The Future of Light Bulbs

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you missed a major change in light bulb manufacturing as you danced beneath New Year’s Eve disco balls, toasted each other and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” Nevertheless, the traditional song could have been dedicated to 100-watt incandescent light bulbs.

As of January 2013, 100-watt incandescent bulbs can no longer be manufactured for sale in the United States due to their energy inefficiency and significant heat production. Plans are underway to make the same changes to the bulb’s dimmer siblings—the 75-, 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs. Available replacement bulbs now include Compact Fluorescent Lamp or CFL bulbs and computerized Light-Emitting Diode or LED light bulbs. Both CFL and LED bulbs are based upon newer technology than that of incandescent light bulbs, which were first invented over 200 years ago. Because of their advanced technology, Energy Star CFL and LED bulbs can save up to 75 percent in energy costs as compared to the antiquated incandescent bulb.

The Push for CFL & LED Use

Despite their negative points, incandescent light bulbs are relatively inexpensive to purchase while CFL and LED bulbs have significantly higher sale prices. Consumers looking only for short-term savings fail to realize that 20 years of lighting a lamp would require 21 incandescent bulbs versus three CFL bulbs versus one LED bulb.

The number of bulbs required isn’t the only savings. That 75 percent greater energy efficiency of CFL and LED bulbs results in real dollar savings on electric company bills. These same savings can be traced back to how the electricity is produced. According to a GE representative, if every U.S. household replaced one 60-watt incandescent bulb with a CFL one, annual energy cost savings would surpass $646 million and avoid the production of 3.4 million tons of CO2 emissions—no small consideration for future generations celebrating many New Year’s Eves to come.

Lighting by the Numbers infographic

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Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

  • Ze German

    Hi there, I’m hailing from good ol’ Europe, where the Germans have made light bulbs “verboten” already (It’s a EU-wide regulation, but that Merkel – Swamp – Thing started the whole it). Can’t say I’m a fan. CFL bulbs only make sense in a situation where light is needed for a long period. Hallway or basement lights? Not so much. Frequent switching causes the CFL bulbs to die faster than a light bulb. Also, as those things need a minute or so to heat up and give enough light, a lot of people leave them on, even in rooms they only briefly pass. But the real bummer? No matter what the industry-sponsored talking heads try to say, the light is just horrible. No matter if they call them “soft tone” or “warm white”, having your living room or bedroom lit by those things gives them the atmosphere of a bus stop. The problem is the spectrum: CFLs do just not emit all wavelengths. Hence you get strange effects where black clothes appear green-ish under CFL lighting, as there is not sufficient red in the emitted light. It just looks bloody awful, and especially skin tones or the colors of food look unnatural. Here in Europe, museums have bought huge quantities of light bulbs for the years to come, just so they don`t have to present artwork illuminated by those fridge lights. Look, the point is, CFLs make sense for a lot of applications, but to rule out the alternative for all the situations where they don’t make sense is stupid. We have made bad experiences with this. Besides that, several tests have continuously found one thing: CFLs emit much less light than the amount of light that is stated on the box. Plus, the lifetime given by the industry is way overstated, the things break much earlier. The only thing higher than expected? The price. And the secondary costs: As the light from those things is so awful, companies like Philips (who pushed for the ban on light bulbs initially) are now able to sell their Multi-Color LED “Ambilights” as a way to restore the cozy atmosphere that was provided by a slightly dimmed light bulb. To the tune of 170 Euro a piece. So, the point is simple: 1. Make a law that forces everybody to buy a more expensive alternative to the original product, despite that alternative having serious drawbacks. 2. sell them additional stuff at outrageous prices as a remedy for the drawbacks. Really, please do not fall for this con trick!