Incandescent vs. LED: Everything You Need to Know


When buying a light fixture for your project, workspace, or home, there are more things to consider than aesthetics. One of the critical factors when selecting bulbs is whether to go for LED bulbs or Incandescent bulbs. Here we will look at the differences between these two in detail. There is also much information about choosing the correct bulb for yourself. Besides, you’ll get a highlight of some frequently asked questions about Incandescent vs. LED bulbs.

Sounds interesting? Read on for more!

House Light Bulbs Options

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)

Energy icon design

Energy icon design

Compact Fluorescent bulbs are glass tubes filled with mercury and gas. Typically, CFL bulbs take comparatively longer to warm up.

They do not dim as smoothly as other bulb options. For instance, activating the dimming feature on CFLs reduces the overall lifespan. Besides, the color options of CFL bulbs are limited.

LED Bulbs

Hand-holding LED bulb

Hand-holding LED bulb

LEDs are lightbulbs that work by converting electrical energy directly into light. They are more efficient. 

They produce about 90% more light efficiently than other lightbulb options, like incandescent bulbs. 

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulb

Incandescent bulb

These bulb types work by conducting electric current along a filament, and heat is applied to super high temperatures.

Once it attains the right temperature, it will glow and emit white light.

This process converts only 5-10% of the used electricity into visible light. The other 90-95% usually converts into heat.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulb

The Fluorescent bulb

Fluorescent bulbs use fluorescence power to create visible light. These types of bulbs are relatively more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. However, they are less efficient if you compare them to LED bulbs.

Here is how they work:

  • Mercury vapor gets ionized in a glass tube.
  • It generates a short ultraviolet light wave, causing a coating found on the inside of the fluorescent bulb to light up.

Incandescent vs. LED: How Is LED Different From Incandescent?

Many characteristics make LED light different from Incandescent light. For instance, LED bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs. The lower power will result in fewer carbon emissions and diminished electricity bills.

Other differences between LED bulbs and incandescent bulbs are:

1. Color options. Incandescent bulbs come in much more limited color ranges. On the other hand, LED bulbs boast a wide range of colors and shades.

2. Directional light. LED bulbs allow you to change the direction of the emitted light. Unlike incandescent bulbs, you do not need shades and reflectors with LED bulbs.

3. Heat emitted. LED bulbs generally run significantly more relaxed compared to incandescent bulbs. And this makes them safer to touch and handle.

4. Ease of disposal. LED bulb disposal is relatively more straightforward than disposing of incandescent bulbs. For instance, incandescent bulbs contain mercury and other toxic chemicals that need different steps to discard appropriately.

Different types of light bulbs

Different types of light bulbs

Incandescent vs. LED: Pros and Cons

Pros of Incandescent Bulbs

1. Affordable. Incandescent bulbs are widely available on the market and are relatively affordable.

2. Good color rendering index (CRI). The CRI for most incandescent bulbs with a color temperature of 2700K can get up to 100. The CRI rating will slightly drop off when the color temperature rises.

Cons of Incandescent Bulbs

1. Poor energy efficiency. About 90-95% of the energy used in incandescent bulbs gets converted into heat.

2. Short lifespan. Most incandescent bulbs will only last around 1000 working hours.

Incandescent bulbs

Incandescent bulbs

Pros of LED Bulbs

1. Excellent energy efficiency. LED bulbs have a low energy usage with high light quality. For instance, they have good energy efficiency compared to other bulb types.

2. Low maintenance. LED bulbs can last for a long time without needing to be maintained. For instance, they can last 50,000-100,000 hours or more.

Cons of LED Bulbs

1. Expensive. LED bulbs are products of expensive but high-quality materials. Therefore, they can be relatively expensive for users working on a tight budget.

LED vs. Incandescent: Which Bulb Is Right For You?

LED vs. Incandescent ecology

LED vs. Incandescent ecology

Many factors determine the correct bulb for you. Here, we have outlined some elements that make LED or Incandescent the perfect or right choice for you.

Why Choose Incandescent Bulbs?

The reasons why incandescent bulbs have remained popular for such a long time include:

1. Cost

Although the overall cost of LED bulbs is rapidly dropping, incandescent bulbs have the lowest up-front price. Therefore, if you are operating on a tight budget, consider buying.

2. Color

Traditional incandescent bulbs emit the famous warm glow typical of home lighting. So, if you are looking for an element of nostalgia or tradition, choose incandescent bulbs.

Why Choose LED Bulbs?

LED bulbs have become the next big wave of light bulbs. Although they are comparatively expensive than incandescents, they have several advantages that make them preferred choices:

1. Energy-efficiency

One of the distinct advantages of LED bulbs is the lower energy usage. For instance, with string lights, a 1-2 watt LED bulb can replace a 25-watt incandescent bulb.

The lower wattage implies lower energy usage. It directly correlates with the overall energy cost, especially with multiple bulbs.

Energy efficiency concept

Energy efficiency concept

2. Cost

The longevity and low energy usage of LED bulbs mean that their long-run cost is less expensive than incandescent.

3. Durability

LED bulbs comprise components of tiny chips encapsulated in an epoxy resin. Therefore, they can withstand shock, vibrations, and temperature extremes. Besides, their plastic shell makes these bulbs more durable.

4. Color

LED bulbs emit various colors similar to the incandescent bulb’s warm light. They as well emit other white light tones that you will find appealing.

5. Safety and Environment

LED bulbs emit their energy as light. For instance, they do not give off power as heat, making them cool to touch.

Besides, LED bulbs are products of non-hazardous materials and do not contain mercury or other toxic chemicals.

How To Switch To More Cost-Effective Light Bulbs

The first thing is to discard the unwanted incandescent light. However, due to the presence of mercury and other hazardous chemicals inside CFL and incandescent bulbs, we recommend recycling them instead of throwing them into the trash.

You can then choose an energy-saving bulb.

Here is how you can determine if your bulb is energy efficient:

  • Do not just look at the wattage on your lightbulb packaging. For instance, regardless of the lightbulb, the wattage means the same.
  • To determine if you are saving on the brightness, you will need to check the lumen output and compare it to wattage. If you want brighter lighting, select a more significant number.
  • Go for bulbs with low wattage and high lumens for efficient and brighter lighting.
Power saving concept

Power saving concept

Incandescent vs. LED: FAQs

Do LEDs Save Energy?

LED bulbs use more than 70% less energy compared to incandescent lighting. The difference is even more significant at low power levels. For instance, bright LED flood bulbs use 11-12 watts to create a light output equivalent to that of a 50-watt incandescent bulb.

Can I Save Money with LEDs?

Generally, you can save more money with LEDs. For instance, it would only require a 16-watt LED bulb to produce as much light as a 100-watt incandescent light. It will also use only 140kWh of energy yearly.

The overall cost of electricity is comparatively cheaper. For instance, an electricity cost of $21 will last you the entire year.

LED can save money

LED can save money

Is LED or Incandescent Better For Your Eyes?

Incandescent bulbs produce more UV radiation, which can damage your eyes. On the other hand, LED bulbs do not have UV rays. So, they will cause less damage to your eyes.

Final Thought

We can not say LED bulbs are better than Incandescent bulbs because their use depends on personal preference and application.

However, LEDs are energy-efficient, non-hazardous, and durable. However, they are relatively expensive.

On the other hand, Incandescent bulbs are relatively affordable and have a good color rendering (CRI) ability. However, they have a short lifespan, and their energy efficiency is poor.

Feel free to contact us with questions, comments, or suggestions. We will be glad to help.

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