Lighting 101: LED vs Fluorescent

Benefits of LEDs

 LEDs are well known for the many benefits they provide.

Most significantly, their extremely long lifespans (50,000 to 100,000 hours or more), very high energy efficiency and high light quality, and little to no labor costs.

LEDs have a wide range of color temperatures, and a general CRI range from 65-95, which is considered good to great. LEDs have instant turn on, which means no energy is wasted with a warm up or cool down, significantly extending their lifespan. LEDs produce smooth, steady light with no flicker, which is ideal for a variety of applications that need powerful and reliable light.

In addition to these benefits, LEDs produce a 180-degree beam spread. This degree of spread doesn’t require reflection and redirection – which wastes light – adding to the LEDs efficiency. LEDs produce no infrared or UV radiation. They also lose very little heat, converting the majority of energy directly into visible light.

The initial cost of LEDs is higher than traditional fixtures, but the savings over the long term are too great to ignore.

What are Fluorescents?

Fluorescent bulbs are low pressure mercury-vapor gas discharge lamps that use fluorescence to produce light. Electric current excites the mercury vapor, which produces ultraviolet light which causes the inside, phosphor coating of the lamp to glow. Standard models come in large tubes, but there are also CFLs or compact fluorescents, which are smaller and simply designed to replace incandescent bulbs.

Benefits of Fluorescent Lights

Similar to LEDs, fluorescent bulbs come in a large range of color temperatures, typically from 2700K to 6500K. Although their CRI ratings vary greatly, they are generally “good” from 62 to 80.

Another benefit is that fluorescents and CFLs are very efficient compared to other traditional lights. Although they rate lower than LEDs due to a variety of efficiency downfalls, they do offer a 50-100 lumens/watt source efficiency.

Disadvantages of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent bulbs are omnidirectional producing 360 degrees of light. This requires the light to be reflected and redirected, which causes light spillage and waste, thus decreasing the light’s efficiency and useful lumens. Newer models have a short on/off delay as well, which is not as significant as a metal halide warm-up period, but longer than the instantaneous on/off of an LED.

Much like the other traditional lights, fluorescents lose out to LEDs when it comes to energy efficiency. Fluorescents produce primarily UV radiation and lose approximately 15% of emissions as energy dissipation and heat. They do not produce any Infrared radiation though.

Additionally, fluorescent lights are very fragile and require special handling and disposal. They are also dangerous – if broken, they emit mercury and other hazardous materials.

Fluorescent bulbs are cheaper than LEDs to purchase, and have a longer lifespan than other lights – roughly 7,000 to 15,000 hours. This is significantly less than LEDs. However, the cost of upkeep is expensive. Fluorescent bulbs need to be replaced several times before a single LED needs replacing, and require re-lamping and ballast replacement.

More times than not, upgrading a fluorescent to an LED is an ideal choice to make. LED upgrades offer all of the LED benefits with the ability to replace one fixture at a time as needed, and require no ballast.

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