How “Green” is your Lightbulb?

Today, we take our artificial light for granted and lightbulbs have expanded and grown since the invention. We first had Incandescent lightbulbs, the standard. Then we got into CFL lightbulbs, which are fluorescent and provide better lighting and saves more energy. Now lately, LED lightbulbs are all the rage, the new green and energy efficient lightbulb on the market. But how great are these LED lights compared to the other two?


Incandescent lightbulbsCFL lightbulbs (Compact Fluorescent Light)

LED lightbulbs


Incandescent CFL LED
Approximate cost per bulb $1 $2 $8 or less
Average lifespan 1,200 hours 8,000 hours 25,000 hours
Watts used 60W 14W 10W
No. of bulbs needed for 25,000 hours of use 21 3 1
Total purchase price of bulbs over 23 years $21 $6 $8
Total cost of electricity used (25,000 hours at $0.12 per kWh) $180 $42 $30
Total operational cost over 23 years $201 $48 $38


It is interesting to see how these 3 lightbulbs stack up against each other, and clearly the CFL and LED lights save more in the long run. LED lights are also up to 80% more efficient than the other two lights. 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat. This is compared to CFLs which convert 95% of energy to heat and only 5% into light.

Also LED lights contain no toxins whileCFLs contain mercury and have to be disposed of carefully. The amount of mercury in one bulb is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels. The EPA recommends an elaborate cleanup ritual, including throwing away any clothes or bedding that has come in direct contact with the mercury from the bulb.

The life span of LEDs are six times longer than the other two lights, which means using fewer lights and hence fewer resources are needed for manufacturing processes, packaging materials and transportation, so less carbon emissions.

So while providing high quality brightness, LEDs are also energy efficient and long lasting. Out of 5, these bulbs earn a 4 on the Green Scale. CFL earn about a 2 or 3 since it is energy saving, but also contain harmful toxins such as mercury.




General Electric. “GE 13-Watt Energy Smart Fluorescent Light Bulbs, 8 Pack, 60 Watt Replacement.” Amazon, Amazon,

Karsten Moran. “LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting.” New York Times, 21 Jan. 2013,

“SYLVANIA LIGHTING 10117 40W/A15 Appliance Bulb.” Amazon, Amazon,

Crawford, Trent. “LED vs. CFL vs. Incandescent Light Bulbs.” Sewell Direct,

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