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

LED vs Fluorescent Tube Lights: What is the Difference?

If you've ever found yourself puzzled by the choice between LED and fluorescent tube lights, you're not alone.

Both of these types of lights have their unique characteristics and uses, which makes it harder to choose between them, but here's a hint: LED is the winner! 

In our LED vs fluorescent tube comparison chart breakdown guide, we aim to dispel any confusion, helping you to make an informed choice based on efficiency, lifespan, and environmental impact. So gear up for an illuminating journey as we delve into the nuances of these lighting solutions.

What is the difference between fluorescent and LED?

The main difference between LED and fluorescent lighting lies in their energy efficiency and lifespan. In general, LED lights are more energy-efficient and have a longer operational life compared to their fluorescent counterparts. LED lights convert nearly 90% of their energy into light, thus reducing energy waste.

On the other hand, fluorescent lights convert approximately 85% of the energy they use into light, with the rest lost as heat. This slight inefficiency results in greater energy consumption and higher utility costs over time. 

LED vs fluorescent tube comparison chart

The following table presents a detailed comparative analysis of LED and fluorescent tube lights.

This side by side comparison will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both lighting technologies, enabling you to make a well-informed decision on which suits your needs best.






8 to 12-watt produces 800 lumens

Would need a 32-watt tube to produce 800 lumens


Light Quality

High-quality, consistent light

Good quality, can degrade over time



25,000 to 50,000 hours

7,000 to 15,000 hours


Initial Outlay

Higher initial investment; cost-effective in the long-run

Lower initial cost



Higher efficiency, less energy consumption

Less efficient than LEDs



No hazardous materials. Doesn't emit heat.

Contains mercury, can be hazardous if broken. Emits some heat.


Cold Conditions

Performs well in cold

Performance can decrease in the cold


Design Flexibility

Highly flexible (size, shape, application)

Less flexible, size/shape constraints



Instant on

Requires warm-up time



Wide range of colors available

Limited color range


Fixture Compatibility

Compatible with many fixtures

May require specific fixtures


Switching Cycle

Handles frequent on/off cycles well

Reduced lifespan with frequent switching


Energy Savings

Higher long-term savings

Lower long-term savings


Overall Winner

Overall, LED is the more advantageous choice in most categories

Lower initial cost, but falls short in every other category



LED lights vs fluorescent brightness

Both LED and fluorescent lights can generate a substantial amount of luminosity. However, the way this brightness is utilized differs significantly between the two.

LEDs are known for their ability to produce a more focused and intense light. This is due to their design, which allows the light to be directed in a specific pathway or direction.

On the other hand, fluorescents emit a diffused light that spreads evenly in all directions, creating a broader area of illumination. 

Despite this, the brightness of LED lights is generally more potent than that of fluorescent lights. This is because LED technology can generate more lumens per watt, meaning that they can produce the same amount of light as fluorescent tubes while using less energy. This makes LEDs a highly efficient choice, particularly for spaces where directed, intense light is beneficial.

Winner: LED

The ability of LED lights to provide focused and more potent illumination, while simultaneously using less energy, makes them the superior choice.

For a more technical comparison of these two lighting solutions, we recommend checking out our complete guide on lumens to watts conversion.

LED light vs fluorescent light quality

LEDs have a significant advantage in this area due to their excellent color rendering index (CRI). CRI is a measure of a light source's accuracy in revealing the true color of objects compared to a natural light source. LEDs typically have a CRI rating of 80 to 90, which means they can display colors more accurately and vibrantly. 

Fluorescents, on the other hand, have a lower CRI, usually around 60 to 70. This means colors under fluorescent lighting may appear washed out or distorted, which is not ideal for spaces where color accuracy is crucial. Also, some people find the color of light produced by fluorescent tubes to be harsh or cold, which can create a less comfortable environment.

Winner: LED

With a high CRI, LED lights replicate colors authentically, providing a superior visual experience and making them the optimal choice for spaces where color rendering is essential.

a row of lightbulbs with difference brightness levels

Fluorescent vs LED tubes lifespan

LED tubes outshine fluorescent tubes in this aspect dramatically. The average lifespan of an LED tube is around 50,000 hours, which is nearly five times longer than the typical fluorescent tube, which lasts approximately 10,000 to 20,000 hours. 

The extended lifespan of LED tubes means less frequent replacements and reduced maintenance work, making them an ideal and economical choice for commercial spaces that require lighting for extended periods.

Additionally, LED tubes do not experience a sudden burnout like fluorescent tubes; instead, they gradually decrease their light output towards the end of their lifespan, thus giving ample warning and time for replacement.

