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Halogen, Low Energy (CFL) or LED? Confused?

June 2, 2010   

Confused looking man

We regularly receive calls from customers that know the lamp fitting that they require, but find the number of choices slightly overwhelming. Why are there so many variations? Which will be best suited to your needs? Why are LED’s so expensive? Hopefully the following condensed guide will point you in the right direction.


LED light bulbs represent the latest lighting technology, rapidly out dating existing products as they continue to improve. Their popularity lies in an extremely long life span, which can be a staggering 25 times longer than the halogen equivalent (up to 50,000 hours) and incredibly low power consumption. Suggested replacements for a 50w GU10 halogen lamp will draw around 4.5w, which needs little explanation, that’s less than 10% of the power!

Unlike CFL’s, LED GU10 bulbs are the same size as standard lamps, are often dimmable and never get too hot to touch, protecting inquisitive children from burnt fingers. However, as with any new technology, there are drawbacks. The initial purchase cost of LED’s is significantly higher than both halogen and CFL’s and often more importantly, they do not yet match halogens in terms of brightness. The colour temperature of LED’s is also generally slightly higher than other types of lamp, which some people find unsuitable.


Halogen bulbs have been extremely popular over recent years for their high light output and low purchase cost. They are widely available and compatible with dimmer switches. However, their high light output creates considerable power consumption and a high operating temperature, making them too hot to touch. Halogen GU10 lamps generally have the lowest life span of the three technologies, on average lasting around 2000 hours (product dependant).

Low Energy (CFL)

When referring to ‘Low Energy’ lamps we are speaking of Compact Fluorescents (CFL). These form a mid-point between halogen and LED technologies. They offer an improved life span (approx. 400% of halogen equivalent) and lower running costs (approx. 20% of halogen equivalents). However, CFL’s are often larger than standard lamps, causing occasional issues with ill-matched fittings. On top of this, they are not dimmable, can have some disposal issues and often take a few minutes to reach full brightness.

Technology Type




  • Low initial purchase cost
  • High light output
  • Widely available
  • Dimmable
  • Considerable power consumption
  • High operating temperature
  • Average/poor lifespan

Low Energy (CFL)

  • Long life span – approx. 4x halogen
  • Low running costs – approx. 20% of halogen
  • Generally larger than standard lamps
  • Some disposal issues associated
  • Not dimmable
  • Can take a few minutes to reach full brightness
  • Lack the brightness of halogen equivile


July 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

The biggest difficulty for me is comparing the light output. Rating bulbs the the energy they use ie 20W is great for determining energy usage, but does not help me know if it is brighter or dimmer than another bulb of different technology (or even the same for that matter). It would be really helpful if you included the Lumens for each bulb in you specs.

July 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

You are of course correct in what you say, however the language of lumens is a) not understood by most people and b) is hopelessly abused by many manufacturers. What I mean by this is that many Chinese suppliers will overdrive LED’s past the manufacturers rating to get more lumens or simply exaggerate the figures leaving responsible manufacturers looking like suppliers of dinosaur food.

However your point is fair and we will look at adding lumen figures wherever we can.

August 21, 2012 at 7:59 am

Hi, I have a few questions.

1) GU10 LED you mention do not need a separate driver and can be linked to the main line like a standard rose (obviously with correct fittings) eg I have GU10 halogen, i can leave the connection and wiring as it is and just replace the halogen lamp for a LED lamp without the need for a constant power driver etc? yes/no

2) I am considering to change from halogen to LED and have 2 options, your normal LED method or integrated LED, apart from the initial cost, what are pro and cons of each and which do you recommend. I am aware integrated may give better light but bulbs cannot be changed as easy as normal LED.

3) I have seen various websites offering LED but a lot are sourcing the bulbs from china, which i understand can overstate power of light output, however would you say the bulbs from china are of a decent quality, poor quality etc and also where are the bulbs you provide sourced from?

August 22, 2012 at 12:16 am

Hi, Thanks for your post. In answer to your questions:

1 If you currently have GU10 halogen lamps then you just need to swap the bulbs – no wiring changes are required. This is because the driver is built into the LED lightbulb.

2 Personally I would use the integrated solution – simply because they can run higher power levels as they have much larger heat sinks and the power supplies are external which are likely to be far more reliable than the tiny ones squeezed into the base of a GU10. The GU10 however is definately much easier to use if you have existing fittings.

3 In terms of Chinese bulbs, to be honest almost all LED lightbulbs are made in China – there are very good Chinese producers and absolutely awful ones with no interest in either product quality or safety. You will find plenty on ebay etc offering low prices & high outputs – probably with long guarantees but I personally wouldn’t go near them. Ours are made in China (along with the Toshiba lamps) – but they are our design and the key components (the capacitor) are Japanese not Chinese. We have no warranty issues.

I hope this helps

February 22, 2013 at 8:48 am

I am in need of lighting for my project which is to be comissioned in Russia. The ambient temp is -47 deg c to + 40 deg C.
I am finding difficulty in choosing lighting. The area classification is ” safe Area”
Can anyone pls suggest for me.

Power supply: 219.5 volts AC

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