The days of incandescent bulbs are numbered – and have been for some time. The question many people ask is whether to replace these bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescents (CFLs).

But before you make such a decision, you need to bear a key issue in mind. LED lighting is improving fast, while CFLs have stayed much the same. As a result, CFLs look set to become a transitional technology, bridging the gap between incandescent bulbs and LEDs.

CFLs have been a useful, cheap alternative to incandescent bulbs. But they don’t always last as long as the 6,000-15,000 hours manufacturers claim. LEDs consistently keep going for up to 50,000 hours.

Brightness is another concern. CFLs can lose brightness more quickly than you expect. Some reflector CFLs used for recessed lighting become 25% less effective halfway through their lives. LEDs don’t have this problem.

And apart from reliability, CFLs aren’t good for the environment. They contain mercury. When you dispose of CFLs, you must act with care. LEDs, however, are mercury-free.

The most telling problem with CFLs, though, is the lack of development. LEDs, on the other hand, are available in an expanding variety of bulb shapes and sizes. This means you can install LED bulbs in most standard fittings on a 240-volt circuit.

With LED bulbs, you also benefit from better energy savings compared to CFLs. This is because CFLs use 9-11 watts of energy, and LEDs use 4-6 watts. And if you want to cut your LED energy costs further, you can change to 12-volt lighting circuits.  What’s more, LEDs are more convenient than CFLs. They come on instantly. With CFLs, you can wait a second or two before the bulb gains its full strength.

And there’s one further important benefit to LEDs: they’re more versatile than CFLs. You can use LED panels, strip lights and colour-changing bulbs to create attractive lighting effects around the home.

There’s no doubt CFLs have helped cut energy costs. They have pointed the way to a new future for lighting. But it’s the LEDs that are taking over as the leader in the energy-saving lighting field.

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