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Comparing LED vs CFL vs Incandescent Light Bulbs

End of a Lighting Era Blog Post

3 minute read – The Ultimate Guide by VIRIBRIGHT (Charts, Tables, and more)

Over the years, advances in technology have brought about innovations in how to light our homes and commercial buildings. In the beginning, all we had was the standard, incandescent light bulb. Now we have compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diodes or LED for short. We are going to tackle the question… which light bulb type reigns supreme? There are many variables, so let’s dig in!

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Viribright comparison between candle light, incandescent bulbs, CLF and LED light bulbs. Shows the lifespan difference as well as efficiency and color rendering


LED VS CFL Brightness

Are LED lights brighter than or equal to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs? The trick is to understand the technology. In short, LED and CFL as technologies do not have a difference in brightness intrinsically. Brightness is determined by lumens. Lumens is best described as the measurement of light. A single CFL and LED bulb might have the same lumen (brightness) output but vary greatly in the amount energy needed to generate that level of brightness.

Many LED bulbs in the past were not omnidirectional which gave the upper hand to CFL in various scenarios. For example, in a floor lamp, a CFL would perform better because of the light coverage was, at the time, much broader. In most recessed lighting (ceiling), however, the LED would have greater efficacy. Fast forward to new LED generations, and we see the little light-emitting diodes surpassing CFLs in overall energy consumption, color and even becoming more competitively priced in the marketplace.

Lumen & Wattage Comparison

The chart below illustrates the amount of brightness in lumens you can expect from different wattages of light bulbs. LED bulbs require much less wattage than CFL or Incandescent light bulbs, which is why LEDs are more energy-efficient and longer lasting than their competitors.

How to understand this table – look at the lumens (brightness) in the far left column, then compare how many watts of power each light bulb type requires to produce that level of brightness. The lower the wattage needed, the better.

Lumens (Brightness) LED Watts (Viribright)  CFL Watts Incandescent Watts 
400 – 500 6 – 7W 8 – 12W 40W
650 – 850 7 – 10W 13 – 18W 60W
1000 – 1400 12 – 13W 18 – 22W 75W
1450-1700+ 14 – 20W 23 – 30W 100W
2700+ 25 – 28W 30 – 55W 150W

Power consumption Image

To compare different light bulbs, you need to know about lumens. Lumens, not watts, tell you how bright a light bulb is, no matter the type of bulb. The more lumens, the brighter the light. Labels on the front of light bulb packages now state a bulb’s brightness in lumens, instead of the bulb’s energy usage in watts. When shopping for your next light bulb, simply find the lumen output you’re looking for (the bigger the brighter) and choose the bulb with the lowest wattage (the lower the better).


Are CFL or LEDs more cost-effective?

To examine the cost comparison, let’s take a look at a standard 60-watt replacement incandescent bulb in this example. The energy consumption to use a bulb like this would cost about $90 over the course of 10 years. For an LED, running over the course of 10 years the actual cost would be only $18 to operate. Take a look at the table below for a breakdown.

LED vs CFL vs Incandescent Cost Incandescent CFL LED (Viribright)
Watts used 60W 14W 7W
Average cost per bulb $1 $2 $4 or less
Average lifespan 1,200 hours 8,000 hours 25,000 hours
Bulbs needed for 25,000 hours 21 3 1
Total purchase price of bulbs over 20 years $21 $6 $4
Cost of electricity (25,000 hours at $0.15 per kWh) $169 $52 $30
Total estimated cost over 20 years $211 $54 $34

Winner: LED (in the long run)

The above chart shows a clear-cut winner when considering the price over time with energy consumption factored in. In addition to LED’s cost savings, there are also government-backed rebates in some scenarios for Energy Star products.


Do CFL or LED bulbs last longer?

Quick Answer: LEDcomparing cfl, incandescent, and cfl light bulbs

Although LED technology for use in bulbs has not been on the market for long, the lifespan estimates for the new technology are astounding and leave CFL and incandescents with little to show for in comparison. With an astonishing lifespan of 25,000 hours, LED light bulbs are the undisputed, heavyweight champion in longevity. The next best are CFL bulbs which bring in a respectable 8,000 hours of average life expectancy. Keep in mind, most tests are based on a running time of 3 hours per day.

Life Span Challenge Incandescent CFL LED
Average Life Span 1,200 Hours 8,000 Hours 25,000 Hours

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