LED Or Fluorescent Light Bulbs, a Comparison

by blackspanielgallery

Becoming environmentally sensitive when choosing light bulbs involves both energy consumption and toxic waste considerations. we must be responsible in multiple ways.

Today, it is necessary for every one of us to become responsible for our planet. And, that means in multiple ways. Reducing energy consumption is one such way. But we need to also consider landfills, and toxic waste. So, replacing the standard tungsten filament light bulb is apparently a good idea. It uses more electricity than other light bulbs, and it burns out quickly compared to some other options. Another problem is that in the summer a tungsten light bulb adds heat to your house.

The method of getting light from a tungsten light bulb is to pass a current through a very thin filament, heating the filament until it glows. So, older light bulbs produce heat as well as light. If this requires your air conditioner to work harder, the power consumption is even greater than that specified on the light bulb. Another problem is you do not have to break the glass to break the filament, so dropping a tungsten light bulb may destroy it even though it still looks fine.

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LED Light Bulbs

LED light bulbs use light emitting diodes.  When a voltage is placed across the diode, electrons are given enough energy to leave their molecules.  When electrons come to fill in for the missing electrons in the material, they give off their excess energy as emitting light.  There is no filament to break, or to burn out.  The life of an LED bulb is determined by how long the voltage can be applied.  It is in the part of the bulb supplying the voltage that is the only reason the LED light bulb ever burns out.


These are cool lights, generating little heat energy.  Oh, light can be absorbed by the encasing glass, and reemitted as heat, but that happens in all other types of light bulbs.


When the LED light bulbs first came out there was a problem with brightness, and with strobing.  They initially were uncomfortable to use, but that has now changed.


Florescent Light Bulbs

A florescent light, the squiggly shaped bulbs, also are energy efficient.  A florescent light bulb places a voltage across a gas, and causes electrons to leave the gas.  As passing electrons are captured they emit light. 


There is a slightly greater energy saving using LEDs over florescent bulbs, but not enough to warrant the expense of changing from florescent bulbs to LEDs.  However, another consideration is that the gas in the florescent bulbs contains mercury vapor, and if the bulb is broken a small amount of mercury is released.  This also makes responsible disposal of these light bulbs problematic.


Mercury poison is cumulative.  What enters your body today will be added to years from now, until it causes symptoms.  Mercury can be absorbed through the skin, and also by breathing the vapor.  Symptoms include hair loss, insanity, and death.


The Cost

Cost is coming down, but LEDs are the most expensive.  However, distributing the cost over the life of a light bulb makes the LED viable. 


If you are replacing a tungsten filament bulb, going to an LED makes sense, unless it is in a fixture with several other light bulbs.  If you are replacing florescent bulbs, consider that the mercury is contained, and you probably will not have it break while it is in the fixture.  And, the slight saving of energy might make it less than desirable to replace immediately with an LED bulb.  Remember, disposal will happen once, and deferring it is not a problem.


LEDs Have Advantages

Many of the LED light bulbs are dimmable, so they can be used with a dimmer.  This is not true for all light bulbs.  LEDs are not a problem to dispose of.  LEDs last very long.  And, LEDs save on energy.


The shapes of LEDs are close to the shapes used by tungsten filament light bulbs.   They look much nicer than those squiggly light bulbs.


The Negative

LEDs are costly to go to.  You can phase them in, not replacing every bulb at once.  A partial replacement helps the environment, and saves you money after the initial cost.



Light emitted is measured in lumens.  Below are typical wattages of equal lumen outputs for bulbs of different kinds.  The numbers are the wattage of these equivalent bulbs, which is how the comparison has to be made.  The exact values may vary slightly.


Tungsten Bulb                     Florescent                        LED

  25                                             -                                   3

  40                                             9                                  7         

  60                                           13                                  9.8     

100                                           23                                14


Fan and Chandelier Light Bulbs

Finding decorative squiggle light bulbs is difficult, but the LED bulbs, some with regular and some with small sockets, can be found.  Usually, these are used in the 25 watt and the 40 watt sizes, so the LEDs shown below replace those wattage values.

Outdoor Flood Lights

For outdoor use I recommend solar powered units, which operate on sunlight charging batteries during the daylight.  Here, you are not using power from the local power plant, so the environmental impact is nil, and the environmental benefit is great.



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Updated: 12/11/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 07/10/2015

I expect there will be no option some day.

WriterArtist on 07/10/2015

We have made changes in light fixtures recently. All our replacement are LEDs, though they are expensive we love the glow. LEDs are quite bright compared to our old bulbs.

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