Improving on Edison

The incandescent light bulb is the ultimate testament to the determination, tenacity and sublime genius of Thomas Edison.  But it is also 130 year old technology that has been largely unchanged.  They’re much, much better at turning energy to heat than to light.

Airplanes are 107 year old technology.  But, that technology has been improved so much that the only thing a modern 787 has in common with the Wright brothers’ stick and cloth airplane is the underlying physics that gets them in the air.

It’s time to bring light bulb technology up to the 21st century.  Fortunately, several companies have spent the time, money and effort to achieve that goal.  LED bulbs are the newest advancement in light bulb technology, and will displace compact fluorescent bulbs as the energy efficient replacement for incandescent bulbs.

Since the technology to produce LED bulbs is so new, and the manufacturing hasn’t ramped up or become widespread, they are currently a lot more expensive than either incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs.

Before you get sticker shock over their price, you should keep a few facts in mind:

  • They last 25,000+ hours, which is about 3 times as long as compact fluorescents and several times longer than incandescents.  To put it in perspective, if the light was on an average of, say, 5 hours a day seven days a week – the bulb would last for almost 14 years.
  • They only use 12 watts of energy.  Less than compact flourescents and about 1/5 as much as incandescents. (Over the 25,000 hour life, you’ll save about 1,200 kWh of energy per bulb vs. incandescents).
  • They contain no mercury.
  • They look really cool and technologically advanced.

Popular Science has evaluated, tested and priced the new LED bulbs made by Phillips, GE, Sylvania and Lighting Science Group and summarized their findings (with pictures of the LED bulbs).  Hats off to Popular Science for doing the analysis and providing the information.

About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.