These days, when you visit the light bulb section of your local hardware or big-box store, you’re likely to see considerable changes: traditional incandescent bulbs are gradually disappearing and being replaced by energy-efficient options—namely, compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) models.

The lower cost of CFLs makes them a sensible choice. But LED bulbs have many advantages that should help them become widely accepted on the market—starting with lower operating cost and longer life, which offset their higher price. Here is an initial comparison chart:

Bulb life expectancy and energy consumption




Lasts 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb

Lasts 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb

Consumes 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb

Consumes 85% less energy than an incandescent bulb

Source: Hydro-Québec, September 2015


As we’ll see later, those differences translate into savings.


Spotlight on LEDs

There are two types of LED:

  • Low-powered – used in indicator lights, Christmas tree bulbs, etc.
  • High-powered – available in most of the standard bulb formats for interior and exterior residential use.


Their efficiency is measured in lumens per watt:

  • The lumen is the measure of the quantity of light emitted by the bulb.
  • The watt is the measure of the bulb’s power consumption.

The higher the lumens per watt value, the more efficient the bulb. For example, an incandescent bulb draws 100 watts to produce 1,600 lumens, while an LED bulb needs just 19 watts (source: Hydro-Québec, September 2015).


Tip: When shopping, look for the Energy Star logo on the package. The symbol tells you that the bulbs are indeed energy-efficient. See our Tips & Tricks instalment on energy-efficient light bulbs, which explains the criteria for choosing bulbs wisely.


Advantages that make all the difference

LED bulbs have several properties that make them a good choice. They:

  • emit practically zero ultraviolet or infrared radiation;
  • are available in all colour temperatures;
  • offer good resistance to cold and breakage;
  • contain no mercury, unlike fluorescent lighting (both standard tubes and CFLs);
  • light up instantly;
  • do not lose colour over time;
  • are compatible with most types of dimmer.


About dimmers

Some dimmers designed for use with traditional incandescent light bulbs are compatible with LED bulbs, but not all.

Before installing an LED bulb on a circuit controlled by a dimmer, check whether the dimmer is compatible with the bulb. Both bulb and dimmer manufacturers publish compatibility information for their products online.

You can now buy universal dimmers that will control LED bulbs, CFLs, incandescent bulbs, etc. If you install an LED bulb on a circuit controlled by a traditional dimmer and you notice that the bulb flickers or the intensity of the light varies, replace the dimmer with a universal one. The lifespan of the bulb and even that of the circuit may be at stake.


In addition, since LED bulbs come in many different shapes, they allow for use of new light fixture formats, such as low-profile fixtures that can free up space between the floor and ceiling—which is always a plus in the basement, for example.


The fact that they produce very little heat is another advantage to consider.


Keep cool and carry on

An LED bulb is far less hot to the touch than incandescent and halogen bulbs, because it converts almost all of the electrical energy it consumes into visible light.

The low heat emission of LED bulbs makes them ideal for use in flush-mount fixtures in insulated “drop” (or suspended) ceilings. With traditional incandescent lighting, these types of fixture required bulky metal boxes to protect the surrounding materials from the heat of the bulbs. With LED bulbs, these boxes are no longer needed. Installation is much simpler, and the insulation can occupy the entire ceiling space.

It’s all about the savings

Given their properties and the resulting efficiency, LED bulbs have a bright future with consumers.


Comparison of energy consumption for 800 lumen bulbs






Number of bulbs required pour 10,000 hours of lighting





Energy consumption (10,000 h)

100 kWh

130 kWh

600 kWh

Cost of bulbs




Cost of electricity consumed





Total usage cost








Source: Hydro-Québec, September 2015


When all is said and done, buying LED bulbs, even at their current higher cost, is more economical over the long term. They’re a great solution if you want to keep your electricity bill down!