Are LED and CFL Lightbulbs Interchangeable?

Over recent years, there has been massive advances in technology providing new options for how to light up our homes.

In the past, everyone used the traditional incandescent lightbulb because there was no other choice, but now we have alternatives to pick from; including light emitting diodes (LED) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).

The names sound fancy and exciting, but how do we really know which bulb is the best to have in our home? Whether you are renovating your house or simply looking to replace one old lightbulb that has recently blown, choosing the right one is an important decision. Most importantly, are they interchangeable?

Yes, LED and CFL lightbulbs are interchangeable because they can be used in the same fixtures. No alterations are required and you can quickly and easily switch between the two different types of lightbulb. If you already have both types of bulbs in your home, you will have no problems changing them around to suit your needs. 

But now you know they are interchangeable which one should you choose? In this article, I will also go onto explain which bulb you should go for when you have the choice?

It does make a big difference which one you decide to purchase for many other reasons that I will now explain.

Technically, both types of lightbulb can be used for the same purpose- lighting up a room- and will appear to give the same outcome to someone who hasn’t done their research.

However, if you start to delve a little deeper, you quickly realize just how different they actually are. As soon as you compare them point for point, they are not ‘interchangeable’ at all.

This answer may have left you feeling more confused than before! Keep reading to find out why LEDs should be the lightbulb of choice. By the end you will feel confident as to which one you would rather be spending money on to have in your home. Lighting a house can be expensive, so you want to make sure that you are properly informed and spending your money in the most sensible way. 

Why Are LEDs Better Than CFL Lightbulbs?

The list is a long one! But first, it is important to understand the basic differences of each technology:

  • Incandescent bulbs are the familiar pear-shaped or round screw-in light bulbs that have been around since Thomas Edison perfected the carbon filament bulb in 1879.
  • LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are a newer technology. Once only available as a longish tube, bulbs now come in nearly every shape and size, including flexible ropes for decorating.
  • CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs are commonly made as a spiral tube connected to a screw-in ballast or base. Newer technology replaces the curly light bulb with one that looks like the traditional incandescent bulb. They also now come in round and flame shapes.

More Energy Efficient

Energy efficient lightbulb technology has developed quickly over recent years.

Globally, people became aware of the importance of living more sustainably by making small changes in their day to day lives- this helped to speed up the production of more environmentally friendly products to fit with consumer demand.

In an incandescent bulb, electricity passes through a filament that gets so hot that it produces light. About 95% of the energy is wasted as heat, with only 5% of it going toward light.

Incandescent bulbs are still on the market today, but the benefits of newer technology are quickly enticing people to make the switch to more energy-efficient alternatives.

In CFL bulbs, an electric current flows between two electrodes at the ends of a gas-filled tube coated in phosphor. When energy hits this coating, it changes into light.

The reaction takes between three and 30 seconds to start, which is why you experience a delay when you first turn on a CFL light.

CFLs use 25-35% less energy than traditional, incandescent light bulbs use and still release about 80% of their energy as heat. This is good, but not the best.

LED bulbs produce light when energy is passed through a semiconductor in a way that produces visible light through electroluminescence.

LEDs use a massive 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs use. This means that LED bulbs are incredibly energy efficient. They also emit very little to no energy as heat, which increases their efficiency even more. LED light bulbs are your best bet for reducing your energy bill and helping to protect the planet.


Longer Lasting

LEDs have an amazing lifespan- they can last up to 50,000 hours, which is roughly 11.5 years based on average use!

In comparison, CFL bulbs will give you around 10,000 hours. LED lightbulbs are also more durable, they can even fall on the floor and will not break.  CFL bulbs are the opposite – they are quite fragile and commonly break.

The clear choice here, once again, is the LED bulbs when it comes to lifespan and durability.

Better Light Quality

LEDs come in a variety of colour options not available to CFL bulbs. This allows you to choose the perfect colour for different rooms and atmospheres.

They can also be used in conjunction with dimmer switches, so you can create the ideal ambiance. 

No Harmful Chemicals 

CFL lightbulbs contain mercury which, if inhaled,  is a very harmful substance to humans and animals.

Because it contains a toxic substance it is also more difficult to dispose of. LEDs are a safer option as they do not contain this dangerous chemical. 


In the long run LEDs work out cheaper than CFLs.

They do have a slightly higher initial cost, but the technology pays the customer back in the long run by saving them on maintenance costs and energy saving improvements.

CFL lightbulbs will have to replaced more often and will have a higher electricity cost. 

Turn on Straight Away

When you turn on an LED it reaches full brightness straight away- no waiting and no changing of brightness.

CFL lightbulbs can take up to one minute to warm up. This may only seem like a small difference, but it is another factor that makes it more worthwhile to purchase an LED over a CFL. 


LED lights don’t make any noise, they are silent.

CFLs require the use of a ballast to stabilise the internal current that produces light. When the ballast has a minor imperfection or is damaged, the light can produce an audible buzzing noise- obviously not a desirable feature of  a lightbulb!

Will LEDs Put CFLs Out of Business?

As good as CFL efficiency has become, LED is better and continues to improve at a rapid pace.

CFLs are a big step up from incandescent lights, but LED lights are better again!

Over time, as more people switch out their lights for new ones, it is likely that CFLs will become less frequently purchased and eventually put out of business by LEDs.

The shortcomings of CFLs are numerous and they now even fail to meet the standards of some governments. Big manufacturers, such as general electric, have already announced that they will phase out the manufacturing of CFLs in favor of the more energy-efficient LEDs.

The focus on sustainability will push consumers towards using the most energy-efficient option, which at the moment is LEDs. 

The Winner

LEDs win in all of the categories, making them the best lightbulb of choice. The next time you are looking to buy a new lightbulb you will know with confidence which one to pick. So what are you waiting for?! Make the switch to LED lightbulbs now and reap the benefits. 

Rob Wreglesworth

Rob is the head writer at Innovate Eco sharing knowledge and passion cultivated over 10 years working in the Environmental Sector. He is on a mission to build a community of people that are passionate about solving environmental problems.

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