Difference Between Halogen and Fluorescent Lights

Difference Between Halogen and Fluorescent Lights

One is brighter, the other is cheaper

By Richard Asmus

Hand holding compact fluorescent light bulb
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Standard everyday light bulbs are relatively cheap, easy to find and easy to replace. But they are not the best lighting source available for every application. If you want to improve the lighting of your home or business, you have several options. Two of those options are halogen and fluorescent lights. Visit your lighting store to see the differences firsthand.

Halogen Lights

A halogen bulb is similar to the usual incandescent bulb, except that a trace of a halogen vapor is added to the inactive gas. This reduces the breakdown of the filament and reduces the coating that accumulates inside of the bulb, which affects how bright it shines. Therefore, the result is a longer lasting light bulb that produces higher-intensity light. Halogen lights run much hotter than other bulbs.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights work by using electrical current to heat mercury vapor. When the vapor heats up, it emits ultraviolet (UV) light rays. The inside of the fluorescent light is coated with a thin film of a phosphorescent material. When the ultraviolet rays strike that material, it glows (or fluoresces) and emits cool, visible light. A ballast helps start the process and then regulates the light to remain constant. A big advantage of fluorescent lights is that they produce very little heat.

Size and Shape

Very small halogen lights produce high volumes of light, in teardrop shapes of only an inch or two, or small tubes less than a 1/2 inch in diameter and only a few inches long. Fluorescent lights are much larger. Some ceiling fixtures use multiple tubes slightly more than 1 inch in diameter but 3 to 4 feet long. Compact fluorescent lights use smaller, coiled tubes so they can fit in standard lighting fixtures, recessed lighting and table lamps.

Efficiency and Cost

Halogen lights, although more efficient and longer-lasting than normal incandescent lights, still use more electricity than fluorescent lights. And they are relatively expensive and emit considerable heat. Fluorescent lights, by far, are the most efficient light available, costing less for the initial purchase and less to operate. They also run cooler, so they reduce the cost of air conditioning in warmer climates.


For cool, even lighting for kitchens, offices and classrooms, fluorescent lights are the best bet. But for many other applications, halogen performs better. For decorator purposes, halogen bulbs fit nicely into chandeliers. For intense lighting, halogen bulbs perform better in reading lamps and spotlights. And because of their more intense light, they are the best source for color photography and video production.

About the Author

Richard Asmus is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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