Incandescent vs. LED – Differences + Which Bulb to Choose

Lighting is an important part of outdoor living. In the evening you get a spectacular ambience, warmth and a sense of security. When planning for your outdoor lighting, it is important to figure out what type of lamp to go with for the sake of energy bills. Incandescent and LED are the most common forms of outdoor lighting in many homes. Let’s look at their differences, pros and cons for a right choice.

There are many types of outdoor lights that include spot lights, string lights, garden lights, flood lights, step lights and many more. Lights enhance night vision, security and décor in outdoor spaces. Based on technology, incandescent and LED are the main types of lights we use for brightening landscapes and gardens.

Incandescent Light

Incandescent light is a type of bulb or lamp that produces light when a tungsten filament is heated by an electric current to a given temperature. Conventional incandescent bulbs have a heat sensitive envelope housing the filament and is usually filled with inert gas. This type of bulbs last approximately 1200 hours.

Halogen lights are an enhanced version of incandescent light that uses a fused capsule where halogen gas like iodine or bromine mix with tungsten vapor and deposits back onto the filament instead of inside the main bulb envelop. They are good at saving energy as most of them use up to 25% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Halogen lamps lasts longer than conventional incandescent lights but they operate at extremely high temperature which make them to produce intense color and brightness. In terms of durability, they last approximately 3600 hours.

Incandescent lights pros

  • The lights cost less to manufacture which makes them less expensive to purchase
  • Incandescent lights are good at rendering color and brightness
  • They are available in a large array of sizes and shapes
  • Compatible with dimming

Incandescent lights cons

  • They are energy inefficient – Incandescent bulbs uses about 10% of the energy they consume to produce light while the rest 90% of energy is converted to heat.
  • Incandescent lights produce a considerable amount of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiations that usually damage fabrics and artwork furnishings.
  • They have a shorter lifespan – Even though cheaper to purchase, incandescent bulbs are short lived and it’s a matter of time you will be replacing them.
  • Incandescent lights have a fragile glass envelope and brittle filament wire that easily burst or blowup.
  • They are expensive to maintain due to higher energy costs and short lifespan that leads to frequent replacements

LED lights

LED stands for light emitting diode. A diode is a semiconductor device with two terminals (an anode and a cathode), through which current flows in one direction only. A semiconductor material like silicon only allows electric current to flow through it only under some circumstances such as certain current levels, or light intensities.

LED lights produces light when current is allowed to flow through its semiconductor material. These are the most preferred forms of lighting today and they can be used in endless applications such as outdoor landscape lighting, in automobiles and industrial setup.

LED lights pros

  • They have a longer lifespan approximating to 50,000 hours. This is 42 times longer than conventional incandescent bulbs and 13 times longer than halogen lights.
  • LEDs have the highest energy efficiency compared any other type of lights. They consume 80 percent less than incandescent lights and 75 percent less than halogen bulbs.
  • LEDs run much cooler without producing much heat, this greatly increases their longevity and makes them ideal option for cold temperatures.
  • They produces little to no IR or UV radiation that is known to damage fabric and furnishings
  • Light Emitting Diode bulbs does not contain harmful gases or toxins
  • They produce quality and directional light and can be designed to produce a wide spectrum of visible light colors.
  • LEDs are less expensive to operate and maintain due to low energy costs and their longer lifespan that leads to less replacements

LED Bulb Cons

  • LEDs are relatively expensive to purchase but the costs are usually recouped by many benefits they offer.
  • Most of LED bulbs are not dimmer compatible
  • They produce more of a blue light than incandescent lights. Blue light can affect your sleep quality and it’s also attractive to bugs.

Incandescent vs. LED – Differences

Incandescent BulbLED Bulb
CostCost less to manufacture thus less expensive to purchaseCost more to manufacture thus very expensive to purchase
EfficiencyHave the least energy efficiency as more of the energy consumed is converted to heatAre the most energy efficient lights since they run cool without producing heat
DurabilityHave a shorter lifespan averagely 1200 hoursHave the longest lifespan of up to 56,000 hours
SafetyProduces UV, IR rays the fade or discolor fabric and artwork materialsDoes not produce ultraviolet or infra-red radiations when operating
FragilityHave fragile glass envelope and brittle filament wire that easily blows upLEDs are not made from fragile materials like glass, which makes them to  withstand a lot more than incandescent
ColorsIncandescent bulbs produces warm yellow glow that may not be seen by bugsThey produce bright and directional light attractive to bugs
MaintenanceExpensive to operate and maintain due to high energy bills and frequent replacementsLess expensive to operate and maintain due to their longer lifespan and less replacements

Which is good for outdoors?

We have seen what makes the difference between LED bulbs and incandescent bulbs. From my observation, LED lights scores higher to qualify as the best option for outdoor lighting. This is mainly due to their high energy efficiencies. However, bright LED light is attractive to insects, you will have to invest in ways of controlling bug on outdoor lights.

Leave a Comment