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LED vs. CFL: Which Bulb Is Best?

Both are energy-efficient ways to light your home, but each shines in its own way depending on how it's used.

BestBUlb0327If you’re still on the fence over which energy-efficient alternative to choose, you’re running out of time. Incandescent bulbs are being phased out and will be a thing of the past by next year. Since lighting our homes accounts for about one-quarter of our electric bills, the new energy-efficient bulbs are going to save us money in the long run. But which should we choose?

LED advantages

LED lights last longer, so even though you’re paying more at purchase, you buy fewer bulbs over time. These bulbs fit in standard light fixtures with no adapter necessary. LED makes very nice lighting for effect and decorative purposes.

LED disadvantages

LED lights generally cost more to buy than CFLs, but manufacturing technologies are lowering these prices continually. These lights are directional, meaning they are excellent for lights under cabinetry but not as suitable to table lamps. Some of the newer LED lights come with diffusers, which help some.

CFL advantages

CFL, or compact fluorescent, is simply a mini version of a standard fluorescent light bulb, However, these bulbs fit in standard light sockets without any adapter. The light appears much like the incandescent light we’re used to and looks nothing like the harsh lighting we associate with offices or school buildings.

CFL disadvantages

The primary disadvantage to CFL lights is the mercury contained in the bulb. This is ordinarily not a problem, but if the bulb breaks, cleanup is a hassle. Mercury is a dangerous heavy metal, and proper cleanup and disposal of CFL bulbs is critical. Never put a used CFL bulb in with the rest of your trash. Contact your local waste management company or department of public works to learn how to properly dispose of used CFL bulbs.

Making your decision

Most people make the decision between LEDs and CFLs with their pocketbook. LEDs cost more at purchase but last longer. CFLs are cheaper, but if broken become not so convenient very fast. Other people decide that CFL lighting is closer to what they’re used to and therefore choose these bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs as they blow out.

Both are efficient ways to light your home, and both work with all the sockets, lamps, and fixtures you already own. If you enjoy a directional light for reading, cooking, or working at home, you might prefer the LED bulbs. For general home lighting, such as illuminating a room, CFL might be best.

Of course, you can always combine these technologies in different parts of your home according to the lighting needs in different rooms. This is also a good way to compare the lights to decide. Try some LEDs in the kitchen over your workspaces and over the home office desk. Use CFLs in the living room and bedroom lamps. In time, you may develop a preference or find you like one for certain applications and the other for other activities.

Whichever you choose, your deadline for deciding is rapidly approaching. By 2015, incandescents will no longer be manufactured in the U.S.