Lighting technologies: LED bulbs and CFLs

The many types of LED bulbs and CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) available have all kinds of advantages, starting with their variety of shape, brightness and color. The descriptions below will help you choose the best bulb for your fixture and your environment.

Energy Star®, high efficiency.

LED bulbs

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs have been evolving quickly and are now suitable for most residential applications. The quality of light they offer is similar to that of traditional incandescents, but they last 25 times longer and are even more efficient than CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs). Not only do they last a really long time, they work in all weather and turn on quickly. And now they’re even dimmable and you can adjust the color temperature on some bulbs.

What’s an LED?

First used in electronics, LEDs are a type of semiconductor (diode) capable of emitting light when an electric current is passed through it. Unlike incandescent bulbs, which use only 5% of the power they draw to produce light and give off the rest as heat, LEDs use energy efficiently. There are low-output (dim) LEDs, used as indicators on home electronics and in holiday lights, and high-output (bright) LEDs that are used in general-purpose lighting.

LEDs produce a directional, focused light. In LED lighting, arrays or groups of LEDs are combined with lenses or other optical devices to shed light on bigger areas, for environmental or task lighting.

You can buy LED replacement bulbs for your lamps, or integrated fixtures with the LED bulbs built in.

Integrated fixtures are the most efficient, because they are specifically made to distribute the light from the LEDs.

LED fixtures are designed to take into account various thermal and electrical conditions.

Benefits of LED lighting

  • Typical energy savings of 85% in relation to incandescent lighting
  • Ideal for high ceilings and other hard-to-reach spots
  • Service life of at least 25,000 hours, or about 3 hours a day for 23 years
  • Variety of integrated fixtures and replacement bulbs for existing fixtures
  • Instant start (just like incandescent bulbs)
  • Excellent color-rendering index
  • Adjustable brightness (with compatible dimmer)
  • Low heat emission
  • Minimum three-year warranty
  • Adjustable color temperature (some bulbs)


CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) have improved a lot since they were first introduced in the 1980s. For example, they now go on almost instantly, don’t buzz or flicker, contain less mercury and are often dimmable.

CFLs produce the same light as incandescent bulbs and can also create warm colors, as well as being extremely energy-efficient. ENERGY STAR® certified CFLs draw up to 75% less power than standard incandescents and last 10 times longer.

  • Some CFLs are covered by a protective globe that also diffuses the light. They are shaped like familiar incandescent bulbs.
  • A typical CFL saves energy month after month, so you could recoup the cost in just eight months.

LED bulb and CFL shapes

The lighting effect created depends a lot on bulb shape.

Various shapes of LED bulbs and CFLs

Directional or mood lighting? Indoor or outdoor? Choose the right bulb for the job.

LED bulbs: globe, regular, candle and three types of reflectors.
CFL shapes: globe, regular, candle and 2 types of spirals.


Brightness (or luminous flux) is measured in lumens.

 400 lumens
Incandescent Bulb (W)
40 W
CFL (W)1
9 W
LED Bulb (W)1
7 W
 800 lumens
Incandescent Bulb (W)
60 W
CFL (W)1
13 W
LED Bulb (W)1
10 W
1,600 lumens
Incandescent Bulb (W)1
100 W
CFL (W)1
23 W
LED Bulb (W)1
19 W
Luminous Flux (LM)

Incandescent Bulb (W)

CFL (W)1

LED Bulb (W)1

400 lumens 40 W 9 W 7 W
800 lumens 60 W 13 W 10 W
1,600 lumens 100 W 23 W 19 W

1 Estimated


Colour temperature is measured in kelvins (K). The lower the number, the warmer the atmosphere and the yellower the light, more like an incandescent bulb.

Creating an atmosphere

Warm white

800 lm – 2 700 K

Cool white

800 lm – 4 100 K

Halogen bulbs

Halogen bulbs are better than incandescents for the environment, consuming up to 30% less power to produce the same amount of light. And they can last three times longer than conventional incandescents. They come in a wide variety of shapes and colors and can be used in the same fixtures as standard incandescent bulbs.

Useful links

If you have any health questions, please contact Health Canada.

To find out more about mercury in CFLs, go to Natural Resources Canada [pdf – 71 Kb].

See also