LED’s vs CFL’s is the title to this post because I have found a lot of people don’t have a full understanding of what each one is and what the pro’s and con’s are for the bulbs.
LED is an acronym that stands for Light Emitting Diode. A diode is basically a semiconductor that only allows electricity to flow one way, sort of like a one way valve. LED’s do not run on 120 volts like other lights and appliances in the home. They have a small incorporated transformer that steps the voltage down to 24 volts before getting to the diode. LED’s use very little energy and have a very long service life. A 60 watt equivalent bulb may use as little as 9.5 watts and last for 50,000 hours or more. Multiply that times the amount of bulbs in your home and you have some significant savings. In order to get the right LED for the job you’ll need to learn some new terms. Below are some things to consider when shopping for LED’s.
Things to consider:
When buying LED’s there are things to consider that you normally would not when buying other bulbs.
- Temperature: Ranges from warm to cool. Is measured in Kelvin and has a significant impact on the lighting environment in your home. A warm temperature LED, e.g. 2700 Kelvin will be very similar to incandescent light. Moving up in temperature makes the light much whiter and may even appear blue at higher Kelvin ranges. 2700 Kelvin is just fine for me in most cases. If I need task lighting, I can always go to a cooler temperature. You will have to decide for yourself what your preferences are.
- Lumens: This is the amount of visible light to your eye. As where with an incandescent light 100 watt bulb was brighter than a 60 watt, when talking about LED’s you want to look for the amount of lumens. Typically speaking, if you get a 60 watt equivalent LED you should look for ~800 lumens. And, if you purchase the 65 watt floods for your recessed lights ~750 lumens will be more than adequate.
- CRI stands for Color Rendering Index. Basically it is a measure of how colors are rendered when compared to a natural light source such as the sun. The sun has an CRI of 100. When purchasing LED’s I have found that anything above a CRI of 83 is good. Obviously, the higher the number the better but one must include cost into the equation.
- Price: Thanks to rebate programs LED’s are currently affordable for just about anyone looking to purchase them. I am aware that both Alliant Energy and Mid American Energy have rebates that apply directly to the purchase price of the bulb eliminating the need to fill out forms etc. I am currently aware of CREE 60 watt equivalent bulbs being sold at Home Depot for ~ $7.00 each. The best deal I have seen is FEIT 65 watt flood bulbs for recessed lights at Costco for under $6.00 each. Both are excellent choices and have great reputations for quality and warranty.
As you can see, when it comes to LED’s there is a little bit of a learning curve. The benefits are that you get great light, they use less energy and have a very long life expectancy.
CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Light which is exactly what it is, a fluorescent light in a compact size to fit in regular bulb sockets. A CFL runs on full 120 volts and uses less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb. A 60 watt equivalent CFL bulb may use around 14 watts depending on the manufacturer. Although the lifespan has been improved over time, a CFL cannot compete with an LED when it comes to service life. Many complain that CFL’s do not last as long as they are purported to and have gone back to incandescent bulbs as a result. This is usually do to the ballast wearing out or being faulty. A fluorescent light will wear out much more quickly in a residential application than a commercial application because of the ballast. They are meant to be turned on and left on. The initial start up is what stresses them the most.
Things to Consider:
If you are considering purchasing CFL’s for your home there are some things to consider that unfortunately, many people are unaware of.
- Mercury: Each and every CFL contains Mercury. There are varying amounts reported anywhere from 3 mg – 12 mg per bulb. There are debates on how much water one bulb can poison from 1,000 gallons up to 180 tons which is ~43,000 gallons. Either way Mercury is VERY toxic to human health and should be avoided where possible. Many people are unaware that CFL’s require special disposal practices due to the mercury.
- Special Disposal: You must not throw CFL’s in your everyday garbage. The bulbs will be broken and the toxins will leach into our ground water supplies. CFL’s require special disposal practices. They must be brought to a disposal sight such as your landfill, or a designated site such as a hardware or local box store, e.g. Home Depot.
- Hazardous Material: If a CFL breaks in your home it should be treated as a hazardous material because that’s what it is. Here is a link that will take you to the EPA’s web based clean up instructions for a broken CFL.
- Actual environmental impact: When using unbiased analysis, the CFL quickly loses out to the incandescent bulb on overall environmental impact due to increased manufacturing cost, disposal issues, toxicity, power factor, heat loss, and the list goes on. If you have purchased CFL’s for environmental reasons, I’m sorry, you’ve been duped. You can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Millions of households have CFL’s in them and millions of people have purchased them.
As you can see, CFL’s don’t have much good to offer other than their reduced electrical consumption. If you currently have them in your home, I recommend that you properly dispose of them and replace them with another type of bulb for the reasons above.
This is not intended to be a hit piece on CFL’s. However, in my business I meet many people weekly that are completely unaware of the negative aspects of CFL’s and the different characteristics of LED’s. I hope you will share this far and wide so that people can gain a better understanding of LED’s VS CFL’s.