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Gabriela Anez-Lobon
By Gabriela Anez-Lobon on October 30, 2023

Incandescent vs LED Light Bulbs: What is the difference?

Comparing incandescent vs LED light bulbs can easily confuse both businesses and consumers, making it hard to grasp the benefits of each. This uncertainty leads to poor decisions, driving up energy use and costs.

As a result, many end up with outdated, power-hungry incandescent bulbs, unknowingly causing high bills and environmental harm. 

But fear not, as our guide will help you make wise lighting choices.

By illuminating the complexities of these technologies, we aim ensure your space is not just brilliantly lit but also energy-efficient and budget-friendly.

What is the difference between incandescent and LED lights?

The main difference between LED and incandescent lights lies in their fundamental technology and energy efficiency. Incandescent lights use a filament that heats up to produce light, while LED lights operate by passing an electric current through a microchip, illuminating tiny sources called LEDs.

Incandescent vs LED lights comparison chart

To simplify your decision-making process, we have curated a comprehensive incandescent vs LED lights comparison chart.

This chart provides an in-depth analysis of LED compared to incandescent bulbs, highlighting the essential factors you shoul0d compare before making your decision:

Comparison Incandescent  LED Winner
Brightness 60-watt delivers about 800 lumens 8 to 12-watt produces 800 lumens LED
Light quality Warm, soft glow, ideal for ambient settings Aesthetic ambiance Tie
Lifespan Approx. 1,000 hours 25,000 to 50,000 hours, or even more LED
Initial outlay Lower upfront cost Higher initial investment. Cost-effective in the long-run Tie (but LED with us!)
Efficiency 10-20% efficiency 80-90% efficiency LED
Safety Produces a significant amount of heat Emits very little heat LED
Cold conditions Struggles in low temperatures Can perform well on cold climates LED
Design flexibility Limited  Versatile LED
Warm-up Requires a warm-up before reaching maximum brightness Lights up instantly LED
Colors Limited options for different hues Available in a diverse range of colors LED
Savings Expensive Cost-efficient LED
Overall winner     LED

Incandescent vs LED brightness

Incandescent bulbs traditionally produce a warm, yellowish light, measured in watts. For example, a 60-watt incandescent light bulb delivers about 800 lumens, which is the standard measure of brightness.

LEDs, on the other hand, achieve the same brightness with significantly fewer watts. A typical 8 to 12-watt LED bulb produces 800 lumens, making them around 5 to 6 times more energy-efficient than incandescents. 

Winner: LED

LED lights can achieve similar or higher brightness levels compared to incandescent bulbs while consuming significantly less energy. This energy efficiency makes LEDs the more practical and environmentally friendly choice. 

LED vs incandescent light quality

LED and incandescent bulbs provide unique lighting experiences. Incandescents emit a warm, soft glow, ideal for ambient settings. LEDs have advanced to replicate this warmth, offering options like "soft white," providing a similar aesthetic ambiance. Both options cater to diverse preferences, balancing functionality and aesthetics in modern lighting solutions.

Winner: LED

Incandescent bulbs emit a warm, soft glow, but LEDs have come a long way in replicating this warmth. If you're debating between LED vs incandescent lighting for light quality, LED is the top choice. It provides the same warm ambiance as incandescent bulbs but at a lower cost and with far greater energy efficiency.

Incandescent light bulb vs LED lifespan

Incandescent bulbs have a relatively short lifespan, typically around 1,000 hours.

In contrast, LED bulbs are exceptionally durable, with a lifespan ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 hours or even more.

In terms of longevity, incandescent bulbs need frequent replacements, while LEDs can endure for decades under normal usage.

Winner: LED

LEDs' extended lifespan not only reduces maintenance hassles but also significantly cuts down on the number of bulbs discarded. 

Initial outlay of incandescent bulbs vs LED

Incandescents have a lower upfront cost, making them the best option for budget-conscious consumers.

However, despite the higher initial investment, LED bulbs prove to be more cost-effective in the long run. 

Winner: Tie

The decision hinges on whether the consumer prioritizes immediate savings or is willing to invest in LEDs for greater long-term benefits.

However, with an LED lighting upgrade with FES, there's no initial outlay.

Find Out More!

Efficiency of LED vs incandescent bulbs

The contrast in LED efficiency vs incandescent bulbs becomes evident when examining their energy use.

LEDs operate at an impressive 80-90% efficiency, emitting light and generating minimal heat, showcasing the superiority of LED vs incandescent energy use.

In contrast, incandescents lose 80-90% of their energy as heat, making them only 10-20% efficient.

Winner: LEDs 

LED bulbs emerge as the clear winner due to their impressive efficiency rate of 80-90%. Despite the fact that LED has lower lumens per watt as compared to incandescent lamps, LED technology excels in converting energy into light while minimizing heat wastage.

row of light bulbs with one different from the others

Additional reading: lumens to watts guide

Are LED lights safer than incandescent?

LED lights are generally considered safer than incandescent bulbs due to their lower operating temperature. Incandescents produce a significant amount of heat, posing a fire risk if they come into contact with flammable materials. 