Winner: LED

The impressive lifespan of LED tubes makes them a robust, economical, and sustainable lighting solution.. 

LED vs fluorescent cost

Initial purchase prices for fluorescent tubes are generally lower than for LEDs, which could be a deciding factor for some buyers. However, it's important to not only focus on the upfront cost but to also take into account the total cost of ownership, which includes energy consumption and maintenance over time.

In the long run, the fluorescent vs LED cost equation tends to lean favorably towards LEDs. Although LED lights may require a higher initial investment, their superior energy efficiency and extended lifespan more than compensate for the initial cost.

LED tubes typically consume less power and last significantly longer than their fluorescent counterparts, which means less frequent replacements and lower energy bills. 

Winner: LED

From a total cost of ownership perspective, LED is the clear winner. The energy efficiency and durability of LED lighting means it provides more value over time.

With FES Lighting, we forego the initial outlay for an LED upgrade! Get in touch with us for more information

Find Out More!

Additional reading: how much do LED lights cost.

LED vs fluorescent power consumption

LEDs convert almost 90% of their energy into light, with only a minimal amount being lost as heat, making them incredibly energy efficient.

On the other hand, fluorescent lights convert approximately 85% of their power into heat, so they're only slightly behind, but this still makes a difference over time.

Moreover, the ability of LEDs to direct their light in a single direction, unlike fluorescents which emit light (and waste energy) in all directions, further enhances their efficiency.

This attribute, coupled with the long lifespan of LEDs, can result in substantial energy and cost savings over time, making them a more sustainable and economical choice for long-term use. 

Winner: LED

Their superior efficiency, lower power consumption, and ability to channel light in a specific direction make them the optimal choice for any lighting scenario. 

Are LED lights safer than fluorescent lights?

Fluorescent lights contain gases like argon and mercury vapor, materials that are harmful if released into the environment — a scenario that can occur when a fluorescent tube breaks. Therefore, handling and disposing of these tubes requires careful attention to prevent exposure and contamination.

LED lights, by contrast, do not contain hazardous materials and are much safer to handle. Additionally, because LEDs operate at a lower temperature compared to fluorescent lights, they pose a reduced risk of causing fires or heat-related accidents.

Furthermore, another safety advantage of LED lights is their sturdiness. LEDs are solid-state lights (SSLs), meaning no glass is used in their design. This makes them more durable and resilient to breakage, further reducing the safety risks associated with handling and installation of lighting fixtures.

Winner: LED

In terms of safety, LEDs are free from harmful substances, operate at lower temperatures, and are more resilient to breakage, making them a safer, more eco-friendly choice for your lighting needs.

smashed light bulb on the floor

LED or fluorescent in cold conditions?

LEDs maintain a consistent brightness and performance regardless of temperature, making them a reliable choice for outdoor illumination, commercial fridges, or unheated warehouses. 

Fluorescents tend to struggle in colder conditions, with a noticeable drop in brightness and a longer warm-up period. This drop in performance can potentially compromise safety and productivity in commercial spaces. 

Winner: LED

Whether you're illuminating a chilly outdoor space or a refrigerated storage area, LED lights deliver consistent, top-tier performance that you can count on. 

Fluorescent lights vs LED design flexibility

LEDs excel in terms of design flexibility. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, which makes them adaptable to virtually any lighting situation.

Additionally, they can be dimmed to varying degrees, a feature that is not universally offered by fluorescent lights. This allows for the creation of varying moods and atmospheres, making LED lights a wise choice for spaces that require flexibility in their lighting design. 

Fluorescent lamps are more restrictive due to their size and shape. Their design options are limited, and they often do not support dimming, which can limit their usability in certain scenarios. 

Winner: LED

The variety of sizes and shapes with LEDs, along with their dimming capabilities, allow for a high degree of customization, making them suitable for any lighting situation. 

LED vs fluorescent tubes warmup

Fluorescent tubes are known for their delayed warm-up time, especially in cold conditions. It often takes several minutes for them to reach their full brightness.

LEDs require no warm-up time whatsoever. They reach their maximum brightness the moment they are switched on, eliminating waiting time. This instantaneous illumination can be crucial in many scenarios, such as in security lighting or in environments where immediate, full brightness is necessary for safety or productivity.

Winner: LED

LED lights' ability to provide instant, full brightness offers a clear practical advantage over fluorescent tubes. 

Fluorescent light vs LED light colors

LED lamps are available in a vast range of colors, which can be finely tuned to provide the exact lighting ambiance you desire.

