as well as outdoors without any restrictions.

Consumes less energy May buzz when used
Lasts up to 100,000 hours Some bulbs do not cast even light
No restrictions for on/off frequency -
Works well outdoors -
Can be used directionally or symmetrically -
Can be easily disposed off -


Over the years, advancement in technology has helped us a great deal, bring about innovations in the world of lighting. We have now moved from the standard incandescent lighting bulb to CFLs and LEDs.

Today, there are more choices when it comes to lighting up residential as well as commercial areas. Many of these options are highly energy efficient and help release less carbon footprint.

This article clearly points out the difference between traditional lighting and modern-day lighting, thus announcing LED light bulbs as a clear winner. LED lamps cut down on energy usage by up to 80 per cent (in comparison with an incandescent) and also offer durability. They are available in different colour and brightness levels, thus helping you choose on the basis of usage. Further, they are now also available in a range of colours, shapes, and sizes, giving you room to play around with them for different moods like functional or ambient.

If you still have not made the switch from traditional incandescent bulbs, now is the time. With LED technology getting so better, you will not just end up saving a lot of money off your electric bill but also contribute a great deal to the environment. The reasons are that LEDs consume less energy and are also easy to dispose of. Make the smart switch today!

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