Incandescent vs. Fluorescent vs. LED Lights

Choosing light bulbs for your home isn’t as simple as it used to be. In the past, incandescent bulbs were the only option, but over the last few years, technology has given us a few more: fluorescent and LED bulbs. These energy efficient bulbs can last years longer than their incandescent alternatives, and recently, they’re affordable too. But what exactly are the differences between incandescent, fluorescent, and LED lighting?lightskb

Energy Efficiency

The average life span for incandescent lights is 1,200 hours, while LED lights can last 50,000 hours, and fluorescent bulbs can last 8,000. Incandescent lights also use 3,285 Kilowatts per year and 60 watts of electricity, compared to LEDs, which use 329 kWh per year and 6-8 watts of electricity, and fluorescent, which use 767 kWh per year 13-15 watts of electricity.


The average cost for purchasing individual bulbs is about $1 for incandescent bulbs, $8 for LEDs, and $2 for fluorescent lights. Even though incandescent bulbs are the cheaper option up front, LED and fluorescent lighting could save you money in the long run. The average operating costs per year for incandescent lighting is around $329. The average operating cost is about $33 per year for LED lighting and about $76 for fluorescent lighting.

Environmental Effect

Fluorescent lighting contains Mercury, which is toxic to both the environment and your own health, while incandescent and LED lighting do not. Because of this, incandescent and LED lighting are both RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliant, while fluorescent bulbs are not. On the other hand, incandescent light bulbs emit about 4,500 pounds of Carbon Dioxide per year, compared to LED lights, which only emit about 450 pounds of CO2 per year, and fluorescent bulbs, which emit around 1,050 pounds of CO2 per year.

Other Things to Consider

Fluorescent lights may not work when exposed to low temperatures or humidity. LED lighting is not sensitive to either, while incandescent bulbs might be.

On/off cycling (switching a light on and off quickly multiple times) will drastically decrease the lifespan of fluorescent lights, while it has no effect on LED lights and may have some effect on incandescent lights.

Fluorescent lights can also take a few minutes to warm up and fully turn on, while LED and incandescent lights turn on immediately.

LED lights are durable and can handle bumping and jarring, while their incandescent and fluorescent counterparts break easily.

Finally, incandescent lights emit more heat at about 85 BTU’s per hour, compared to LED lights at 4 BTU’s per hour and fluorescent lights at about 30 BTU’s per hour.