Fluorescent Lights vs LED: All You Need To Know

The fluorescent lights vs. LED comparison are exciting and relevant to anyone working or interested in the lighting industry.

 Some fluorescent lights might appear similar to LED lights, but they have many differences worth your attention. 

The main difference between these two lighting options is how they generate light. Generally, fluorescent lights allow current through a tube with chemicals like mercury and argon. 

On the other hand, LED light operates by allowing current through light-emitting diodes, which recombine electrons and holes to generate visible light. 

Today’s piece takes you through the differences between LED and fluorescent lights to help you make an informed lighting decision. 

How Do LEDs and Fluorescent Lights Work? 

Significant differences between fluorescent and LED lights arise in how they function to generate light. 

Fluorescent light bulbs are designed with a tube containing chemicals like mercury and argon. 

When you pass current through the tube, the ultraviolet lights from the chemicals strike a fluorescent coating, consequently emitting visible light.

 The fluorescent coating in the tube is phosphor in most cases. 

Generally, fluorescent light bulbs take more energy to start, but once they’re on, they’ll consume less energy (about 30% of incandescent lamps).

On the other hand, LEDs are a newer technology than fluorescent lights, and you can find them in LED holiday lights, plasma screen TVs, and digital watch screens.

 LED light functions thanks to semiconductor elements we refer to as diodes.

 As current flows through this semiconductor material, holes and electrons recombine, translating into light production. 

Surprisingly, research has shown that LEDs are at least 90% more efficient than incandescent light. 

Which Is Better, Between Fluorescent or LED Light? 

LED strip lights on a black background

(LED strip lights on a black background)

We tested LED and fluorescent lights and noted that each option has unique features that make them excel in different use cases. 

We’ll consider the different aspects of fluorescent and LED lights below. 


To begin with, LEDs are designed with high-quality and non-hazardous electrical components.

 Moreover, these lights are free from toxic materials like lead and mercury, thus offering maximum safety during operation and damage. 

On the other hand, fluorescent lights are designed with metal, glass, plastic, and mercury. 

Therefore, the glass increases the likelihood of breakage, which exposes hazardous mercury to the environment. 

Winner: LED


Someone installing LED strip lighting

(Someone installing LED strip lighting)

Generally, LED lights are more complex and require expensive fixtures making the installation process expensive. 

Also, you’ll need experts who might charge you more money to make the installation sound. 

On the other hand, installing fluorescent tubes is similar to installing incandescent lights, and you’ll find it simpler. 

You just need to fix the fluorescent tube into the light fixture. 

Winner: Fluorescent

Color Rendering

No artificial lights are closer to natural light than LED lights.

 We can attribute this to incorporating all color spectra in the LED light, thus emitting the brightest white light. 

However, fluorescent light isn’t flattering because the color wavelength spike at red, green, and blue produces a harsher color rendering. 

Therefore, fluorescent light fails to mimic the features of natural light like LED light. 

Winner: LED

Energy Efficiency

We understand LED and fluorescent lights to be more energy efficient than incandescent lights.

 However, LED lights are more efficient, accounting for about 75% more efficient than incandescent lights. 

Conversely, fluorescent lights are about 25% more efficient than traditional incandescent lights. 

Winner: LED


Fluorescent and LED lights will give you a longer lifespan than incandescent light’s 1000 hours. 

Therefore, expect to get up to 50,000 hours for LED lights and about 10,000 hours for fluorescent lamps. 

From these numbers, you can tell that LED lights could even last for 5 times longer than fluorescent options. 

Winner: LED


When calculating the cost of your lighting solution, focus on the upfront cost and the cost to operate the LED. 

Generally, fluorescent lights are cheaper to buy than LED lights costing about $2 for a 14W bulb. 

This is lower than the cost of LED lights, which could cost $4 for a 7W bulb. 

However, LED lights consume less power, last longer, and have fewer replacements than fluorescent lights, thus presenting a lower operating cost.  

Winner: LED

Light Quality

We can rate the light quality based on the room you wish to light and your preference. 

Generally, fluorescent lights offer a warmer glow than LED lights which offer a harsher, white light. 

Therefore, fluorescent lights come on top regarding light quality as they provide less harsh light.

Winner: Fluorescent by a slight edge 

Health Concerns

As mentioned, fluorescent lights are designed with hazardous chemicals like mercury, lead, and phosphor. 

Some of these chemicals are harmful to your health and the environment.

 On the other hand, LEDs don’t have such chemicals and won’t present any health concerns to the users.

Winner: LED

Environmental Impact

Chemical elements like lead, mercury, and phosphor emanating from fluorescent lights contribute highly to environmental destruction. 

Also, fluorescent lights produce more heat than LED lights which might affect the environment. 

Therefore, all environmentalists should focus on using LED instead of fluorescent lights. 

Winner: LED

What are the pros and cons of LED vs fluorescent?

This section considers the pros and cons of LED and fluorescent lights to help you make the best lighting decisions. 

Pros and Cons of LED

LED lights on outdoor matric board

(LED lights on outdoor matric board)

Manufacturers and designers have developed LED lights with outstanding features that leave buyers with no option than discarding incandescent lights. 

First, LED lights are highly efficient and emit more light with less heat production.

 Secondly, LED lights have the longest lifespan, up to 50,000 hours of operation. 

Also, these lights provide instant illumination with no warm-up time. 

Furthermore, their design flexibility offers different shapes and sizes, thus fitting countless applications and installations. 

And since LED produces directional lights, there is no wastage, thus promoting efficient lighting.

 The lights are also compatible with dimmer switches allowing you to adjust intensity and brightness based on requirement and preference. 

However, LED lights cost more upfront than incandescent and fluorescent lights. 

Moreover, these lights are very sensitive to high temperatures, and if you don’t employ an adequate heat management system, optimal functionality won’t be possible. 

Lastly, these lights are more complex than the other options, thus requiring specialized knowledge and more installation resources. 

Pros and Cons of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights hanging

(Fluorescent lights hanging)

The main advantage of fluorescent lights is high availability and energy efficiency over incandescent lights. 

And when you compare them with LEDs, you’ll find them cheaper to buy, although with a higher operation cost. 

Additionally, they offer a brighter and more uniform illumination over a larger area. 

However, these lights have a high mercury content that presents health and environmental concerns. 

Also, unlike LED lights, fluorescent lights have a warm-up time before reaching their full brightness. Lastly, since they’re made of glass, the chances of breakage become higher. 


Which generates more heat between LED and fluorescent lights? 

LED lights convert electrical energy directly into light, thus producing more light and less heat.

 However, fluorescent lamps produce light by heating gases in the tube, thus emitting more heat in the process. 

Can you use LED and fluorescent lights in an outdoor setting? 

Yes! You can comfortably use both fluorescent and LED lights in an outdoor setting. 

However, LED is most suited for such an environment since it’s designed to withstand temperature fluctuations, vibrations, and shocks. 

Also, LED lights will offer high durability and lower maintenance requirements. 

Do LED and fluorescent lights emit UV radiation? 

Yes! LED and fluorescent lights emit a certain amount of LED light depending on the design and type of light. 

But since LEDs generate light through a solid-state process without heating mercury or gases, they emit very little UV radiation

On the other hand, fluorescent converts UV light into visible light and emits a large amount of UV-A light. 

Final Remarks

Fluorescent and LED lights are among the most efficient lighting option you can ever use for your project. 

These lights provide high energy efficiency and durability than traditional incandescent lights. 

However, LED stands out in most aspects, including installation, color rendering, and environmental impact. 

But if you can’t afford LED light, feel free to use fluorescent light.