Following the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, you will decide which energy-efficient bulb to buy next time one of your lights goes out. While all energy-efficient bulbs use less electricity than old-fashioned incandescent ones, there are significant differences between the various options.
Compact fluorescent lights are a smaller version of the fluorescent strip lights that are often associated with commercial or public buildings. These small fluorescent tubes offer a high-quality light that is similar to the light produced by incandescent bulbs. A CFL bulb typically uses about a quarter of the energy demanded by an equivalent incandescent bulb, and it also has a much longer lifespan, so it could help you save money for a relatively small upfront cost.
However, CFL bulbs also have their disadvantages. They contain mercury, a toxic metal. While the metal poses no risk to health while it is safely locked away inside the bulb, its presence means that you can’t throw out a CFL bulb with the rest of your household waste; instead, you need to take it to a local recycling centre, where it can be safely handled. You also need to be very careful when cleaning up a broken CFL bulb.
Bulbs that contain light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, have many advantages over their CFL counter parts. LEDs use tiny amounts of power – the LED equivalent of a 60W incandescent light uses only 6-8W. As a result, you could make huge savings on your electricity bill. LEDs also have long lifespans – around 50,000 hours, compared to 1,200 for an incandescent bulb or 8,000 hours for a CFL bulb. They also contain no toxic mercury.
The main disadvantage of LED bulbs is the cost. Although LED bulbs could save you money in the long run, you can expect to pay much more to purchase the bulbs. LEDs are also directional, which means they emit all their light in one direction, making them less than ideal for use in lamps. However, some specialised LED bulbs contain diffusers to address this problem.
While LED bulbs have a high upfront cost, they can help you save money over the years. The decision over whether to install CFL or LED bulbs in your home depends on your current budget and your long-term plans. If you plan to move home in the next couple of years, then investing in LED bulbs may not be worthwhile. However, if you take a long-term approach to saving energy and are keen to avoid bulbs that use harmful mercury, then LED bulbs are the best choice.