CFL vs Halogen vs LED

July 1, 2016

Making choices in a changing lighting market

Now that incandescent light bulbs belong to the history books, building owners and city officials must choose between compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen and light-emitting diode (LED) lamps to illuminate built and natural environments.


Current, powered by GE, looks at each technology and explains why LED is emerging the clear winner in most cases:



CFLs contain mercury gas that produces invisible ultraviolet (UV) light when the gas is excited by electricity. When the UV light contacts the white coating inside the bulb, it becomes visible light.

Best Applications:

Anywhere lighting is left on for extended periods of time and where full brightness is not immediately necessary, such as in offices or common areas.

Key Features:
  • Can last eight-to-10 times longer than incandescent bulbs
  • Can use 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs
  • At an energy rate of $.11/kWh, replacing a 60-watt incandescent with a 13-watt CFL can save more than $40 in energy costs over the life of a bulb (for those with an 8,000-hour life rate)
  • Available in different sizes and shapes to fit almost any fixture
  • Most generate the same light output in the same color range as a traditional incandescent
  • Some operate off of a delayed start and can take up to three minutes to reach full light output
Also Consider:

CFLs were the first viable alternative to standard incandescent lamps, but many buyers continue to complain about warm up time, light quality and dimmability. Believing that LEDs can do more, and that fewer choices can benefit consumers best, GE will exit the CFL market in North America in 2017.



Halogen bulbs have a tungsten filament just like incandescent bulbs, but halogen bulbs also are filled with halogen gas. When the bulb is lit, tungsten from the filament is evaporated into the bulb’s gas, providing illumination. The halogen gas then carries the evaporated tungsten particles back to the filament and re-deposits them. This creates lower energy use for the bulb.

Best Applications:

Display lighting where users want to spotlight merchandise or outdoor applications where bright light is needed; office lamps.

Key Features:
  • Many are 10-20 percent more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs
  • Instant start (halogens do not experience the delayed warm-up associated with CFLs)
  • Fully dimmable
  • Produces a bright, crisp light



LEDs are light sources that become illuminated by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material.

Best Applications:

Virtually all indoor, outdoor and roadway applications where incandescent was traditionally found, especially where lights are left on for extended periods and changing bulbs is not easily done. Also fitting in linear applications, such as under cabinet lighting, where light sources with thin profiles are needed.

Key Features:
  • Can use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent
  • Can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent and halogen, and up to three times longer than most CFLs
  • Instant start
  • Cooler to the touch
  • Robust (no filament to break)
  • Small LED chips allow for more compact, design-forward fixtures, as well as the illumination in tight areas
  • Most emit light in a specific direction, versus in all directions, but Current’s traditionally shaped LED bulbs are omnidirectional (designed to emit light all around, like a standard incandescent light bulb)

Why LED is leading

LEDs have come to prominence in the market, and the potential for more is at hand. While CFL and halogen lamps won’t disappear overnight, more customers are choosing LED, and not just for energy and maintenance savings.

Smart LED lamps and fixtures are enabling intelligent environments all over the world. Lighting forms a ubiquitous network for deploying digital infrastructure—LED lamps with built-in sensors and transmitters can capture “data in the world” that helps businesses and cities run more efficiently and effectively.

When comparing CFL to halogen to LED, it is perhaps most important to remember everything else lighting can do now that incandescent has gone away.


Explore what’s possible with smart LED and other technologies for retail and commercial offices with Current, powered by GE.


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