Wander the light bulb aisle at any home improvement store, and you'll quickly see how many different types of lights are available. LED and fluorescent lighting are just two of the many types of lighting technologies. Both types light your space, but they come with distinct advantages and disadvantages. A quick comparison shows differences in things like lifespan and how much energy each type uses. Looking at the differences between LED and fluorescent lighting helps you decide which is best for your home.
LED lights, or light emitting diodes, light up when electrical currents pass through the microchip in the light. Because they're so small, LEDs are much more flexible than other lighting technology. LEDs can be single diodes, such as in a flashlight, or a cluster of diodes to create a light bulb. Sometimes they're built into fixtures rather than being a separate bulb. Heat sinks keep the LEDs from getting too hot, which means they last longer without burning out.
Fluorescent Lighting Basics
Fluorescent lighting comes in two primary types: tube lighting and CFL (compact fluorescent lighting). Fluorescent lights can range in size from tubes multiple feet long to the compact bulbs that are about the size of a standard lamp light bulb. Visible light comes from the bulb after the electrical current passes through a tube with argon and mercury vapor.
LED lighting can last upwards of 60,000 hours before needing to be replaced. Fluorescent lighting, particularly CFL bulbs, can last around 10,000 hours before needing to be replaced. You would have to replace the average CFL bulb 6 times to equal the lifespan of one LED light bulb.
LEDs and CFLs both come in well below incandescent bulbs in terms of energy consumption. LEDs work about 90 percent more efficiently than incandescent bulbs. CFLs cut energy use by about 70 percent when compared to incandescent bulbs. LED light bulbs use roughly half the wattage of fluorescent lighting, about 6 watts of power versus 14 watts of power for a CFL light bulb.
LED lighting is ideal for directional lighting in things like flashlights and desk lamps. Instead of offering a wide area of light, it focuses on a specific area where the bulb is pointed. Newer LED bulbs use diffuser lenses and reflectors to create wider spread light for things like table lamps where directional light isn't ideal. LEDs are also found in vehicle headlights and electronic devices for status lights.
Fluorescent light bulbs are ideal for lighting full rooms, with full-size tubes being ideal for large rooms such as warehouses where focused light is not needed. Fluorescent ballasts sometimes buzz, flicker or take a while to fully light up. CFL bulbs work well for home use and lighting up bedrooms and living areas. This smaller version of the fluorescent light can also take some time to reach its full brightness.
Both types of lighting are energy-efficient when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. LED technology costs more than CFL and fluorescent lighting, but the LED bulbs also last longer and use less energy than fluorescent bulbs. That means you may save money in the long run by cutting down on replacements and lowering your utility bills.
Another consideration is the makeup of the bulbs. CFLs and fluorescent bulbs do contain small amounts of mercury that can be poisonous if the bulb breaks. LEDs do not contain mercury or harmful gases. LED bulbs are also more durable than fluorescent bulbs due to their compact size.
Maxwell Payne has been a freelance writer since 2007. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. He holds a Bachelor of Science in integrated science, business and technology.