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Battle of the Bulbs: LED vs CFL vs Incandescent

Picture of Battle of the Bulbs: LED vs CFL vs Incandescent

With so many options on the market, consumers need to know what to look for when it comes to lighting. LED has dominated sales and the conversation surrounding energy-efficient lighting in recent years. If you compare the differences between LED vs traditional Incandescent light bulbs, LED lights have the lowest yearly operating cost and the longest bulb lifetime. However, LED lighting is obviously not the only option out there. Its design and efficiency represent current lighting technology, but there are still reasons to use CFL and traditional Incandescent.

As the green movement and the topic of sustainability becomes increasingly important, people want to know more about transitioning their home over to LED. Consumers still have many questions about performance, lifespan, energy use, and yearly operating costs. In looking to remodel or upgrade, what are the best options? We investigate bulb basics in Gold Medal’s Battle of the Bulbs.

Which Bulb Shines Brightest?

One big consumer concern is brightness. People want to ensure that the bulb they choose will offer appropriate brightness with broad light coverage. We look at a common question: Are LED lights as bright as CFL or Incandescent? When it comes to brightness, you need to consider the Lumens. It’s not the Watts that tells you how bright the bulb is, it’s Lumens. The higher the Lumen, the brighter the bulb.

Current LED bulbs are equivalent to their counterparts, with 800 Lumens in a 12 watt LED bulb, as compared to 800 Lumens in a 14 watt CFL or 60-watt Incandescent. At the low end, a 6-7 watt LED will produce 400-500 Lumen Output, as will an 8-16 watt CFL or a 40-watt Incandescent. At the brightest end, a 25-28 watt LED will produce 2700+ Lumen, and so will a 30-55 watt CFL or a 150-watt Incandescent (Viribright).

Comparison of light bulbs

In the Battle of the Bulbs, the difference between them is more apparent when considering energy and cost efficiency than it is when comparing brightness. They are able to match each other in Lumen Output; the only noticeable difference is in the bulb’s Watts or energy usage. In other words, you can achieve your desired brightness with an LED, CFL, or incandescent bulb.

Which Bulb Saves the Most Money & Energy?

When it comes to the most cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting available to consumers today, it’s good to look at the lifespan of the bulb and the overall cost of electricity used. If you are researching the advantages of LED vs Incandescent light bulbs, Incandescent light will last an average of 1,200 hours and modern LED bulbs will last an average of 25,000 operating hours. On the other hand, CFL bulbs look forward to a long life of 8,000 hours.

It would take 21 Incandescent bulbs and 3 CFL bulbs to last 25,000 hours. Based on 25,000 hours at $0.15 per kWh, an LED light will cost about $30 to operate, while an Incandescent will be charging towards $200, with around $169 in electrical costs (Viribright). At about $6 bucks a bulb, you definitely get your money’s worth with LEDs.

And the Winner Is…

LED lights outperform their competitors in the essential consumer categories. Low cost, maximum longevity, and solid energy efficiency are valuable characteristics of LED bulbs. However, taste and preference often dominate why a consumer will choose a different option. Incandescent lights emit a nice natural color, and when it comes to aesthetics, you may prefer the look of a traditional bulb.

CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lights are a more energy-efficient option than conventional Incandescent lights. They have a spiral design that makes them compact yet powerful. CFLs were designed to replace Incandescent and Halogen options. CFLs are more energy-efficient than Incandescent but less so than LEDs. They do have more of the bulb-look and will create a warm atmosphere.

Again, lighting is a personal preference, but consider the key qualities: brightness, cost, energy efficiency, and lifespan the next time you choose a bulb. LEDs are still evolving, but hands down they are the best option on the market and the most wallet and environmentally friendly.

This article appeared in Gold Medal Service (

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