Why CFLs are not the future

The next time you have a bright idea the light bulb above your head will no longer be an incandescent bulb, but instead a CFL (compact fluorescent light). But is changing from incandescents to CFLs a bright idea?

There are a lot of issues with both incandescent bulbs and CFLs, which should mean that CFLs reign as the light of choice will be much shorter than the time we’ve depended on incandescents. In this era of quality over quantity (at least I’m hopeful this era is in its infancy), the pendulum of what we require will fall on the side of LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), which provides the same quality of light as incandescents with a much longer life span.

For an apple-to-apple comparison of the past, present, and future of lights (as described from this article):


Projected life span:

Incandescent — 1,200 hours

CFL — 10,000 hours (Eight times longer)

LED — 50,000 hours (42 times longer)

Electricity used to produce light equal to that of a 60-watt incandescent bulb:

Incandescent — 60 watts

CFL — 14 watts

LED — 6 watts

Cost per bulb:

Incandescent — $1.25

CFL — $3.95

LED — $20

Annual operating cost based on equivalent of 30 incandescent bulbs:

Incandescent — $328.59

CFL — $76.65

LED — $32.85

Instantly turns on:

Incandescent — Yes

CFL — No

LED — Yes

Contains toxic waste:

Incandescent — No

CFL — Yes

LED — No


3 thoughts on “Why CFLs are not the future

  1. Mile High Pixie

    Yes, Yes, YES!! I read the article you’re quoting here, and I nearly ran to the Denver Post’s offices to hug the author. As an architect who happens to be a human, I’ve always hated the quality and color of light that I get from a CFL. And why must I dispose of them like I’m cleaning up a uranium spill? For the love of Al Gore, can these lights get any worse?

    Granted, I’ll need to take some change to Coinstar to buy an LED, but it rather seems worth it. I think when I redo my closet between now and Armageddon, I’m going to replace the CFL there with an LED light. After all, I need decent color perception when I’m picking out what to wear the next day.

  2. Chris

    I agree that CFLs are far from perfect, but I’d still favor them over LEDs (at this point at least). LEDs have improved a ton in the last two years, but they’re not there yet. As a designer in California, incandescents are out all-together. With Title-24 requirements getting stricter all the time our options are CFL or LED.

  3. Miss Kitty

    Wow! Thanks for laying all this out for us. So far, I like LED light quality okay, but I do enjoy most the light quality from incandescents. You’re right that there are problems with all of them, but I’m glad to know there’s a little progress being made here and there.


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