So, are you still using incandescent light bulbs in your home? You might think about moving up to the newest technologies. Not necessarily because they’re environmentally friendly but because they will save you real money. Here’s a brief history of the light bulb.
The traditional light bulb we have used all of our lives was first unveiled in 1878. They haven’t changed much in over 100 years. And why should they? You screw them in, flip the switch, and “let there be light.” The basic weakness of the design, however, is that the bulb throws off more heat than it does light. Some studies put the heat-to-light ratio at 90%/10%. That means that when electricity is applied to an incandescent bulb, 90% of the radiation produced is in the form of heat. Only 10% of the radiation produced is light we can actually see. But when you pay your electric bill each month you pay for both the light and the heat each incandescent bulb in your house produced. In the summertime, you then pay to have your air conditioner remove the heat from your home produced by those bulbs. As we all know, electric energy costs keep climbing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure out a way to make that bulb produce less heat and more light? That’s where all of the new technologies come in.
For us consumers there are three newer technologies that have become popular and a fourth exciting discovery that could change the entire game.
First, there are halogen bulbs. For example, think of those floor lamps that use the long thin bulbs that you can’t touch when you replace. They get very hot and the light they emit is measured in high wattages, up to 1000 watts. Like incandescent bulbs they are dimmable. They’ve been around for quite a while and their efficiency is better. They use 40% less energy than incandescent bulbs. So that means, where it takes 60 watts to produce the average 800 lumens of light for an incandescent bulb, a halogen can produce with only 36 watts of power. That’s a big improvement but technology is doing better.
Next there are CFL bulbs, the “curly-cue” bulbs that screw into standard sockets used by incandescent bulbs. They use even less energy, up to 75% less. To produce 800 lumens of light they only use 15 watts of power. They cost more but they also last up to ten times longer than incandescent bulbs. My personal experience with them has been spotty on this point. Some last longer than others. Sometimes they die right away. And there are other drawbacks to them. In the beginning they took a moment to actually turn on, they had to completely warm up to fully illuminate, and they had mercury inside them. If you accidentally broke one you almost had to call hazmat to clean up the breakage. The newer versions use much less mercury but it’s still in there. And these bulbs are not dimmable.
Finally, there are LED bulbs. LEDs use only 10 watts to produce 800 lumens of light. That’s one-sixth the amount of power of an incandescent bulb. When they first came out they were prohibitively expensive. Even though a bulb is expected to last twenty years, at $20.00 each it would take a long time to get a return on your investment. But prices have fallen through the floor on these bulbs. Today you can buy a pair of LED bulbs that look just like the original incandescent bulbs for $3.98 at a box store. That’s less than $2.00 each. Dimmable LED bulbs cost a bit more. At that price it doesn’t take long for the bulb to pay for itself. Some people complain that the light they give off is a bit harsh. I really haven’t noticed any difference myself.
One of the reasons people are spending so much time lately talking about light bulbs is because the Federal government banned the production of the original incandescent bulbs. While they’re still available for the time being, once the stock of them is sold there will be no more of them. That is, unless a new discovery at MIT changes all that. Here’s how they explain what they’ve achieved with the ordinary light bulb to the MIT newspaper. “Their new light bulb encases a traditional light-emitting filament in a photonic crystal that reflects the escaping thermal energy back toward the filament where it is reabsorbed and converted to light. The crystal is made of thin layers of Earth-abundant elements, stacked and deposited on a substrate. The crystal works to reflect a variety of wavelengths, arriving at an array of angles, but allows the necessary wavelengths of warm incandescent light to pass through.”
OK, I didn’t understand it either but the end result is what’s important. It could make the plain old ordinary light bulb we’ve all been accustomed to since we were kids twice as efficient as today’s LED bulbs. That is a game changer.
Of course it will be years before we see this technology on the shelf at Home Depot. In the meantime we have LED light bulbs. I consider them to be the best buy right now for my money. And if I do have to replace one someday I can just throw the old one in the trash. I removed all of the incandescent bulbs from my house three years ago. Believe this or not, I experienced a 15% reduction on my electric bill shortly thereafter. It was a pleasant surprise.
If you are looking for an effective way to reduce your electricity bill, think about replacing your light bulbs. If you’re looking to replace your entire house with another one, call me at 918-809-5199. I can help.