In 1879, Thomas Edison filed a handwritten patent for the first practical incandescent light bulb. He didn’t know it at the time, but that one patent would catapult the world out of the gaslight era and into the electric age.
It’s been 137 years, and Thomas Edison is still a household name. The same can’t be said about his incandescent light bulb, though. There are far more advanced and efficient options on the market now, and LED lighting takes the cake.
We’re sorry, Mr. Edison, but all good things must come to an end…
First of all, though: What are incandescent light bulbs?
Incandescent light bulbs are the standard, familiar light bulbs that we are all used to. They generate light by conducting electricity through a metal strip, heating it until it glows. Effectively, Incandescent light bulbs create light by creating heat. A lot of energy is needed to heat the strip enough so that it glows; in fact, roughly 95% of the electricity an incandescent bulb uses is wasted as heat.
If that sounds inefficient to you, you’re in good company. In December 2007 the U.S. Government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act, which requires incandescent light bulbs to be about 25% more efficient. Ever since, manufacturers have shifted to producing more energy-efficient technologies, such as halogens, compact fluorescents (CFLs), and LEDs.
Wait, what? I still use the same light bulbs I’ve always used!
After the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, most people unknowingly switched to using halogens. From the outside, halogens look identical to standard incandescent light bulbs. In fact, halogens are incandescents; they just have a small amount of halogen gas added. This gas helps extend the life of the bulb and increase its efficiency by just enough to pass the minimum required standards. But halogens are still a far cry from efficient. In addition to using excess energy to create heat, they also require transformers which pull ridiculous amounts of energy.
But what mainly became popular after 2007 was the compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL.
Trivia Question: what do fireflies and CFLs have in common?
The answer is luminescence , or the process of creating ‘cool light’ without generating any heat.
Fireflies’ bodies are filled with liquids that produce light. CFLs work with more unhealthy materials: thin white tubes filled with mercury. When electricity flows through these tubes, reactions occur which produce invisible light.
CFLs are considerably more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. They use less electricity, which is then evident in a lower electric bill. But the fluorescent light bulb is inherently flawed. While its efficiency raises an intrigued brow, its sky-high list of grievances raises an outraged one. A partial list of complaints includes:
→ CFLs contain mercury, which is a highly toxic and dangerous chemical. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a tedious 11 step process for cleaning up broken CFLs, but even then dangerous mercury leaks into the air.
→ CFLs can cause severe rashes to people who are sensitive.
→ CFLs flicker, which can trigger seizures.
→ CFLs can be sensitive to low temperatures, which makes them unsuitable for outside lighting.
→ CFLs take a few minutes to reach full brightness.
→ CFLs may catch on fire, smoke, or omit an odor.
After its initial 15 minutes of fame, the fluorescent is now the black sheep of the light bulb family. In February 2016, leading manufacturer General Electric announced it would cease producing and selling CFLs in the US, in favor of LEDs.
Spotlight on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
You’ve probably seen LEDs in flashlights, color displays, or electronics like your phone or refrigerator. In recent years LED technology has advanced tremendously, and its popularity keeps on increasing. Every day, more and more people are jumping on the LED bandwagon and upgrading their lighting.
LED bulbs work very similarly to a standard battery. The workings include running a current through a semiconductor material, which illuminates the tiny LED light sources. A typical bulb has 1-2 dozen of LEDs inside, with a frosted outer case to diffuse the directional flashlight-esque glare into a fuzzier glow better for home lighting.
The benefits of LED lighting are immense, and by far outweigh any other lighting technology. A partial list includes:
→ LEDs are tremendously more efficient than its predecessors, using as much as 90% less power than incandescents.
→ LEDs are famed for their longevity; they can last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and 5 times longer than CFLs. A standard LED will often last a lifetime.
→ LED bulbs save hundreds of dollars on maintenance and power.
→ LEDs are highly durable. They work well under extreme temperatures and are well-suited for outdoor lighting.
→ LED bulbs don’t use fragile components such as glass or filaments, so they are unlikely to break.
→ LEDs don’t heat up, and stay cool to the touch after use.
→ LEDs are safe, and pose no health concerns.
→ LEDs are created using non-toxic materials, and are designed to be easily recyclable. They are the absolute best bet for the environment, outperforming even – drumroll – candles.
→ LEDs are available in thousands of colors and hues.
In addition to saving time, effort, and hundreds of dollars, there is another simple benefit to LED: being futuristic. LEDs are rapidly becoming the preferred lighting solution. Its technology is continually advancing, and LEDs are quickly replacing older lighting technologies.
For more information on bulbs – LED or otherwise – feel free to reach out to one of We Green Energy’s informed representatives!