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Understanding Light Bulbs — CFLs vs LEDs

Beginning January 1, 2014, federal legislation mandates that inefficient 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs be phased out of the marketplace in favor of more environmentally friendly bulbs. That means the traditional bulb you grew up using will become a thing of the past. The good news is that there are plenty of other, higher efficiency bulbs to choose from, including LEDs, CFLs, and halogens.

Cree LED Bulb.
Image Credit:

High-efficiency bulbs may cost more upfront, but they last longer and will make a difference in your power bill. In fact, a higher-priced LED bulb is an overall better investment when you consider the electric and maintenance savings, which can be a significant cost factor in commercial settings. It’s a shift in thinking when it comes to shopping for bulbs and it equals a greener purchase in the end, both for your planet and your pocketbook.


While there are many bulbs to choose from, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are considered the most energy efficient. You’ve seen LEDs in electronics for years, in digital clocks, remote controls and other devices with an on/off indicator light. Now these long-lasting bulbs are being embraced for their versatile commercial and residential applications that can save up to 85% on energy bills.

Though a good quality LED bulb can run as much as $30-40, consider this: you will rarely replace them. Energy Star–rated lights are guaranteed to last 25,000 hours with normal use, or nearly 23 years.

LEDs do not “burn out” like traditional bulbs and can reduce cooling costs since they emit very little heat, and heat is what wastes energy when you’re talking about lighting. This style of bulb is very durable, as it does not have a fragile shell or filament that may shatter, as happened frequently with conventional incandescent bulbs.


CFLs, or compact fluorescent light bulbs, are the tubular- and helical-shaped bulbs that use about 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. They are relatively inexpensive, though not as efficient in comparison to LEDs. Their lifespan is about nine years with normal usage and they can save you up to 75 percent on energy bills.

CFLs do contain a very tiny amount of mercury, about 4 milligrams per bulb, which is never released while the bulb is in use or intact. Your local waste collection agency can advise you on proper recycling of these bulbs.


Halogen bulbs are another option to consider. They look and perform much like the conventional incandescent bulbs that are being phased out. Their energy savings and longevity does not compare to CFLs or LEDs, though they are still more efficient than the traditional option.

There are more lighting options available to you than ever before, so finding the right retailer is key to making sense of energy-efficient lighting. makes shopping easy with its one-stop-shop web site and knowledgeable staff that is available to answer your questions for projects of all sizes. is a US-based company that deals directly with manufacturers to bring you the best prices and selections on lighting for your home or business.

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