Friday, February 26, 2010

Choosing between CFL and LED lightbulbs

All lightbulbs have limitations. Incandescent bulbs are cheap but wasteful of energy. CFL bulbs are energy efficient but are loaded with toxic mercury, and LEDs are very energy efficient but are more directional.

When we moved into this apartment about 2 and a half years ago, I put in mostly CFLs to try and save some on the electric bills. The ones in the bathroom are all dead now. The ones in lamps did not last long at all due to being knocked over by an active child. The ones in the ceiling fan are still going strong, but it is dry there and not much shock. CFL bulbs also don't work so well outside in the cold. They start off dim and it takes minutes for them to reach full brightness.

So I've learned that CFLs don't like wet or cold or shock.

LED bulbs are still pretty expensive but since they are a semiconductor Moore's Law applies and they should become cheaper pretty quickly. They also use way less power then even CFLs and are shock resistant, that is why lots of flashlights have gone over to LEDs. Also LCD TV's and monitors are going to LED backlights for less energy and longer life.
LEDs are directional light sources, that makes them great for flashlights, spotlights, recessed can fixtures and gooseneck style lamps. Unfortunately, that makes them not so good for general illumination. There are some LED bulbs that put lots of LEDs pointing in lots of different directions to pull off general illumination but they are pretty expensive because of all those LEDs. I've also seen some with diffusers to try to do the same thing but I haven't tried one of those yet.

In conclusion, CFL bulbs are good for general illumination but LEDs are better for outdoors, moist and directional lighting situations.