Do LED Lights Use Less Power Than Fluorescent?

Incandescent bulbs are out of style and will be a defunct technology in the coming years, like the phonograph and Walkman, replaced by something better.

Most countries are phasing them out with Australia leading the way back in 2007. 

This worldwide trend is a welcoming one, as the European Commission estimates that by 2020 the reduction in GHG emissions induced by banning incandescent light bulbs will reach 15 million tons annually.

Currently, you have two options for moving away from incandescent bulbs: Fluorescent light bulbs and LED light bulbs.

When compared to fluorescent light, LED uses less power to generate the same or higher output of light. However, you need to keep in mind that CFL lights are omnidirectional while LED emits light in one direction only.

This article will explain everything you need to know about both of them so that you can make an informed decision.

So let’s get to it.

LED Light vs Fluorescent Light

LED stands for light-emitting diodes, electrical components that emit light(duh) when current flows through it. They were first invented way back in 1927 by a Russian scientist, but the first practical and commercial design was patented by two Texas engineers in 1962.

Since then, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds resulting in its commonplace use as an LED lamp. 

LED lamps are made by grouping a bunch of LEDs together and illuminating them through a diffuser, resulting in illumination that rivals an incandescent bulb with a fraction of its electricity use.

A fluorescent bulb on the other hand, are the ones you’ll see in an office — long tubes of glass that emit bright light. Its smaller counterpart, the compact fluorescent(CFL) bulb is more commonly seen in homes.

Fluorescent bulbs uses an electric current to excite the mercury vapor contained within the bulb, producing ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp to glow.

Now that you know a little bit more about them, let’s compare the both of them.

Initial Cost of Buying LED lights vs Fluorescent Lights

LED lamps used to be very costly, but the high demand and constant innovations have made the price very affordable.

I am assuming you are buying for your home, so I’m going to use CFL lamps for this comparison (if you are looking for fluorescent light bulbs, they cost around $10 each).

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A LED bulb can cost you around $8 while a CFL bulb will only cost you $3.

But, you should not take this at face value as there are is one thing you should take note of.

An LED bulb can last for up to 15,000 hours while a CFL bulb can only last up to 8,000 hours. Which means, you would need two CFL bulbs to last as long as one LED bulb.

Clearly, the initial cost of LED is justified as a more beneficial investment.

Light Output: LED vs Fluorescent

CFL/Fluorescent lights are omnidirectional, meaning they illuminate in all angles. They provide bright light pretty evenly throughout the area.

An LED bulb is a directional light source, meaning they emit light in a specific direction. That makes them great for floodlights, spotlights and car lights. Most new LED bulbs with more sophisticated engineering can provide light evenly while still being a directional light source.

The brightness of a light bulb is measured in Lumens(lm). Lumen is defined as the measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time.

A 150 W incandescent bulb produces 2600 lm. The lesser the wattage of an incandescent bulb the lower the lumens, and the inverse of that is true also.

So both LED and CFL bulbs can have a wide range of brightness, with the big difference being all CFL bulbs provide omnidirectional lighting while only some LED bulbs provide omnidirectional lighting.

The amount of wattage needed to provide the same amount of Lumens, however, is different for LED, incandescent and CFL bulbs. You’ll read more about this below.

As for color temperature, both LED bulbs and CFL bulbs are available in ranges from daylight to cool white to bright white and warm white. 

The color temperature you choose will depend on the ambience you want to give to the room.

If you want to give the room a cozy and intimate feel, warm white would be the suitable choice. This would be in the 2000 – 3000 Kelvin(K) range.

For a more invigorating feel, use a white color temperature that’s around 4600 – 6500 K range.

How Much Power Does LED Use Compared to Fluorescent Light?

For a specific lumens, the amount of power required by CFL and LED bulbs are different.

Obviously, both require less power than the incandescent bulb.

So which one is better? We can look at it from two ways.

One is to see how much lumens a bulb will produce given a certain number of wattage. So if we were to use 30W bulbs, the LED one will provide 2238 lumens and the CFL will provide 1901 lumens.

LED gives you 74.6 lumens per watt. CFL gives you 63.3 lumens per watt.

That shows you that LED bulbs are more efficient.

Fun fact: LED lighting company Cree managed to produce a record-breaking 303 lumen per watt LED. It should be noted however that this was achieved in a lab. The commercial product with this kind of efficiency will no doubt be available soon enough.

Which Type Is More Efficient?

I’m sure the efficiency of a bulb is what you care about most.

After all, if we’re trying to save the environment and save money, let’s do our damn best.

So, the efficiency of a bulb is determined by a bulb’s lumen per watt and output ratio. Lumen per watt is covered in the section above. You’ll learn about output ratio in just a second.

A bulb’s output ratio is basically a number that shows how much light gets lost inside the luminaire(bulb). 

Remember how CFL bulbs provide omnidirectional illumination? Well, some of that light is aimed upwards towards the ceiling. Sure, some of that light bounces down thanks to the mirrored reflector, but mirrors absorb some light, so there is some light loss there.

LED bulbs, being directional, shine in one direction only — downwards. This gives it a higher output ratio.

Please note that while there is a noticeable difference between CFL and LED bulbs’ efficiency, both of them are made by various companies, meaning an LED bulb from company A might have more efficiency from company B.

But in a general sense, I’m sure you’ll agree that LED bulbs beat CFL bulbs in both measurements.

Final Words

So there you have it, everything you need to know to choose between Fluorescent and LED.

LED is the clear winner in terms of efficiency and money saving.

LED will last longer which means less replacements needed AND it uses less electricity to run.

If you’re looking to replace the lighting in your home, choose LED and you won’t be sorry.

  • How many lights do you use in your home now?
  • How much do you think you’ll save this year just by swapping to LED lights?
  • Let me know in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Do LED Lights Use Less Power Than Fluorescent?”

  1. . Couple of questions though. First, I know fluorescent tubes use a lot of power to start up but little to run compared to incandescent is the same true for CF? Secondly, is the same true for LED? There are certain lights in my house I turn on and off only for short times(closets for example) so it may make more sense to use an incandescent there from a pure power usage standpoint.
    Also as a purest, if we are truly trying to save the planet we must look at the total pic from manufacture, logistics and use I have yet to find any info comparing incandescent, fluorescent and LED’s , perhaps you have info along these lines. We should also take into account disposal, I know fluorescent is bad because if mercury, what about LED’s? Thank you for any insight you may have

    • CF bulbs are not any different from fluorescent tubes so they work on the same principle. The only difference is that they are smaller.

      LEDs don’t use more power at the start because of how they work. They do turn on instantly to the full brightness so even if you use them for a short period of time, they are still cheaper to run than incandescents.

      I have an article about LED disposal where I talk quite extensively about the topic and the recycling challenges. You can read it here.



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