The ultimate light bulb showdown: CFL vs LED vs Incandescent?

So, I’m sure most of you reading this would have come across the thought of ‘is it worth getting LED bulbs to reduce my electric bills?’. 

Well, when this thought crossed my mind, I thought ‘OK, let’s research this’. To be honest, it is a long time habit of mine. If I want to know whether to do something or not, I research online first to see what the world says. 

But before I get into the real important stuff. Let me just breakdown the basics first about the differences between CFL, LED and incandescent. 

What is CFL?

CFL means Compact Fluorescent Light, also called compact fluorescent lamp. It is an energy-saving light in a compact fluorescent tube. It was designed to replace the incandescent light bulb and most of the time can easily fit into light fixtures designed for incandescent bulbs.

What is LED?

An LED lamp or LED light bulb the use of electric light in light fixtures that produces light using one or more light-emitting diodes. It is known as the future for home lighting as they use very little energy and last a long time, unlike regular ‘energy-saving’ light bulbs. 

What is incandescent?

Incandescent light is an electric light with a wire filament that heats up until it glows. The filament is actually enclosed in a bulb to protect it from oxidation. These are known to be the more traditional types like light bulbs, which are known to be the cheapest, but are slowly phasing out, as the price of LED bulbs is gradually lowering. 

How to pick the perfect energy saving bulb

When a bulb burns out or breaks, who wants to spend hours trying to find a good replacement?

At the same time proper lighting can have a surprisingly big impact on the mood and look of your home. It always amazes me how you can change a room by just improving the method of lighting. So of course when it comes to choosing a new bulb, you want to get it right.

Whether you want to match the colour and brightness of your old bulb or upgrade your lighting there are quite a few options to consider.

The main things to look for are the shape of the bulb, brightness and colour.

Where can you find this info? Just check on the package. All you have to do is check out the Lighting Facts label located on every bulb.

Let’s look at this and make sure that you know how to pick the perfect bulb for any room in your home.

Have you ever gone to the store and bought the wrong thing? I have done this countless times, and always ended up with a mini collection of bulbs that I do not need. To be honest, I am sure if I look in my kitchen there will be a few in the cupboard that do not fit anywhere in my house.

The easiest way to avoid this is to have the right info. LEDs are available in a variety of shapes to fit a range of lamps and lighting fixtures, so there’s a lot to choose from. To be honest, I just carry the old bulb with me to the shop in my pocket. Then I get it out once in the store and hold them up against each other to compare. Gosh!

The comparisons

One of the biggest differences between CFLs and incandescent bulbs is how much energy they use over time. CFLs use about 70% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also last years longer than traditional bulbs.

One of the biggest negatives with CFLs is that it takes a few minutes for it to warm up and reach it’s full brightness. Meaning they’re not ideal in spots where you want lots of light as soon as you flip the switch, such as a dark, steep basement or stairway. Plus, they can’t even be used with a dimmer switch!

According to the Lighting Research Center, LEDs work by bringing together currents with a positive and negative charge, which creates energy that is released in the form of light. This results in a fast source of light that is reliable, instantaneous. PLUS, it can to be dimmed! 

Cost comparison

It always blows my mind, when you really look at the numbers and calculate how much money you can potential save over long periods of time if you just switched all the lights in your home with LED lights. I bet you would be jaw dropped amazed too. 

Think about it. Over a 20 year period, it would cost you over £200 to keep one 60-watt lamp with an incandescent bulb. It would cost just about £45 using a handful of CFLs, or £35 using a single LED light bulb — a savings either way.

The battle of CFL vs LED

CFL Light Bulbs


  • Use less energy than incandescent bulbs
  • Cost less than LED light bulbs
  • Produce extremely bright light that spreads evenly


  • Cannot be used with a dimmer switch
  • Take a few moments to heat up and reach full brightness
  • Contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal
  • Can be sensitive to cold temperatures

LED Light Bulbs


  • Light up immediately, like an incandescent bulb
  • Don’t heat up much at all – they stay cool to the touch even after use
  • Last up to five times longer than CFLs; can literally last a lifetime
  • No sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • Do not contain mercury
  • Some models can be used with a dimmer switch


  • Directional light that may not spread as evenly as other sources
  • Currently cost more than CFLs (although prices are starting to fall lower in recent years.)

Impact on the environment

Flourescent lights present a different problem as well. Not only can they be costly to your wallet, but also to the environment as well. 

CFLs are not to be disposed of like your typical incandescent or LED light because they contain mercury which seeps into the Earth’s soil and water supply when finally dumped in a landfill.

Flourescent lights also emit greenhouse gases when in use and when discarded.

LED lights and incandescent lights are both safe to discard as normal, which makes it less of a fuss or worry.

Many materials in LED lights can actually be recycled, which you won’t have to do very much anyway because they last so long.

Other important facts to note...

  • CFLs are sensitive to lower temperatures. Some incandescent bulbs are as well. 
  • CFLs are sensitive to humidity.
  • LEDs have the best durability. Can handle knocks and bumps.


So, it seems to me that there is one clear winner between all three types of bulbs. LED bulbs are more energy efficient and do not contain any toxic materials. 

For me is has to be the LED bulb. One thing I have to say though, it that their designs were not that appealing, but of recent years, brands are starting to develop more aesthetically attractive lighting and bulbs. The bottom line is which light saves you the most money and lasts the longest, both answers are LED bulbs!

If you are still skeptical about LEDs, try one for yourself and you will see the difference. Not only will you be helping keep our air and landfills a little bit cleaner, you will also begin to see more and more savings in the long term.

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