Difference Between Incandescent Fluorescent and LED Light Bulbs


When finalizing your outdoor lighting or pendant selections, it's important to figure out what type of lamp you'd like to go with. An incandescent lamp generates light when electric current heats a tungsten filament wire so that it glows, or incandesces. As the lamp continues to operate, the tungsten slowly evaporates due to the heat. When the filament loses enough tungsten (or breaks from shock), the lamp fails. Incandescent lamps are easily dimmed. Lamps with the same base can often be used interchangeably in the same fixture (size and wattage permitting). An incandescent lamp includes:

• A glass envelope
• A filament of tungsten wire, in a tight spiral
• Support wires to hold the filament
• Lead-in wires to bring current to the filament
• An exhaust tube to empty air from the envelope and fill it with gas
• A base to hold the other parts, mount the lamp, and make electrical contact

Incandescent lamps can be categorized as conventional or halogen, according to the fill gas and pressure in the lamp, which affect efficiency, life and color. Line voltage or low voltage, according to the electric current that powers the lamp. Both types are available as conventional and halogen . Non-reflectorized or reflectorized, according to whether the lamp emits light in all directions or directs light into a beam. Most non-reflectorized lamps are the conventional type, most reflectorized lamps today are halogen. The efficacy of incandescent bulbs is low which is a major disadvantage in terms of higher operating costs and more heat in the room.


Fluorescnet Lamps generate light when an electric arc excites the gas in the tube. Mercury in the gas emits ultraviolet radiation causing the phosphor coating of the lamp to glow, or fluoresce. The glowing phosphors create white-colored light. Fluorescent lamps require a ballast in order to operate, as well as special lamp holders.

The basic components of a fluorescent lamp include:
• A glass tube (straight, U-shaped or circular)
• A fill gas, such as argon
• Metal contact pins at the outside end of the tube, which provide the electrical connection
• Cathodes at each end of the inside of the tube, which generate the electric arc
• When the cathodes can no longer start the arc, the lamp will no longer operate
• Mercury crystals, which vaporize as the electric arc flows and emit UV radiation
• The best fluorescent lamps do an outstanding job of color rendering, so choosing the right fluorescent lamp is critical.

Fluorescent lamps are available in a much wider range of colors than incandescent, from warm, nearly incandescent tones, to icy whites that are similar to daylight. Fluorescent is a very energy efficient light source that enjoys low operating costs and contributes little heat to the room. Fluorescent is particularly effective for high levels of general and task illumination. They use 1/5 to 1/3 as much electricity as incandescent with comparable lumen ratings and last up to 20 times longer. Compact types are used in smaller, trimmer fixtures such as recessed down lights, wall sconces, close-to-ceiling fixtures, and track lights. Screw-in types can be used in place of incandescent in standard lamp sockets. If your fixtures are on a dimming system, look for fluorescent bulbs labeled "dimmable."


Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) produce light when voltage is applied to negatively charged semiconductors, causing electrons to combine and create a unit of light (photon). In simpler terms, an LED is a chemical chip embedded in a plastic capsule. Because they are small, several LEDs are sometimes combined to produce a single light bulb. LED lighting in general is more efficient and longer lasting than any other type of light source, and it is being developed for more and more applications. Light Bulbs Etc carries a wide range of LED products from LED bulbs, LED tape light, LED under cabinet lights, LED decorative and outdoor lights, LED landscape lights as well as a huge variety of LED recessed and retrofit items.

Many LED products are designed to last as long as 50,000 hours. Incredible longevity means that you might never change another light again.

What is 50,000 hours? It is 50 times the life of a typical incandescent bulb and 5 times the lifetime of an average compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). In fact, if you ran a LED for 6 hours per day every day, it would last for nearly 23 years. That is five presidential elections, time for a home remodeling, and the expanse of an entire generation. We all have at least one bulb that is hard to reach and needs a ladder or a pole to replace it. For a homeowner, fifty times longer life than incandescent bulbs means 50 fewer chances to fall off a ladder. For a business owner, it means significantly lower maintenance and labor expenses. The production and use of LEDs requires significantly less energy than incandescents or CFLs. With LED lighting products, you'll throw away fewer lamps and stop worrying about their mercury content. LED lighting products are free of mercury and other toxic materials, a clear win for the environment.

*Information provided by The American Lighting Association & Cree LED Lighting