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Whether you’re shopping for new lighting or replacing old bulbs, it helps to understand the key differences between popular types like LEDs, incandescents and CFLs. While they all produce light, their strengths and weaknesses vary significantly. With new lighting technology and phasing out of old bulbs, it can get confusing to pick the right option. This guide aims to cut through the technical jargon and complex specs to compare the pros and cons of each bulb variety clearly.

In this post, we’ll compare these three bulb options across important factors, such as energy usage, lifespan, light quality and costs. You can better grasp how these lighting solutions differ by looking at real-world metrics like lumens, wattage, and product lifespan. We’ll explain each factor in simple terms - no electrical engineering degree is required.

By the end, you’ll be equipped to select the lighting technology best suited to your needs and home lighting applications. So, let’s dive into the unique traits of each bulb and how they stack up against one another. With this easy-to-understand comparison, you can shop for lights confidently and switch to more energy-efficient lighting.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs have been widely used for over 100 years and function by heating a tungsten filament wire until it glows. They provide a soft, warm white light but use more energy to produce fewer lumens than other options.

Incandescents last around 750-2000 hours on average. While they have a very low upfront price, their high wattage means operating costs are much greater due to the frequent replacement of bulbs.

CFL Bulbs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were developed as a replacement for incandescents. CFLs last 6-10 times longer at around 8000-15,000 hours. They use 75% less energy and provide the same light output as incandescents.

However, CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, which require special disposal. Their light appears bluish until warming up fully, and some types have difficulty working with dimmers.

LED Bulbs

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the newest mainstream technology. LED bulbs can last around 20 years, based on usage models. They are 85% more efficient than incandescent, producing the same lumens.

LEDs come in a wide range of colours and have no hazardous materials. Some types are dimmable, and all provide instant illumination. With prices continuing to drop, LEDs are an investment that saves money in the long run through minimal operating costs.

Comparing the Metrics

When choosing between different types of lights, there are a few key metrics to compare:

Holding Lightbulbs


LED lights last the longest by far, with lifespans of up to 50,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs typically last only 1,000-2,000 hours. CFLs fall in the middle at 6,000-15,000 hours.

Energy Use

LED and CFL lights consume much less energy than incandescent. LED lights use only about 20-25% of the energy of an equivalent incandescent. CFLs use 75% less. This makes both LED and CFL options much more energy efficient.

Light Output

Incandescents produce more lumens (brightness) per watt compared to CFLs and LEDs. However, LED technology is quickly improving to match incandescent light quality.


The upfront cost is highest for LED lights, but they more than pay for themselves over time due to their longevity and energy savings. Incandescents are the cheapest upfront but cost more in the long run due to replacements and electricity.

Mercury Content

CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, while LEDs and incandescents do not. CFLs must be disposed of properly.

Light Colour and Quality

The colour of light produced by a bulb is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) to indicate colour temperature. Bulbs also have a colour rendering index (CRI) displaying their ability to render colours accurately.

LED and CFL bulbs produce a cooler, white, bluish light from 5000-6500K, similar to natural daylight. This makes them well-suited to task lighting where crisp, accurate colour rendition is preferred. Most LED and CFL bulbs have a CRI above 80.

Diffrerent Types Lighting

Incandescent lights emit a warm yellowish-white light around 2700-3000K. This light is considered more flattering for skin tones. However, incandescents produce poorer colour rendering, with a CRI in the 60-70 range. Their light can make it hard to distinguish some colours.

So, LED and CFL produce a favourable light quality for applications like office work, reading, or kitchen benchtops. Incandescent, like living rooms, may be a better match where the ambience is a priority. Considering colour temperature and CRI will help choose the most suitable bulb for lighting needs in different rooms.

Suitable Applications For Each Bulb

When choosing between different types of lights, it’s important to consider which applications they are best suited for. LED lights are ideal for applications where longevity and energy efficiency are top priorities.

Their long lifespans are great for hard-to-reach places like high ceilings and outdoor or landscaping lighting. LEDs are also very directional, making them effective for task lighting like under cabinets or work lamps.

Incandescent bulbs are best for applications where a warm and familiar colour tone is desired, like in bedrooms or living rooms. Their omnidirectional light works well in table lamps or fixtures with decorative globes.

Woman Inserting Bulb

CFLs strike a balance between efficiency and light quality. They can be used in any general lighting application, though some find their light colour to be less desirable for certain tasks.

With their shorter lifespans, CFLs may not be ideal for outdoor or high-ceiling fixtures. Considering these suitabilities can help narrow down which lightbulb technology makes the most sense for a specific lighting need.

Cut Costs with the Right Bulb

LED, incandescent, and CFL lights all have their own advantages and best uses. LED lights are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting but have a high upfront cost. Incandescents are inexpensive to buy but use more electricity and burn out faster.

CFLs fall somewhere in between on most metrics. When choosing the right lightbulb, consider its length, energy efficiency goals, brightness needs, and light quality.

At Bright Force Electrical, we can help advise on the best lighting solutions for your unique needs and goals. Our experts stay up-to-date on all the latest lighting technology and energy efficiency.

We carry a full range of LED, CFL, and incandescent bulbs so you can find just the right fit. Our lighting consultants can provide personalised recommendations based on how and where you need lighting in your home or business. We also handle the full installation and replacement of lighting fixtures.

For professional lighting advice in Sydney, contact the team at Bright Force Electrical today. We’re here to shed some light on your lighting decisions!

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