Filament LED vs. Normal LED: Which Is Better? November 25, 2016 00:00

While the eco-friendly benefits of LEDs should be reason enough to switch to this money-saving bulb of the future, some people just can’t get past its sci-fi style look.

And while the half-glass, half-plastic design might not exactly be your cup of tea, LEDs can come in more elegant forms as well, namely, the filament LED bulb. The large glowing filaments and clear glass enclosures of these special bulbs resemble old-fashioned incandescents. They bring a bit of style to these futuristic bulbs.

This style comes with a price, however. We’ll be discussing the pros and cons of both the traditional LED as well as the filament LED so you can be sure to make the right choice based on your lighting needs.

LEDs: what makes them so unique

In order to detail just what makes filament LED bulbs different than your run-of-the-mill LEDs, it’s important to know how exactly LEDs work.

Short for “light emitting diodes”, LEDs are becoming the most likely successor to the lighting world throne. Where incandescent bulbs fell short in terms of lifelong hours, offering an average of 1,000 hours of light, LEDs have overtaken them with an amazing 50,000 hours.

The longevity of LEDs is due in part to its unique characteristic of being a type of solid-state lighting. In other words, while incandescent bulbs rely on the light produced by heating a filament and fluorescent lights excite the molecules of gas in order to illuminate, LEDs create light by passing an electrical current through a semiconductor.

Don’t be scared off by the term semiconductor,  though! While it may sound a bit technical, a semiconductor is basically any material that partially conducts electricity, meaning there are positive and negative charges along the material. And when electricity is sent through such a material, certain areas switch back and forth between a positive and negative charge. This jumping back and forth between charges is what creates the light you see in LEDs.

The entire process is much more energy efficient than heating a filament like traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, most incandescents only use 10% of the required energy for light. The other 90% is given off in the form of heat. So a bulb that can cut back on any amount of this kind of loss, like an LED does, is going to have a longer life in general.


The only drawback is LEDs, in contrast to incandescent bulbs, can’t produce as wide of a light angle since half of the bulb is required for the chip and heat sinks themselves. That means if you put a sphere around an LED bulb, only half of it would be lit up. A small setback for an amazing bulb, but a setback nonetheless.

The filament LED difference

Now that you know just what an LED is doing when it is producing light, we can get down to what makes a filament LED so different from your average LED.

With the design of traditional incandescent bulbs in mind, filament LEDs have a pretty neat retro look about them. Instead of a container made only partially of glass like other LEDs, the enclosures of filament LEDs are made entirely of glass, just like old-fashioned incandescents. Inside, very small LEDs are placed along a glass or sapphire cylinder, the appearance of which mimics a filament.

Generally, filament LEDs have several “filaments” in them as just one would not be enough to produce a usable amount of light. As a result, many bulbs will have over four different strands of LEDs inside, giving the look of an antique Edison-style bulb.

The main difference between filament LEDs and regular LEDs is in the placement and number of individual LEDs in each bulb. While regular LEDs might use one large LED or a group of LEDs packed tightly into a small space, filament LEDs spread the diodes along several different lines or “filaments”. This arrangement also means smaller heat sinks (mechanisms to take heat away from the diodes) are needed.

The result of these differences is that where traditional LEDs only have a 180 degree light angle as discussed above, filament LEDs have the same range as incandescent bulbs, meaning they can light up all the corners of a room better than a normal LED.

Filament vs. traditional LEDs: the pros & cons

So what does it all mean? Which is the better option? While it’s impossible to say for certain what the best bulb choice is for you as not everyone is going to use their lights for the same thing, there are some clear pros and cons for each of these bulbs that might help you make the decision.

Pros of filament LEDs

  • Require smaller heat sinks. That means more of the enclosure can be glass, leading to light exposure in almost 360 degrees.
  • Have a trendy retro style that some consumers might find attractive.
  • Most models offer the same dimmable quality of other LEDs.

Cons of filament LEDs

  • Typically have a shorter lifespan than other LEDs, ranging from 15,000 hours all the way to 40,000 hours.
  • Have not yet been incorporated into smart lighting designs.
  • Are not offered in a variety of colors.

Pros of traditional LEDs

  • Have a lifespan of around 50,000 hours.
  • Are used in conjunction with smart lighting, offering remote control from a smart device as well as other features.
  • Come in a variety of colors, with certain models being able to reproduce over 16 million different hues of light.

Cons of traditional LEDs

  • Have a unidirectional, focused light output area rather than the multi-directional lighting of filament bulbs due to the large heat sinks needed in traditional LEDs.
  • Do not offer the retro style found in filament bulbs.

So while traditional LEDs offer more in terms of versatility and bulb life, the elegance of the filament LED might be reason enough to choose it for your lighting needs. Either way, the applications for LED lighting technology have never been more numerous than they are today.

Let us know what you think!

Which kind of LED bulb do you prefer? Traditional or filament? What kinds of situations do you think each would be best for? Let us know below in the comments and don’t forget to check out the Flux Smart product line!