Home » Tips » Which Light Bulb Is Better – LED or Fluorescent?

Which Light Bulb Is Better – LED or Fluorescent?

If you buy something through a link in our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.

We have all been in the dilemma of buying a LED or Fluorescent light bulb.  Depending on your unique needs and budget, you might be wondering which of these two is the best fit. So, which light bulb is better – LED or Fluorescent? 

Which Light Bulb Is Better – LED Or Fluorescent?

If you are looking for a lighting system to perform standard lighting functions, either will be just perfect. However, if you are looking for extra functionality for specific places and events, you will need to factor in a few things.  

Below is a feature comparison of LEDs and fluorescents to outline significant distinctive advantages and disadvantages that set the two apart. 

Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are also known as the High-Intensity Discharge (HID) or Arc lights. While most Fluorescent bulbs come in tubes (between 48 to 84 inches in lengths), these lamps are much smaller. While they are still fluorescent tubes, they come in different shapes and are more compact hence their name, Compact Fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.

CFL’s initial design and purpose were to replace the traditional incandescent bulbs since they are more efficient and longer-lasting. 

LED light bulb

How Fluorescent Bulbs Work

Fluorescent bulbs emit light in a series of electrical charges. First, they convert the UV emissions with fluorescent coating inside the casing. Electrical charges run through the inert mercury gas inside to produce ultraviolet radiation inside the glass casing.

Fluorescent lights require initial ignitions to get started. That is where the voltage pulse comes into play. While smaller lamps require a smaller voltage, the intensity increases with the size of the light. This pulse comes from the third electrode or the additional metal parts found inside the tube.

As the bulb continues to light, it demands additional voltage to continue running. This extra voltage requirement and balance comes from an electric device (magnetic device in older version) known as ballast.

How Efficient Are Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are less efficient with continued usage and require additional voltage to emit the same lumen output. They require more and more voltage supply to maintain its productivity as it ages until the voltage supply exceeds its ballast resistance, and it dies. 

Initially, fluorescent lights needed a slight warm-up period to evaporate the gas inside into plasma, yet innovation has changed this mechanism. Modern fluorescents apply near-instantaneous technology; they have quick-start, instant-start, and rapid-start. 

LED Light Bulbs

LED is an acronym that stands for Light Emitting Diodes. The lighting system draws its functionality from a semi-conductive material electrical component (diodes) with anode and cathodes.

How LED Bulbs Work

When you connect LED bulbs to a power source, current flows in one direction. It gets in through the anode and out of the system through the cathode. This continuous flow of current through the diode activates the forward bias mechanism that emits visible light from your LED bulb. 

Similarities Between LEDs And Fluorescent Lightings 

The following are some of the most notable similarities between these two lighting technologies.

Both Produce Uv Radiations

Contrary to what you might have heard, LEDs have small traces of Ultraviolet radiation. The UV comes from the reaction of phosphors to produce white light. 

Fluorescent light bulbs are artificial sources of UV radiation that cause leathery skins to humans and fade dye and paint to areas exposed to the light. They produce UV radiation from electrical charges inside the glass.

Both Are Available In Various Colors

Both fluorescent and the LED bulbs can produce a wide range of light colors except that the mechanisms differ. LEDs use color temperatures between 2200k and 6000k to create a mix of the primary colors, red, green, and blue. 

Fluorescent bulbs, however, change the number of phosphors to adjust CCT values to various colors.

Ceiling lights

Both Have Dimming Options

LED bulbs give you options to lower or raise the forward currents or adjust the pulse duration. By doing so, you can get any percentage of light you want from 0.5% to 100%. They are ideal to use in events and places that require different light intensity. 

You can also dim modern fluorescent bulbs up to 15% of its standard light.

Differences Between LEDs And Fluorescent Light Bulbs

While these two light bulbs share some similarities, there are a few features that set them apart. We discuss some of their differences below. 

Mercury Traces

Fluorescent bulbs contain both mercury and phosphor which are toxic to both humans and the environment. The two materials make the fluorescent bulb non-biodegradable and harmful to dispose of at the end of its lifespan. 

When the bulb breaks, it releases mercury traces into the air while the rest of this toxic material remains in the glass pieces. 

The most significant advantage of LEDs over fluorescent bulbs is the absence of mercury and hazardous glass material. They are safe to use and do not pose environmental challenges whatsoever, as the material is biodegradable.

