LED vs Halogen, CFL, or Tungsten: Which Bulbs Are Better?

Posted by Birddog Lighting on Oct 9th 2018

LED vs Halogen, CFL, or Tungsten: Which Bulbs Are Better?

LED bulb prices have dropped 85% over the last few years. Combined with long-term energy savings of thousands of dollars, LED bulbs are enticing.

When it’s time to replace the light bulbs in your home, you have a choice to make. You could choose LED, halogen, CFL, or tungsten.

LED bulbs have a higher up-front cost but save you money long term. Halogen and CFL bulbs are cheaper but also less efficient.

We’re going to help you compare led vs halogen, CFL, and tungsten. We’ll look at how they function, energy consumption, and lifespan.

Let’s dive in!


LED bulbs produce light by passing an electrical current through them. They’re the most energy efficient and last the longest.

How It Works

Two semiconductors create the light in an LED. One has electrons and the other has holes. The current passes through the two of these semiconductors.

When this happens, the electrons and holes combine to create photons. This is where the light comes from.

This reaction needs and creates the least amount of heat. This gives them the ability to last longer and work in cold temperatures.

How Long They Last

A single LED bulb can last 50,000 hours. You could go years before ever thinking about replacing your Christmas lights.

The Light Produced

The light produced by an LED contains no infrared or ultraviolet light. You would have to buy an LED meant for this light if that’s what you wanted.

You can find LED bulbs in a variety of light colors. Choose from amber, cool tones, warm tones, or pure white light.


Halogen light bulbs are like incandescent bulbs but with some key differences. There’s a tungsten filament, but they also have halogen gas.

How It Works

The gas and tungsten mix together and go back onto the filament. This makes the bulb last longer.

It also makes the bulb run at a higher temperature. The higher temperature makes it have a brighter light output.

The bulb has an outer envelope made of quartz instead of glass. The quartz handles the increased heat better.


Compact fluorescent lamps save energy with the hope of replacing incandescent light bulbs. The base of these bulbs fit into fixtures meant for incandescent bulbs.

How It Works

A CFL bulb produces light by passing an electrical current between two electrodes. There’s an electrode placed at each end of the tube.

The gas-filled tube contains the reaction between the current and the gas. The combination creates ultraviolet light and heat.

This creation converts to light when it comes into contact with the phosphor coating. The whole process can take 30 seconds to 3 minutes to complete.


Over time, your CFL bulb will dim. After about 4,000 hours, you’ll lose 20-25% of the bulb’s lumens. This is about halfway through a CFL’s 10,000-hour lifespan.


You probably are more familiar with the name incandescent. These bulbs are the least efficient and are going through a phase-out.

Incandescent bulbs are glass instead of quartz. Inside you’ll find a brittle filament wire.

How It Works

Inside each bulb is a small wire. As an electric current flows through this filament, it heats up and glows.

Heat then radiates out like it would in a space heater. A small amount of this heat converts to light.

When the light is on, the heat produced burns the tungsten filament. This burning continues until the filament breaks and the bulb is “dead”.


As of 2012, the first phase of the federal government’s regulations went into effect. These regulations set maximum wattage requirements for bulbs produced.

In 2020, the second round of regulations will take effect. This phase will mandate all general-purpose bulbs to be at least 45 watts.

LED vs Halogen

You’ll find that halogen bulbs come in wide variety of shapes and sizes. They’re most commonly used as spotlights and floodlights.

When comparing halogen vs led lights, halogen bulbs produce a lot of infrared and ultraviolet radiation. They also produce a ton of heat.

The high amount of heat makes it possible to get burned if you touch one. Cold temperatures also reduce their ability to function.

Unlike LEDs, touching a halogen bulb can cause it to malfunction. Skin oil will cause the bulb to stop working or even burst.

The light you get from a halogen bulb is a cooler white light. You can expect to get 3,600 hours of light from a halogen bulb.


You’ll notice that CFL light bulbs have a spiraled curly look to them. While LED bulbs are long and straight.

CFL bulbs use a quarter of the energy that incandescent bulbs once used. LEDs beat this by using 75% less energy.

LED bulbs contain no mercury or harmful gasses or toxins. They also don’t have a brittle filament or delicate outer casing.

LED vs Incandescent

Incandescent bulbs cannot come close to LEDs when it comes to efficiency. They only use about 10% of the energy they consume to make light.

That means 90% of the energy consumed gets wasted. So much used energy and the bulb only lasts 1,200 hours.

The light produced isn’t clean, meaning it contains infrared and ultraviolet radiation. This radiation damages fabrics and art.

You’ll find that you cannot buy a 40 or 60-watt bulb in the United States. The bulbs you can buy are fragile, making them more delicate than LEDs.

Which Is Right for You?

It shouldn’t be a tough decision between led vs halogen or any other type of bulb. LEDs provide the most light while using the least amount of energy.

They are shockproof which makes them durable. You won’t get this durability with halogen or incandescent bulbs.

While the initial investment of LED bulbs is higher, they last a lot longer. You can expect your LED bulbs to last 42 times longer than your incandescent bulbs. They can last 13 times longer than your halogens bulbs.

Start outfitting your house with LED lights.

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