The ground is sticky with soda and old chewing gum. Hot lights beat down on a square boxing ring, and on all sides the crowds murmur and cheer with excitement. A bespectacled referee clutching a clipboard paces in the middle of the ring. In the left corner sits an LED bulb, looking strangely like an inverted octopus, and in the right corner flickers a CFL, reminiscent of those curly Cheetos that were so much fun (why can't you find those anymore?)
Wait, you may say, I thought CFLs were the latest-and-greatest in light bulb
And you are right: more and more stores are stocking CFLs only, and soon incandescent bulbs will be all but obsolete. But it's no secret by now that CFLs are not the perfect light bulb. Below we will discuss some of their more undesirable qualities and explore the coming usurper of the CFL's throne, the LED (those acronyms are Compact Fluorescent Light bulb and Light Emitting Diode, respectively), and it's more efficient by a long shot. Let's take a look at some facts:
An average LED light bulb can last anywhere from 30,000-50,000 hours. Contrast that with the very best of CFLs, with an average lifetime of 8,000-10,000 hours, and in terms of lifespan there's no contest. (Should we even mention the incandescent light bulb, with an average lifespan of only 750 hours?)
Now let's talk about safety. The only unsafe thing about your average incandescent light bulb is the sharp glass if it breaks (and of course the whole electricity thing). For this reason, many people become uncomfortable when they discover what is inside a compact fluorescent light bulb: mercury.
A broken CFL can release a small quantity of mercury, and the broken glass will also be contaminated. Contrast this with LEDs, which are very difficult to break and any trace amounts of toxic chemicals are contained within the hard glass and plastic, so the only hurdle is proper disposal for the long-term sake of the environment.
So why aren't we seeing more LED light bulbs being phased in to replace the CFLs? Well, to put it simply, LEDs are still expensive. A web search produces results with an average price of about $18.50 per bulb. CFLs, by contrast, can be purchased for about $2.50 a piece (or less). So currently, the return on investment is more significant for CFLs (assuming you use them in areas where you are not turning the bulbs on and off several times a day, which will significantly decrease their lifespan.) But the market is changing fast, and within a few years we can expect to see LED bulbs at a much more affordable price. And when we do, the choice will be obvious. Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
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