Effects of Switching Off And On

The lifespan of any standard fluorescent bulb is about 10,000 hours. You risk shortening this lifespan by frequently switching your tubes on and off over time. The bulb’s burning life is longer if your bulb remains on for extended periods.

On the other hand, constantly turning your LED bulb on and off does not affect its functionality in any way. The burning life of LEDs remains the same unless they malfunction due to unavoidable circumstances. 

Warm-Up Period

While the modern fluorescent tubes have gone through a series of innovations to boost its warm-up period, it remains a point of concern with older models. When you switch them on, they do not instantly reach full brightness until the gas evaporates into plasma. 

The latest fluorescent lighting technologies have only made them near-instantaneous, which means they still need some warm-up period.

LED Bulbs do not have warm-up periods. They are instantaneous, meaning that they reach full brightness immediately you switch them on. 

Direction Of Light

Fluorescent light bulbs are omnidirectional (produce light in 360 degrees). That is why some people cover their fluorescent bulbs or tubes with reflectors to help direct the light-rays to a specific area. Such is an example of the extra costs that may come with these lights.  

LED bulbs produce directional light at 180 degrees. The advantage of this is that you use all the light available. The unidirectionality also makes LED brighter without needing additional accessories like reflectors; they are 70% brighter. 


The burning life of LEDs is longer than that of any lighting technology out there.  The latest LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, while fluorescents only go for around 10,000 hours. LED bulbs often have a 5 to 10 years warranty while fluorescents have only 1-2 years.

Apart from the burning life, LED bulbs are solid-state lights (SSLs), making them difficult to destroy by physical shocks. Fluorescent bulbs, on the other hand, are fragile and can break with even slight turbulence. 

Fluorescent light

When To Use Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Below are some situations which might require you to use fluorescent as opposed to LED light bulbs. 

When You Don’t Need To Switch Your Light On And Off Frequently

The best places to use fluorescent lights are sizable commercial areas, schools, and warehouses that need 24/7 use of lights. In such sites, lights do not go off, whether it is day or night. With such usage, they can utilize the full 10,000 burning life of the bulb.

When You Don’t Mind Using Omnidirectional Light

Sometimes you need a light source to get rid of the gloomy darkness in the room. In such situations, you can always pick fluorescent bulbs since they can illuminate the whole room as opposed to emitting light in a specific direction. 

When To Use LED Bulbs

If you find yourself in any of the following scenarios, we recommend that you use LED light bulbs instead of fluorescent ones. 

When You Want An Environmentally Conscious Lighting Option

The absence of mercury from LED bulbs make them friendly to the ecosystem and safe to dispose of when they reach the end of their burning lifespan. Also, you do not need to worry about inhaling mercury when you break an LED bulb. 

When You Want To Use Your Lights Along With Motion Sensors

Motion sensors require instantaneous lights and turn on and off in quick succession like LEDs. Therefore, if you plan to have such devices installed in your room, workplace, or an event, we recommend installing LED bulbs rather than fluorescents. This characteristic is what makes LEDs ideal for traffic lighting systems. 

When You Want A Variety Of Lighting Colors

You will get an LED that produces light in any color that you can ever desire. Whether you want that perfect color mixture for your Christmas decorations or you need to set up the mood in your bedroom, LED bulbs always get you covered. 

When You Want To Concentrate Your Light On A Particular Area

Since LEDs produce lights in 180 degrees, they are ideal if you desire to focus your light over a target area and make use of the entire lumens. 

When You Favor Lifetime Cost Over Upfront Costs

While fluorescent bulbs have a lower purchase price than LED bulbs, they tend to be costly in the long run. They have a short lifespan and are fragile, so you may need to replace them frequently. On the other hand, LED bulbs are more durable and have a longer burning life. 

When You Want A Weather Tolerant Lighting Option

LED bulbs are both heat and cold tolerant; they can also withstand winter weather conditions. Such traits make them an ideal lighting solution for outdoor purposes. However, we recommend that if you want to use LED bulbs in winter or extreme conditions, use a visor or other orientations to shield them from wind and snow that may affect their functionality. 

Final Verdict

From our discussion above, it is evident that fluorescent bulbs have become more efficient with time, yet LEDs are still better and continue to offer more innovations and improvements. With almost every positive aspect that fluorescent bulbs have, LEDs have a better one. 

From longer lifespans, efficiency, directional light issues to environmental friendliness.  We, therefore, recommend that you get LED light bulbs as opposed to fluorescent ones.