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LED Light Bulbs Comparison Review

Updated on December 5, 2016

The traditional light bulb or incandescent light bulb is in the process of being phased out by Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb. CFL bulbs are much more energy efficient and last longer. Worldwide, CFL bulbs are gradually taking over and in some places have even become mandatory.

However, some people do not like CFL bulbs, because the light produced is of lesser quality and the time needed to start up. For this reason, some people still prefer to use incandescent light bulbs and especially, their derivatives called halogen light bulbs. Despite the fact that they can use up to 4 times as much electricity for the same amount of light output or luminous flux.

Even the latest so called daylight CFL bulbs have not been able to completely satisfy people, who want the absolute best lighting in their homes. For these people, another type of light bulb is now available and that is the Light Emitting Diode or LED light bulb.


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What types of light bulbs are there?

There are basically three types of light bulbs:

  • incandescent light bulbs
  • compact fluorescent light or CFL bulbs
  • light emitting diode or LED light bulbs


People also tend to select their desired light bulbs based on the color temperature expressed in Kelvins (K) that the light bulb produces:

  • less than or equal to 3,000 K is called warm / soft white
  • around 3,500 K is called bright white
  • around 4,000 K is called cool white
  • more than or equal to 5,500 K is called daylight

Incandescent light bulbs have traditionally been the most commonly used light bulb, but are rapidly being replaced by CFL light bulbs. CFL light bulbs on average need four times less electricity for the same amount of light output than incandescent, while also lasting eight to fifteen times longer.

However, all light bulbs have their own strengths and weaknesses. Incandescent can be useful in situations where light is only needed for a short while and easily replaceable. Depending on what your requirements are, one of these types may be more appropriate for your needs.


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What are the advantages of LED light bulbs?

Similar to incandescent and CFL light bulbs, LED light bulbs have their own specific benefits. The will last an extremely long time, even several times as long as CFL light bulbs, which themselves lasted several times longer than incandescent light bulbs.

LED light bulbs not only last longer, they also maintain their light output better as they age. Both incandescent and CFL light bulbs tend to lose some output every year to the point that they need to be replaced before their lifespan has expired due to insufficient light output.

They are just as energy efficient as CFL light bulbs, which means they will use a fraction of the energy incandescent light bulbs require. Future generations of LED light bulbs can be expected to become even more energy efficient.

LED light bulbs with a high Color Rendering Index (CRI) can produce clean and natural looking light, superior to even the best incandescent light bulbs. They are much better than CFL light bulbs, which are often criticized for the quality of light they produce. They can also generate every imaginable type of color accurately.

The ability of LED light bulbs to simulate natural light has led to them being used to help grow plants in an indoor environment as grow lights. Both incandescent or CFL light bulbs tend to render more artificial light.

Unlike with CFL light bulbs, there is no delay when turned on. Many CFL light bulbs tend to experience a slight delay when they warm up before gradually reaching their full output. LED light bulbs will produce their full output almost instantaneously.

Repeated and rapid turning on and off of CFL bulbs tends to reduce their life span significantly. It is therefore not recommended to install CFL light bulbs in places where you need light for only a short while. Examples include the bathroom or a drawer. LED light bulbs do not suffer from this drawback.

LED light bulbs do not contain any toxic chemicals. CFL light bulbs contain Mercury, which can endanger the environment for a very long time and can take a lot of effort to clean up. Properly disposing of CFL light bulbs after use can be somewhat of a hassle.


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What are the disadvantages of LED light bulbs?

LED light bulbs are currently much more expensive compared to other types of lights. While you can get several incandescent light bulbs for a dollar, LED light bulbs can cost tens of dollars each. CFL light bulbs are much less expensive and with subsidies can often be bought for just a few dollars each.

CFL light bulbs are currently the preferred type of light bulb. Many governments around the world encourage people to use them and will often subsidize their price. Incandescent bulbs are strongly discouraged as they are wasteful and will eventually be phased out.

Some types of LED light bulbs emit a faint buzzing sound, which can be annoying when it's very quiet. Try out some LED light bulbs to find out which ones best fits your needs. Opinions can vary depending on who you ask. It may take a while before you've found the right one, so select a good retailer.

Many early generation LED light bulbs tended to emit light directionally. Later generation omnidirectional LED light bulbs have improved in this regard, but not all of them have. Overall, LED light bulbs are still a work in progress. They continue to be refined and improved all the time.

LED light bulbs are technically the best type of light bulb, but their cost prevents them from widespread use despite all their benefits. They are no doubt the future, but unless price does not matter to you, LED light bulbs do not offer the best value at this moment.


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Are all LED light bulbs the same?

LED light bulbs are definitely not the same. Some have more light output than others despite having similar specifications. Others tend to be more fragile and don't last as long. The quality of the light can also vary significantly.

LED light bulbs come in a wide variety with each offering their own set of features. The ones from big name brands, such as Phillips and General Electric tend to be more expensive, but may offer more after sales service, including warranty.

For example, the GE ones can be twice as expensive, but carry a warranty of at least ten years. Others may only carry a two year warranty, but only cost half as much. This could suggest that GE is more confident that theirs will last longer than the other ones.


What is the best light bulb?

Currently, the best light bulb would have to be CFL bulbs. They have some weaknesses, such as slow start up times and disposal hassles, but offer more advantages in terms of energy efficiency, lifespan, affordability and so on. In terms of overall value, they are best for most people.

LED light bulbs are very promising and can be adopted by people who can afford to do so. But as long as their costs stays high, they are highly unlikely to become mainstream in the United States with cheaper alternatives available. Poorer countries are even less likely to use them.

Incandescent light bulbs are now only useful in niche roles, such as when something very cheap is needed for a short while. For mainstream use, they are simply too wasteful in what they do and there is no reason to still use them.


Comparison of incandescent, CFL and LED light bulbs

Type
Incandescent
CFL
LED
Energy efficiency
Worst
Good
Good
Lifespan
Worst
Good
Good
Degradation
Average
Average
Good
Color accuracy
Good
Average
Good
Dimmable
Good
Average
Good
Heat generated
Worst
Good
Average
Warmup time
Good
Average
Good
Price
Best
Good
Worst
Environmentally friendly
Average
Worst
Average
Overall Value
Worst
Best
Good
 
 
 
 

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