LED vs. CFL Lightbulbs

Posted by Ben Thompson on 04.18.12

We are in the middle of a Lighting Renaissance. The incandescent bulb is on its deathbed, earlier-Gen CFL lightbulbs have failed us, and LEDs are $50/bulb. Grumble, Grumble, Grumble. When we get to rebirth we will have great light that uses very little energy and produces little waste in the form of heat. Meanwhile, we have confusion, high prices, and disappointment. Here are a few tips to navigate current lighting options.

How to identify what I have:

1) If it looks like a "lightbulb" then it's an incandescent light bulb. These are the ones that are going away. They have merits, but most are mute so let's save that for an homage or eulogy post.

2) CFL light bulbs look like Curly-Qs or Pig's Tails.

3) LED bulbs look like a Bug/Fly's Eye

The problem with making a better lightbulb is that many early-Gen CFL light bulbs were junky, so now we (fickle as we collectively are) have no appetite for the NEW lightbulb.

Old CFLs were:

1) Expensive feeling

2) Poor ballast technology - 60 sec lag to come up to full luminescence & they'd frequently burn out - The ballast couldn't handle high frequency ON/Off

3) Blue light - which is not flattering light, especially in a bathroom

4) Non-dimmable

New LEDs:

1) They fix the problems of Old CFLs & current generation CFLs.

2) They cost $50 for a dimmable bulb. Just like LED TVs - the price will come down.


1) The more recessed can light fixtures (Total Light Fixtures) you have in your home, the more you'll benefit from the newer technology

2) Outdoor lights make a lot of sense to be LED.

3) Lights that stay on a long time are the first I transfer over to the newest lightbulb technology that makes sense in your world.

Last notes:

1) Staircases and decorative fixtures (that have exposes bulbs) are still incandescent in my house b/c I need immediate light, or pretty light that has maximum dimmer control.

2) LED lights do require a special dimmer. It's not significantly more expensive than a standard dimmer.

Bottom line: Go buy one $50 LED bulb and see how you like it.




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