Say Goodbye To The Old Fashioned Light

- Jul 23, 2019-

Shortly after a major newspaper published his obituary, Mark Twain famously noted that the “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” In the same vein, many news sources penned something like an obituary of the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb after President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in the mid-2000’s. Contrary to early reports, the EISA did not ban incandescent lighting, but unlike Mark Twain at the time, the incandescent bulb does appears to be going the way of buggy whips and VHS tape recorders. More specifically, those bulbs represent an inefficient and dated technology that is being surpassed by new LED lamps and fixtures with capabilities and efficiencies that even Thomas Edison could not have envisioned when he first invented the incandescent bulb.

The demise of old fashioned incandescent bulbs is driven by two primary causes. First, these bulbs waste a majority of their input energy as heat. Almost 90% of the electrical energy input into an incandescent bulb is dissipated as heat. In practical terms, this means that end users lose  ninety cents of every dollar that they spend on incandescent lighting. This further translates into greater environmental strains as power plants are generating energy that is squandered. The limited life spans of many incandescent bulbs increases these environmental strains as dead bulbs fill up waste treatment facilities. These matters were cited as reasons behind the EISA incentives that encouraged end users in the United States to transition away from old fashioned light bulbs. Other countries have taken a more aggressive approach and have banned incandescent bulbs altogether, thus creating a more accelerated departure of those bulbs from store shelves.

Following  a few fits and starts and interim technologies like CFL light bulbs, LED lighting is emerging as the energy-efficient and eco-friendly replacement for old fashioned light bulbs. LED light bulb efficiency has improved by more than 50% over the past several years. Moreover, LED bulbs have a useful life of at least 50,000 hours and use no hazardous materials in their manufacture. End users see noticeably lower utility bills with LED lighting and add less post-consumer waste to landfills after transitioning to LED fixtures.   

Second, incandescent bulbs have limited utility and almost no versatility to change and adapt to different uses and lighting requirements. An incandescent bulb’s single capability is to produce white light with spectral characteristics that are perceived as either cool or warm. Those bulbs are similar to early generations of television sets that had cathode ray technology and were able to receive a limited number of broadcasts in a VHF range. Like modern high definition televisions that provide multiple input and display options, next-generation LED lighting can be tuned to generate different color temperatures and to create alternate lighting impressions. A variety of LED luminaires is available to create lighting that is directional and focused, or diffused over larger areas. LED systems can be fine-tuned to generate light closely replicates natural lighting conditions, giving end users the best ability to perceive objects and surfaces as if they were under regular sunlight.