In contrast, LEDs emit very little heat, reducing the risk of burns or fire hazards. Additionally, LED bulbs do not contain hazardous materials like mercury, which is present in some types of incandescent bulbs.

Winner: LED

LED lights vs incandescent in cold conditions

Incandescent bulbs struggle in low temperatures, causing delays in reaching full brightness and reducing their overall efficiency.

LEDs operate efficiently even in freezing temperatures. They start instantly and maintain their brightness. 

Winner: LED

LED lights are the top choice for cold climates. Whether it's enduring frigid winters or lighting up cold storage spaces, LED lights consistently perform well in low temperatures, making them the preferred option for various cold scenarios.

Incandescent lights vs LED design flexibility

LEDs come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing for creative and versatile lighting designs. They can be integrated into sleek furniture, used for intricate lighting setups, or even shaped into innovative designs.

In contrast, incandescents are limited in their flexibility due to their larger size and limited color options. 

Winner: LED

The compact size and customizable nature of LEDs give you the freedom to experiment with lighting schemes, making them the preferred choice for projects.

LED bulb vs incandescent warm-up

LEDs light up instantly, providing full brightness the moment you switch it on.

Incandescent light bulbs, on the other hand, require a brief warm-up period before reaching their maximum brightness. This delay is due to the time it takes for the filament inside the bulb to heat up and emit light. 

Winner: LED

Incandescent bulb vs LED colors

Incandescents emit a warm, yellowish light, limiting options for different hues.

In contrast, LEDs are available in a diverse range of colors, including cool whites, warm whites, and vibrant shades across the spectrum. 

Winner: LED

LED light vs incandescent savings

Choosing LED lights over incandescent translates into substantial savings in the long run.

Below is a comparative table illustrating the cost per month for both incandescent and LED lights, as well as the savings associated with opting for LED technology:

Brightness (Lumens) Incandescent cost/month LED cost/month Savings/month with LED
400-500 $1.54 $0.25 $1.29
650-850 $2.30 $0.33 $1.97
1000-1400 $2.88 $0.49 $2.39
1450-1700+ $3.84 $0.66 $3.18
2700+ $5.76 $1.03 $4.73


Additional reading: cost of LED lights

Winner: LED

LEDs stand out for their exceptional energy efficiency, converting more electricity into light and minimizing energy wastage as heat. This efficiency translates into significant monthly savings, making LEDs the practical and cost-effective choice for mindful consumers.

If you want to accurately measure your savings, consider using our LED vs incandescent calculator to assess the long-term savings of upgrading to LED technology.

Thinking woman in glasses looking up with light idea bulb above head isolated on gray wall background-1

How to tell if a light bulb is LED or incandescent

Firstly, check the label or packaging: LED bulbs are clearly marked as such.

Additionally, observe the bulb's appearance while off. LEDs typically have a cluster of small diodes, whereas incandescents have a visible filament. 

When lit, LEDs emit an instant, bright light, while incandescents often have a warm-up time and a softer glow. 

Lastly, consider the heat emitted during use: LEDs remain cool, while incandescents can become hot.

Which is better, incandescent or LED? Final points

So, is LED better than incandescent? Pretty much, yes... the choice boils down to individual needs and priorities.

For those with budget constraints and a preference for immediate savings, incandescent bulbs might seem tempting due to their lower upfront costs. However, when considering the long-term financial impact and energy efficiency, LEDs clearly emerge as the superior choice.

Having said that, if you upgrade to LED with us here at FES, there's no upfront costs.

Find Out More!

LEDs' significantly lower energy consumption translates into substantial savings on electricity bills, making them a prudent investment over time. Moreover, their durability and longevity mean fewer replacements, reducing both hassle and environmental impact.

While incandescents might still find relevance in specific contexts, such as creating a specific ambiance, overall, LED is better than incandescent due to its energy efficiency, longevity, and environmental friendliness, aligning with the modern emphasis on sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

LED vs regular light bulbs: upgrade your business to the clear winner!

One surefire way to enhance your operational efficiency and cut down costs is by transitioning from traditional incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LED lights.

When comparing LED lights vs regular lights, LEDs emerge as the superior choice. 

They offer brilliant illumination while significantly slashing energy bills, giving your business a competitive edge in terms of both savings and environmental responsibility. 

Ready to upgrade? 

If you're considering this transition, Future Energy Solutions can help. Our energy auditing checklist is tailored to assess your specific needs to ensure a seamless LED upgrade for your business. 

Take the first step towards a brigher and more energy-efficient future. Contact us today!

Schedule a Call


Is incandescent the same as LED?

No, incandescent and LED are different lighting technologies. Incandescent bulbs use a wire filament heated to a high temperature to produce light, while LEDs (light-emitting diodes) use semiconductor diodes to emit light when an electric current passes through them. LEDs are more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than incandescents.

What is incandescent light?

Incandescent light is produced by a wire filament inside a bulb that glows white-hot when an electric current passes through it. This high temperature causes the filament to emit visible light. Incandescent bulbs have been a traditional source of lighting, widely used in households for decades.

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Published by Gabriela Anez-Lobon October 30, 2023
Gabriela Anez-Lobon

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