CFLs vs. LEDs and What the Future Holds

LED is the standard term for light-emitting diodes, which are found in many types of devices as a light source. Everyday items utilize the red, low-intensity, original LED technology as indicators for cars making turns and braking, and television remote controls. Digital clocks display numbers with LEDs and illuminate traffic lights are also examples of LED lighting technology integration.


LEDs in a Nut Shell

LEDs are small and reliable, with fast speeds for switching and narrow bandwidth possibilities, making them extremely useful and popular. Modern LEDs are available in wavelengths that are visible, infrared, and ultraviolet. Electroluminescence is the effect that occurs when an LED is turned on and its electrons combine with electron holes and produce energy (photons). The color of the light is established by the semiconductor’s energy gap.


Technology Background

LED technology has continued to develop since it was originally used in practical applications in the 1960s. While LEDs were very expensive in those early years, mass production was instrumental in the success of LED usage in alphanumeric displays of handheld electronic devices. As time passes, LED technology has grown more advanced, with greater output of light, and higher levels of efficiency being reached. White LED light bulbs of high power are now available to replace fluorescent and incandescent lighting products.

LEDs Vs. CFLs – Similarities and Differences

LEDs are in many ways, similar to the incandescent bulbs, except that LED light bulbs do not get hot and they do not have a filament that can burn out. Unlike fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, LEDs do not contain dangerous mercury, but they do in fact contain lead and arsenic. LEDs have a significant life span of 35,000 to 50,000 hours depending on applications of use, and although they do have a higher initial cost per unit when compared with incandescent bulbs, their long life and energy savings make them an attractive alternative.

Current Limitations of LEDs

Often a high prohibitive price, and lighting angle limitations put a question mark on the viability of LED light bulbs for CFL light bulb replacement purposes. Early adopters in residential, and commercial building sectors are the primary buyers of LED lighting products today with the rest of us still waiting for the price to go down before we are willing to jump on the bandwagon.


CFLs are Remaining Viable Practical Alternative to LEDs

CFL is the term for compact fluorescent lamps, which are also called energy saving lights. CFLs have been created to replace incandescent lighting and therefore fit into standard light fixtures. CFLs produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, but use much less energy and provide for longer use, meaning that even though the initial cost of the CFL bulbs are more expensive than incandescent, they can save money in electric usage and longer-life expectancy. However, compact fluorescents contain mercury just like incandescent, making them a worry for landfills since mercury is poisonous.

CFLs – Historical and Technological Background

CFLs were invented in the late 1800s and used almost exclusively in the field of photography. It was not until the late 1900s that CFL technology was made available to the masses, with the spiral tube CFL design invention of the 1970s leading to its success. Compact fluorescent bulbs are comprised of a tube filled with gas (the bulb), and a ballast that is either electronic or magnetic. CFLs are available for both AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) inputs, with DC CFLs being a popular replacement for hazardous kerosene lamps in poor countries.

How long can CFLs last compared to Incandescent Light Bulbs?

While many factors can affect the lifespan of a light bulb, CFLs can last as much as eight to 15 times as long as an incandescent bulb with ratings that can range from 10,000 to 15,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs are typically in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 hours. Along with greater life expectancy, CFLs produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, making the load on cooling units in warm climates significantly less and reducing energy costs.


General Environmental Considerations for CFLs and LEDs

Due to increasing concern of environmental impact and energy efficiency, many governments are working to replace incandescent lighting with LED and CFL alternatives where possible. Some governments have discussed bans on the production of non-efficient incandescent bulbs, and subsidized programs of CFL replacement have been undertaken by several electric utilities. As CFLs do contain mercury, recycling programs are being adopted in many cities, where a special machine that uses negative pressure and a filter to absorb the mercury to crush the bulbs, thereby reducing any negative effects on the environment and allowing for the crushed metal and glass to be recycled.

What the Future Holds – Prediction

As the LED lighting technology advances, it is likely to see significant reductions in the price of LED light bulbs, and availability of wider angle capable LEDs in the future. There is also going to be a strong push from LEED certified lighting product distributors and Green Building initiatives coming from Governmental agencies and industry advocates, which will lead to a high degree of integration of LEDs especially in the realm of commercial construction and modern institutional building projects.