I'm planning to install some light on my balcony and was just wondering what would be the best choice of lamp.
I live in a relatively cold climate, and the current temperature at night is around -10°C. I'm wondering what my best choice of (E27 fixture) lamp is; incandescent, CFL or LED?

My preference is LED, since I like the white balance of modern LED lights and their environmental advantage, but before I put down the money for a LED bulb, I'd like to know whether LED lights can withstand temperatures of up to -20°C.

  • 1
    Do you plan to leave them on for a long time, or just for a few minutes at a time?
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Dec 4, 2010 at 23:27
  • Usually for at least an hour. @Jay
    – oKtosiTe
    Jul 27, 2011 at 8:38
  • The main problem with LEDs is they don't make much heat, so they make the fixture more prone to ice accumulation. That said, you are still better off with an LED and a thermostat-controlled heater in the fixture, rather than an incandescent. A friend uses an incandescent to heat the den of his outdoor cat, which is a real problem when it burns out. Dec 20, 2016 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


The short answer is to check with the bulb manufacturer. Ambient temperature and use case requirements may also be mentioned on the box/packaging.

The long answer is that it depends (as always eh?). From what I could find online, CFLs and incandescent bulbs are actually MORE sensitive to LOW temperatures than LEDs. So in your specific use case, I would think you would be fine in using an LED bulb.

That being said, keep in mind that there ARE certain environments where LEDs may perform worse -- particularly in settings where the ambient temperature is very high, resulting in overheating of the LED package and eventually leading to device failure. I think most manufacturers are getting better at heat sink designs anyway so this may not be a concern later.


  • Good advise. There are not many florescent that will work properly at such a low temp. Led's are expensive, but a good long term investment. Dec 5, 2010 at 13:14
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    IMHO it's important to distinguish between working in cold conditions and cold start. CFLs might have cold start problems, but once they work, the temperature can get much colder with no problem. Besides, even if you just keep it on 24x7, it will cost less in operating than incandescent. Dec 6, 2010 at 13:47
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    I haven't had a chance to try LEDs outdoors, but would expect them to work fine. Obviously incandescents work fine since that's what the whole world's been using until recently. :-) CFLs, not much. I've tried them in the garage which stays above freezing in the Winter, and CFLs are bad news for the coldest 3-4 months of the year. They just never get up to proper operating capacity. Dec 6, 2010 at 14:40
  • The LED chip itself will be good down to cryogenic temperatures. But the lead connections and packaging will almost certainly have issues with wide thermal swings since most of the materials used will have differing coefficients of expansion. That said, -20 ought to be permissible for anything sold for outdoor use. If it weren't, I'd look for alternative lamps.
    – RBerteig
    Oct 2, 2012 at 18:26

If you can afford the LEDs to do it, and they are rated for that use, I'd definitely go that way. But at $20 to $70 per bulb, LEDs can cost you quite a bit. Also, would you leave twenty dollar bills scattered around out there? Or fifties? Consider if the LEDs might make an attractive theft target...

I live in a slightly less cold climate, and we put some CFLs outside a couple of years ago. They work ok, but they definitely take a while to start up and even longer to produce their normal output. For example, it's 22F out right now and I turned the light on and then walked around the house to get the garbage can, and it finally turned on by the time I was at the can. Once it's on though, it burns fine. So except for very short trips, it's not really a problem.

What I did was got several strands of white LED Christmas lights that I have strung along that side of the house to supplement the CFLs in the sockets. Those come on immediately, and work just great.

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    Here in Sweden LED bulbs are more competitively priced, starting at what translates to about $12. Luckily I'm looking to install the lamps on my balcony on the fourth floor, making theft quite unlikely. :-)
    – oKtosiTe
    Dec 6, 2010 at 7:10
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    Nice. I'd double-check the specifications on the units you want to use, but at $12 each I'd be all about the LEDs. :-) I have some Philips 5W units I'm using inside and absolutely love them. Here they are some of the most affordable at $20 each. Dec 6, 2010 at 7:32
  • I usually go with Philips when I can–although perhaps being Dutch makes me biased. Here in Sweden Osram is more widely available; I have six of their LED lamps now, and I'm especially content with the spotlights.
    – oKtosiTe
    Dec 6, 2010 at 10:20
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    @oKtosiTe Equivalent to $12?!?! That's it. I'm moving to Sweden. =D
    – Mike B
    Dec 6, 2010 at 16:26

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