Fluorescent vs. Incandescent Light Output


Both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs are widely used to provide consumers with artificial light to illuminate their lives. In terms of light output per level of wattage, fluorescent light bulbs are considered far superior. However, the low cost of incandescents keep them in widespread use.


  • Both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs have a wide variety of practical uses. The main purpose of either type of bulb is to produce light. Light output is measured in lumens, which are measures of perceived light output produced by lamps or bulbs. Both types of bulbs are available in many different sizes and wattage. They are traditionally used in lamps and other light fixtures.


  • Fluorescent light bulbs use different technology than incandescents to produce light. This type of light bulb contains an electrode at each end and is filled with an argon and mercury vapor gas. Electrons react to the gas, and photons of light are produced. The photons collide with the coating of the bulb and visible light is formed.


  • Incandescent light bulbs work by heating up tungsten filaments, which results in light and heat output. The main problem with incandescent bulbs is that most of the energy put out is in the form of heat. Incandescents use a lot of electricity to operate, which is why they are inefficient; the heat produced is wasted.


  • Incandescent bulbs traditionally produce about 15 lumens per watt of power. In terms of light output, a 75-watt bulb will produce around 1,125 lumens of light. Fluorescent bulbs traditionally produce about 50 to 100 lumens per watt of power. A 75-watt fluorescent bulb will produce between 3,750 and 7,500 lumens of light. Therefore, to get the same amount of lumens from a fluorescent bulb to equal the amount of lumens produced by a 75-watt incandescent bulb, the fluorescent bulb only needs to draw about 11 to 22 watts of power.


  • Even though fluorescent bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs, costs are offset by energy efficiency. An incandescent bulb will use far more electricity to produce a given amount of lumens, compared to a fluorescent bulb. An average 75-watt incandescent light bulb will generally cost less than $0.65. A 20-watt fluorescent light bulb producing roughly the same amount of lumens as the 75-watt incandescent will typically cost around $5.00.

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