CFL light bulb VS LED light bulb
Light emitting diode (LED) fluorescent tubes are all the rage in the lighting market these days. The technology promises to be more energy efficient, less environmentally harmful and more economical than traditional fluorescent tube lighting. Still, there is a lot of debate over whether they are ready for widespread commercial use.
What is a LED Fluorescent Tube? Actually, “LED fluorescent tube” is a misnomer. LED lights and fluorescent lights are completely different technologies. LEDs are very small bulbs illuminated by movement of electrons in a diode. Fluorescent bulbs use electrodes and a gas combination of argon and mercury to produce light. As such, the name “LED fluorescent tube” really refers to an LED tube that reminds us of traditional fluorescent tubes (such as the one that is likely overhead as you read this).
LED lights should also not be confused with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use the same technology as fluorescent tubes to produce light, but on a smaller scale. They are a replacement for the incandescent bulbs commonly found in most home light fixtures. CFLs have garnered a lot of press because of their energy efficiency and environmental benefits (i.e., they are considered to be greener than traditional lights because they use less power).
An LED tube is made up of hundreds of individual LEDs. They come in a variety of sizes (2, 4 or 6 feet), different temperatures (i.e., different colors of light), and varying arrays of LEDs. They can be purchased with new fixtures, or used for retrofitting existing fixtures. However, they don’t require the ballasts that traditional fluorescents need, so those will need to be removed when replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED tubes.
When comparing LEDs to fluorescent tubes, here are four key specifications that should be reviewed:
Lumens – This is the unit of measurement for strength of light. Look for tubes with 1500 lumens or more.
Watts – This is a unit of measurement for power consumption. Four-foot LED tubes typically use 15 to 25 watts, while fluorescent tubes of this size use more than 30 watts.
Lifespan – This is how long the bulb will last. It’s measured in hours. 50,000 hours is common for LED tubes.
Color temperature – The temperature of the light is the color of the light. It is measured in units of absolute temperature, or Kelvin (K). 3000K is considered warm (redder), 4100K is considered neutral, and 5800 K is cool (bluer).
Pros and Cons of LED and Fluorescent Tubes.
To give recognition where it’s due, fluorescent tubes are a great invention. They have been lighting most of America ever since GE brought them to market back in 1938. They are four to six times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and are said to last 10 to 20 times longer. Of course, they come with their own set of disadvantages, as well.
Fluorescent tubes contain mercury and phosphor, which present a number of health and environmental risks. The lights require a ballast, which adds to the cost of the lamp and can cause a buzzing noise. Finally, they frequently flicker, and the light is often drab.
On the other hand, LED bulbs last longer than fluorescents, and they don’t contain harmful ingredients like mercury. Perhaps most signficantly, LEDs use much less power than fluorescent lamps -- and there are many other benefits, as well.
Still, LEDs aren’t perfect. The tubes are generally not as bright and can cost more up front. And unfortunately, cost will likely be the number-one driver of greater adoption.