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CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) & LED lamp comparison review

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) & LED lamp comparison review

Compact fluorescents have come a long way from the flickering, unflattering light they once were. They are now available in a wide range of light temperatures, are longer lasting than incandescent lights and are more energy efficient. CFL's have a lamp life of about 10,000 hours and use approximately 80% less energy than an equivalent incandescent.

Long-life lamps

CFLs are energy-efficient and long lasting, but they aren’t without their problems:

  • They can be slow to warm up to full brightness
  • They are generally bigger than equivalent incandescents so they don’t suit all light fittings
  • And last but far from least, they contain mercury

Enter the light-emitting diode, or LED. They’ve been commonly available for years in bicycle lights, torches, garden lights and other applications, and are also available as downlights. They're very energy-efficient, can be very bright and don't contain mercury.

Most LED general lighting service lamps now available are relatively low-light output – comparable to a 25W or 40W incandescent – but brighter 60W equivalent models are also now available. We’ve included some in this test.

For more information about saving energy, please contact Technilux.

The drawbacks of CFLs

The environmental benefit of the phase-out of inefficient lighting has been widely publicised, but CFLs aren’t without impact — they use more energy to produce and contain mercury, which could spell problems if it’s not recycled. So what’s our overall verdict? 

A life cycle analysis of CFLs published in The Environmental Engineer concluded that CFLs are the better choice for the environment, mainly because they use electricity much more efficiently. As for the mercury they release at the end of their life, the analysis found that the production of incandescent lamps contributes five times more mercury from burning coal for electricity. This was even the case in Tasmania, where hydroelectricity dominates, although involving much smaller quantities.

Environment groups are generally supportive of the initiative overall. “CFLs are not completely green in every way, but on balance they have a much lower impact than incandescents,” according to the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Incandescent lamps

Since November 2009, incandescent bulbs (apart from a few specialised sizes and types) have not been available for sale in Australia as part of the government’s drive to reduce energy consumption and lessen the impact of electricity production on the environment and economy. They have been replaced by CFLs in most domestic lighting applications.

Early CFLs, which CHOICE first tested back in 2000, cost up to $20 or more and were slow to warm up to full brightness. Now, they're cheaper to buy – typically about $5-$10 per lamp – and run; they're also faster to warm up and have fewer failures.

Incandescents are still available in very small sizes, but will be phased out as CFLs and LEDs in these sizes become available.

Note: most people probably still refer to CFLs and incandescents as "light bulbs", and think of a "lamp" as the light fitting on their bedside table. In fact, as pointed out by CHOICE members in the comments, "lamp" is the technically correct term for what we used to call light bulbs, and the report uses this term accordingly.

Did you know?


  • Up to 90% of the energy an incandescent (standard) lamp uses is wasted, mainly on heat.

  • Lighting represents about 12% of Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Globally, electric lighting generates emissions equal to 70% of those from all passenger vehicles.

Phase-out of incandescent bulbs

The federal government’s incandescent light bulb phase-out program applies Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to lighting products. Products that don’t meet MEPS will be restricted from sale.

  • Tungsten filament incandescent general lighting service (GLS) light bulbs (the typical pear-shaped bulbs used in most domestic light fittings) don’t meet MEPS and have not been available in stores since November 2009.
  • Since October 2010, MEPS have applied to >40W candle, fancy round and decorative lamps, mains voltage halogen non-reflectors and extra-low voltage (ELV) halogen reflectors.
  • From October 2012, MEPS will apply to mains voltage reflector lamps, including halogen (PAR, ER, R, etc), and >25W candle fancy round and decorative lamps. 
  • Depending on when efficient alternatives become available, pilot lamps 25W and below will also be subject to MEPS.

LED Lights Have Better Life Span

In spite of the fact that a LED lamps may appear as a bit pricier than the usual bulbs found in the market, there is still a heavy demand for the same that keeps increasing by the day. The reason behind this phenomenon, is the number of distinctive features of this kind of LED lighting, in addition to a logical fact that a normal bulb has a shorter life span, where as an LED lamp would not only give you much brighter effect but also last for years depending upon the usage.

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) & LED lamp comparison review |

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Technilux Lighting
  • Address Unit 18, 41-49 Norcal Road,
  • Nunawading, Victoria, Australia
  • ABN 69 065 653 885
  • Telephone +61 03-9872-7688
  • Fax +61 03-9874-8299
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