A CFL bulb at left and an LED bulb at right, two energy-saving bulbs

When making your home more energy-efficient, you should remember lighting. It includes a big part of your bills, so what type of lights you get dramatically affects how much you save or lose in the long term. 

LED bulbs are energy-saving, but not all energy-saving bulbs are powered by LED technology. A lesser-known energy-saving bulb is a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). However, in terms of energy efficiency, LED lights remain superior to all other types.

LED lights are growing in popularity, and energy efficiency is one of the many reasons. But is that the only energy-saving option you have? 

Well, that’s the question this article is here to assoil. Let’s dive in!

LED vs. Energy-Saving Bulbs: What’s The Difference?

Many types of lights are available; some of the most well-known are incandescent, fluorescent, and LED. However, the first two are slowly fading out of people’s choices because of poor energy efficiency. 

Instead, people install energy-saving bulbs as they last longer and save more on utilities. LED is a standard option for an energy-saving bulb, but there are other types, like CFL and halogen.

LED lights are better than other energy-saving bulbs (e.g., CFL and halogen) because they convert energy to light 90% better than any other lighting technology. Thus, you require less energy to light up your house, which means cheaper electricity bills. Also, LED lights last much longer. 

An illuminated LED PAR light compared to other types of non-illuminated lights against a gray background

To better see how LED technology is superior, let’s discuss the pros and cons of LED and CFL bulbs, the two leading energy-saving lights. 

LED Lights

LED bulbs use semiconductors to emit either visible or infrared light. Over time, they were proven to be a highly efficient technology, and even governments pushed for their use. 


  • Energy-efficiency – LED bulbs can convert up to 90% of their energy to light, wasting less energy than incandescent bulbs. This efficiency allows it to light homes with relatively lower costs than other lighting technologies. 
  • No burnout – unlike other lights, LED bulbs do not burn out; their light only becomes dimmer over time. This feature also allows you to extend your LED light’s lifetime longer than expected—25 to 30 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, or around 11 to 22 years. Also, even if you flip the LED light switch often, it doesn’t significantly reduce its lifetime. 
  • Heat sink – aside from the fact that LED lights convert energy to light so efficiently, they also don’t overheat like other lights because they have a heat sink. They absorb the energy lost as heat, which helps prevent issues and makes the light last longer. 
  • Directed light – LED lights are perfect if you want them to shine in a specific direction because they’re a directional light source. That is, its light doesn’t shine in all directions unless designed to, which is excellent for applications like under cabinet lighting. 
  • Durability – LED lights can be used for outdoor applications, as they are designed to tolerate extreme weather, like snows and storms. 
PAR38 LED flood light illuminating plants at night
  • Lighting up automatically – unlike other lights that take time before they fully shine, LED bulbs light up almost automatically. 
  • Energy-saving features – because LED technology is so flexible, it can be used for various energy-saving applications, such as dimmers, motion sensors, daylight sensors, smartphone-controlled intelligent lights, and timers. Solar-powered LED lights exist, too. If you want to learn more about them, read this article.
  • They’re non-toxic – LED lights don’t contain toxic substances, so they’re safer for you and the environment. 


  • Relatively expensive overhead – compared to other light bulbs, LED ones are typically more expensive. However, many find it worth the initial cost as they can avoid higher bills in the long run. Moreover, they’ve become more affordable over time.  
  • Directional lighting – some people might be surprised by the directionality of LED lights. Thus, before you purchase your LED bulb, make sure it shines the way you want it to. 

CFL Lights

While semiconductors and microchips are used for LED lights, CFL technology uses argon and mercury to generate ultraviolet (UV) light that excites the phosphor component, leading to light emission. 


A CFL bulb stacked on a pile of cash and coins, indicating the savings provided by using this energy-efficient light bulb
  • Relatively long lifetime – compared to incandescent lamps, CFL bulbs last longer. But not as long as LED bulbs, which can outlive CFLs by 3-5 times. 
  • Durability – depending on the specific CFL you’ve got, some are designed to be quite sturdy so that they can be used as outdoor lights. You can also get protectors if you want to be cautious. 


  • They take time to light fully – you’ll need 30 seconds to three minutes before the “kickstart” process of CFL lights finishes. Only then will you experience its whole shine. This disadvantage may also lead to shorter lifetimes for CFLs—the more often you flip the switch on and off, the less long the bulb lasts. 
  • Sensitivity to air and temperature – if you want CFL lights for outdoor use, you’ll have to pick carefully or provide protectors, as many of them are sensitive to external conditions. Thus, they’re best installed indoors. 
  • They contain toxic chemicals – CFL lights are composed of substances like mercury, which is dangerous to you and the environment, mainly when not disposed of properly. 
  • UV emissions – CFL lights rely on the generation of UV light to emit light. Thus, there will be some UV emission, which is unsuitable for specific items, like paintings. 

Are All LED Lights Energy-Efficient? 

Generally, all LED lights are energy-efficient, but not all of them may be Energy Star-certified. An Energy Star-certified light underwent intense assessment and met strict criteria. As a result, they are the lights you should buy to maximize energy savings. 

Final Thoughts 

LED bulbs are the best types of energy-saving lights. They are 90% better than traditional lighting, which translates to higher long-term energy savings. However, another cheaper, energy-saving option is CFL lights, which are better than incandescent but still inferior to LED. 


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