Editorial Feature

Comparing Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs: LED, CFL and Halogens

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Replacing only five traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs like light emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or halogen incandescents would save American home budgets $75 each year (Energy.gov, 2012). Meanwhile, the latest Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) found that commercial buildings in the US use 17% of all the electricity they consume for lighting, more than any other end-use (Eia.gov, 2012).

Energy-efficient light bulbs will provide both a return on investment and a reduction in environmental damage in both domestic and commercial settings. However, the three main types of energy-efficient bulbs (LEDs, CFLs, and halogens) offer various benefits and features – as well as different drawbacks – and a comparison will benefit domestic and commercial consumers both.

Energy Efficiency

Traditional incandescents waste 95% of the energy they consume producing heat, while LEDs, CFLs, and halogen incandescents use a greater proportion of this energy to produce useful light, which makes them more energy efficient.

Halogen incandescent bulbs use 25% less energy than traditional incandescents to produce the same amount of light, CFLs use 75% less, and LEDs use 75-80% less (Energy.gov, 2012). This equates to a possible annual dollar saving of $1.80, $3.60 or up to $3.80 per bulb when comparing traditional incandescent bulbs with halogens, CFLs and LEDs respectively.

LED bulbs are the best option for energy efficiency.

Bulb Longevity

As well as saving on energy consumption, energy-efficient bulbs are also longer lasting than traditional incandescents, which adds to their value in terms of managing household or commercial budgets.

Traditional incandescents typically last around 1,000 hours, while halogens last up to 3,000 hours, CFLs last 10,000 hours, and LEDs last 25,000 hours (Energy.gov, 2012).

LED bulbs are the best option for bulb longevity.

Initial Costs

Some cite the higher cost of energy-efficient bulbs as a potential drawback compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. However, with the improved energy efficiency and bulb longevity that halogens, LEDs, and CFLs feature, this initial outlay is made up for over the entire lifecycle of the bulb.

While the average cost of a new traditional incandescent bulb is approximately $0.70, LEDs can cost around $1.50 to $8.00 per bulb, CFLs from $1.50 to $4.00, and halogen incandescents $1.00 to $1.50.

In terms of initial cost, halogens are the best option. However, the extra costs incurred by purchasing less energy-efficient bulbs must be taken into consideration. The initial costs of LED and fluorescent bulbs such as CFLs has been declining every year, and this can be expected to continue.

Furthermore, for commercial buildings, government and non-profit organizations are offering financial incentives and recognition schemes which should also be taken into account when considering costs versus benefits of using energy-efficient light bulbs.

Overall Costs

Considering all of the above, LEDs are the best option for overall cost. The higher initial costs (which are falling) are outweighed by the far lower operating costs due to lower energy consumption and better bulb longevity which reduces the need to replace them.

While these savings may represent a small portion of a household budget, for commercial buildings, such as offices, factories and warehouses, municipal buildings and residential complexes, an investment in LED bulbs will result in significant returns on investment.

This ROI is also maximized when companies consider the corporate social responsibility (CSR) value that environmental investment can bring, enabling them to increase market share among environmentally-conscious consumers as well as becoming eligible for government incentives.

Quality of Light

While energy efficiency (and associated costs) is the most pressing concern for domestic and commercial buyers of energy-efficient light bulbs, the quality of light produced is also worth comparison.

Many consumers have rejected LEDs and CFLs in the past due to a perception that the quality of light they produce is poorer than traditional incandescents. However,  there is a wide variety of light produced by energy-efficient bulbs in the modern market, making a general comparison impractical.

Modern energy-efficient light bulbs overcome these aesthetic drawbacks. LEDs are the most adaptable energy-efficient bulb in terms of quality of light, and it is increasingly common to find LED bulbs that emit light at the same frequency as traditional incandescents. Many halogens and CFLs are also produced with warmer or more adaptable light features.

Sources and Further Reading

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ben Pilkington

Written by

Ben Pilkington

Ben Pilkington is a freelance writer who is interested in society and technology. He enjoys learning how the latest scientific developments can affect us and imagining what will be possible in the future. Since completing graduate studies at Oxford University in 2016, Ben has reported on developments in computer software, the UK technology industry, digital rights and privacy, industrial automation, IoT, AI, additive manufacturing, sustainability, and clean technology.


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