Whether you're looking for a specific color temperature for a retail space, a vibrant color for a sign, or you simply want to adjust the mood in a workspace, LED lights can deliver.

Fluorescents are limited in their color offerings. While they can be manufactured to produce various color temperatures, they can't compete with the sheer range available from LED lights.

Additionally, the color rendering index of LED lights is generally superior to that of fluorescent lights, which can result in a more aesthetically pleasing environment.

Winner: LED

Opting for LED lighting will not only enhance the appearance of your spaces but also provide a more accurate, vivid, and customizable color experience.

Fixture Compatibility: Fluorescent vs LED

LEDs are designed to be highly compatible with a wide range of fixtures. Thanks to the innovative design strategies employed by LED manufacturers, these lights can be conveniently integrated into existing fixtures with little to no modification required.

This provides a seamless transition from conventional lighting systems to more modern, energy-efficient, and durable LED alternatives. 

On the contrary, fluorescents have a more restrictive compatibility range. They typically require specific types of fixtures, which can limit their utility and increase the complexity and cost of installation. This is particularly relevant when considering a lighting upgrade, as the replacement of fixtures can significantly add to the overall expense.

Winner: LED

Their seamless integration into a wide array of fixtures and ease of installation make LEDs a practical choice for those seeking to upgrade their lighting system.

Switching Cycle: Fluorescent vs LED

One often overlooked aspect in lighting is the switching cycle, which refers to the number of times a light can be turned on and off before it fails. This factor can significantly impact the lifespan and performance of your lighting solution.

LEDs are renowned for their long switching cycle. Unlike fluorescent lights, which tend to deteriorate with frequent on-off cycles, LED lights can withstand numerous switching cycles without any significant reduction in lifespan or performance. 

Winner: LED

LEDs' robust design and long switching cycle make them a reliable and cost-effective choice for any lighting situation. 

LED vs fluorescent energy savings

LED's high lumen output per wattage makes them a significantly more energy-efficient choice over fluorescent lights. They have the ability to produce a greater amount of light while using less energy, translating into considerable energy savings over the lifespan of the light. This efficiency is not just good for your utility bills—it’s also beneficial for the environment.

In any LED vs fluorescent lumens comparison, LEDs invariably come out on top.

Check out the table below for an idea of just how much money you can expect to save when you convert fluorescent to LED.

Brightness (Lumens)

Fluorescent cost/month

LED cost/month

Savings/month with LED






















Winner: LED

Not only do LEDs consume less energy, leading to lower utility bills, but their longer lifespan also means you're saving on maintenance and replacement costs in the long run.

If you want an accurate estimate of your potential savings, we recommend a commercial energy audit to assess your current lighting system and provide a tailored recommendation for an LED upgrade.

Are LED lights better than fluorescent? Our Key takeaways

It's quite evident that LED lights generally offer superior lighting performance across a broad range of parameters. However, the choice between LED and fluorescent lighting may depend on specific needs and circumstances. 

Where lights are rarely turned on or off, like in a warehouse, factory or busy office, the longer warm-up time and shorter switching cycle of fluorescent lights might not pose significant disadvantages. Likewise, if the initial cost is a major consideration, fluorescent lights, being cheaper upfront, might be a reasonable choice.

On the other hand, in situations requiring frequent on-off cycles, immediate illumination, a broad range of color options, or compatibility with a variety of fixtures, LED lights clearly stand out.

More importantly, if energy efficiency and long-term cost savings are priorities, LEDs are the obvious choice. While the initial cost of LED lights might be higher than that of fluorescent lights, the long-term savings in utility bills and maintenance costs can easily offset this initial expense.

If you're still unsure if LED is right for you, either get in touch with us or check out our LED vs fluorescent cost savings calculator.

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Are LEDs more efficient than fluorescent?

Yes, LED lights are indeed more efficient than fluorescent lights. They consume significantly less energy for the same lumen output, leading to substantial energy savings and a positive impact on the environment. Additionally, LED lights have a longer lifespan compared to traditional fluorescent lights, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

How much more efficient are LED lights than fluorescent?

LED lights are roughly 80% more efficient than fluorescent lights. This is primarily due to their high lumen output per watt, meaning they require less energy to emit the same amount of light. This efficiency results in significant energy and cost savings over time when compared to fluorescent lighting.

What about fluorescent light bulbs vs LED?

Fluorescent light bulbs (which are essentially tubes molded into the shape of bulbs) and LED lights differ mainly in efficiency, durability, and environmental impact. LED lights are superior, consuming less energy, having a longer lifespan, and are environmentally friendlier, as fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, which is harmful to the environment.

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

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