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Light bulbs: Your guide to LEDs, CFLs and halogens

Learn how to compare light bulbs according to output, energy efficiency, cost, lifespan and colour.

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Light bulbs in Australia

Traditional incandescent light bulbs are no longer available in Australia as the government started phasing them out in 2009. This is because while incandescent bulbs are cheap to produce, they're incredibly inefficient compared to bulbs with newer technology and waste about 90% of the energy they use.

You can still find incandescent bulbs in Australia for specialty use, but general-use incandescent bulbs have now been replaced by LEDs, CFLs and halogen bulbs.

LEDs

LEDs or light-emitting diodes are generally considered to be the most energy-efficient light bulb option. They're designed to last longer and run more efficiently than older incandescent models.

While they have a higher upfront cost than other bulb types, they also last longer making the lifelong cost of LEDs lower. They also use up the least electricity while producing the most light and are a common component of circuitry such as TVs, traffic lights and smartphone camera flashes.

Pros
  • Lower lifetime cost and longer life span
  • Up to 90% more energy-efficient than incandescents
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Many are recyclable
  • Emit less heat than other bulbs
  • Durable and less prone to breakage
  • Not made with hazardous chemicals
Cons
  • Higher initial price per bulb
  • Limited colour options
  • Some white LED bulbs can look bluish
  • Not all models are dimmable
  • May malfunction when exposed to heat
  • Many LEDs will not function when installed sideways

CFLs

CFLs or compact fluorescent lamps work the same as traditional tubular fluorescents bulbs, but they are more compact and more efficient. They are also more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, though not as efficient as LEDs.

CFLs are almost as cheap to run as LEDs and typically have a lower upfront cost. However, they have a shorter lifespan of about half the lifespan of LEDs. CFLs take time to warm up to full brightness and produce less light as they age.

Pros
  • More energy-efficient than incandescents
  • Not as hot as incandescents
  • Lower upfront cost than LEDs
Cons
  • Not as energy-efficient as LEDs
  • Shorter lifespan than LEDs
  • Fade over time
  • Not usually dimmable
  • Need to be disposed of carefully as they contain mercury
  • May not turn on in cold weather

Halogens

Also known as "tungsten halogen lamps", halogens work similarly to incandescent bulbs, but they use less electricity and emit more light. However, halogens are not as efficient as either LEDs or CFLs.

Halogen bulbs are cheap to buy, but they cost more than other bulbs to run and have a shorter lifespan. This results in a higher lifetime cost than LEDs or CFLs.

Pros
  • More energy-efficient than incandescents
  • Low upfront cost
  • Can operate in hot environments
Cons
  • Less energy-efficient than LEDs and CFLs
  • High cost to run
  • High lifetime cost

How to compare light bulbs

To find the best light bulb for your household, consider the following factors:

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