Many of our customers come into the store still wanting the good ‘ole incandescent light bulb. They quickly follow that request with a question of why did they change something that worked so well? So I figured that I would bring out some facts, and dispel some rumors, about what happened to the good ‘ole light bulb!
Many people know that Thomas Edison got everything rolling with his first light bulb patent in 1878. Actually, many light bulb designs were produced much earlier, starting with Humphry Davy and his Electric Arc Lamp in 1802. In 1840, Warren de la Rue produced a bulb that lasted longer by encasing the glowing filament in a gasless vacuum. But it took Edison and his Electric Light Company in the 1890’s to be able to mass produce a bulb with a carbonized bamboo filament that lasted 1200 hours that got things rolling.
By 1910, tungsten filaments become the norm. In the 20’s, the first frosted light bulb was produced as well as neon lighting. The 30’s saw the invention of the 1-time flashbulb for photography. Quartz and halogen bulbs arrived in the 50’s. The 60’s saw the rapid expansion of the fluorescent tube, and with that, the possibility of the average person saving energy and still getting plenty of light had been born. The old incandescent bulb was not energy efficient at all. Less than 10% of the electrical power supplied to the bulb is converted into visible light. The remaining energy is lost as heat. So, the beginning of the end of the Edison bamboo filament light bulb had begun.
The energy efficiency of fluorescent lighting adapted to work in a regular light bulb socket started in the 80’s. General Electric perfected the compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb. A CFL bulb uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb and they will last 10 times longer. But concerns of mercury contamination existed with the CFL’s. In the 90’s, it became evident that the light emitting diode bulb (LED), was the future of lighting. They use about 90% less energy than an incandescent bulb, waste virtually no energy to heat, and are rated to last up to 20 years!
So, governments across the world stepped in to get the savings of energy through improved lighting started. By 2010, the European Union and many other countries initiated the phase-out of the incandescent bulb. By 2014, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and the United States had also banned the sales of the basic incandescent bulb. And that brings us to today. LED’s are now the norm in flashlights. Automotive lighting, industrial lighting, and just about anywhere that that the old incandescent bulb was used now has an LED replacement to take its place. So, like it or not, the LED light bulb is here to stay. We can still sell a few incandescent bulbs. 3-ways, 200 & 300 watt, and some specialty & indicator bulbs are still produced the old way; at least for now.
So, do you think Thomas Edison and Mr. Davy would approve of what has happened to their light bulb? I think so. What do you think?