LED Bulbs vs Fluorescent Bulbs: Which Is Right For You? October 19, 2016 00:00


Most people have a pretty stereotypical view of fluorescent bulbs: that eerie green light, that annoying constant buzzing, and the special methods of disposing them so as not to expose anyone to the dangerous mercury inside.

But the lighting world has changed and so have fluorescent bulbs with it. In fact, not long ago fluorescent bulbs were overtaking incandescents to become the most promising lighting source out there. That is, until LEDs came along. And while LEDs offer a new world of versatility unexplored by any light bulb of the past, they still face some pretty stiff competition from fluorescent bulbs.

Fluorescent bulbs: this isn’t your grandfather’s bulb

While the unsavory ideas behind fluorescent bulbs were of course grounded in reality at one time, the fluorescent bulbs you knew growing up are a far cry from the modernized ones on store shelves today.

To understand how far fluorescent bulbs have come though, we should take a look at what exactly is going on when you flip that switch. To start off, a fluorescent bulb is basically a chamber with two electrodes at each end, sealed shut to contain a few special gases and atoms.

Once these electrodes are heated up, they send an electrical current through the bulb which stimulates one of the gases, mercury, to produce UV light. That UV light then goes on to stimulate the phosphorus which coats the inside of the bulb. The result is the greenish light you’re used to seeing in offices, plants, and schools.

Modern fluorescent bulbs are a far cry from what you may have grown up with or come to expect from these highly efficient lights. First, they now come in a range of colors so you won’t be stuck with that monotonous green. Most have also gotten rid of that annoying buzzing by changing the ballasts (which regulate the electrical current and stop the bulbs from exploding) from magnetic to electric. And the mercury? Far less than the bulbs of yore, making them a much safer lighting choice.

Modernizing the fluorescent bulb with CFLs

You may have seen this recent improvement to the traditional fluorescent bulb on the market lately. CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, are for the most part a socket-based version of the tube lights you’re used to. They operate off of the same basic principles of fluorescent lighting with a key differences.

Besides the obvious convenience of being able to use them anywhere you could screw in an incandescent bulb, CFLs strictly use electronic ballasts. So while traditional fluorescent tubes are moving towards this feature, CFLs depend on it.

Another difference is CFLs can come in the CCFL variation, or cold cathode fluorescent lamp. These bulbs require even less energy to excite the vapor inside. Whereas CFLs require heating the cathodes to at least 900 degrees Fahrenheit, CCFLs only need to be heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit due to the different heating elements. There are a host of other benefits to CCFLs over CFLs as well.

Fluorescent breakdown

So now that you know a bit more about fluorescent bulbs in general here is a breakdown of the pros and cons behind this time-tested bulb.


  • Use 25%-35% of energy used by incandescent bulbs (75% for CFLs)
  • Have a typical lifespan of 7,000-24,000 hours (even more for CCFLs)
  • Come in a variety of colors


  • Does contain trace amounts of mercury
  • Dimming capabilities are limited for many
  • Initial cost higher than incandescent bulbs
  • Not safe for the environment when disposed of

LEDs: the future of lighting

While fluorescent bulbs do appear to be pretty impressive when compared to incandescents, they face some tougher competition going up against LEDs. In addition to the wide range of benefits incorporating smart technology has brought to the world of LEDs, this bulb type has come onto the scene as the future of modern lighting.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are basically a grouping of semiconductors that give off light when they are hooked up to an electrical current. They were originally used in applications like traffic signals due to their high efficiency and visibility. As technology progressed, manufacturing costs of these little wonders dropped and thus LEDs have made their way into the residential sector.

One of the most exciting things about LEDs is the enormous amount of ways they can be used. High quality smart LEDs are fully dimmable and controllable from your smart device, can change between over 16 million different colors, can turn on and off according to schedules you set, and some can even play music!

Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons LEDs have to offer.


  • Use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs
  • Most have lifespans of over 25,000 hours
  • Has an incredible amount of versatility
  • Produce very little heat
  • They use no mercury, which means they’re safely disposed of


  • A higher initial cost than both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs (but that’s offset by the efficiency eventually)

Fluorescent vs. LEDs: when to use each

So the question is, which bulb is best? For most situations you’re better off going with LEDs. They offer a higher efficiency in general than fluorescent bulbs and blow incandescent bulbs out of the water. LEDs are also more promising based on the market trends to develop new LED technologies, making them more likely to be the standard bulb in the future. So for your home, your small office, your shop, LEDs are the way to go.

There are a few situations where fluorescent bulbs might be the better choice though. If you are lighting a large amount of space, such as an office or a factory, then fluorescent bulbs might be the way to go solely based on the initial cost of buying the bulbs. This however is likely to change (and soon) as prices for LEDs are rapidly falling.

Let us know what you think!

Can you think of any more pros or cons for fluorescent bulbs or LEDs? Which kind of lighting do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out the wide range of Flux Smart products!