Shedding New Light on Old Light Bulbs

A house museum in Spain
A house museum in Spain showing natural light and incandescent bulbs in the chandelier and spotlights.

Would it surprise you to know that some incandescent lightbulbs that were manufactured in the early 1900’s are still working more than 100 years later? I have been in heritage homes where the original bulbs are still in operation. So what’s all this fuss about the short lifespan of these bulbs?

The fact is that any company who sells a product that only needs to be replaced every 100 years is not going to make any money so the incentive to create products with built-in obsolescence is very attractive to the shareholders. That’s what happened to the light bulb. Ignore those individuals that tell you that we must get rid of the incandescent bulb because it doesn’t last – it was designed not to last. And remember this – what do you think will happen to all those ‘long-life’ bulbs that are currently on the market?

One thing I do agree with is the incandescent bulb’s inefficiency. This is because much of the energy required to operate the bulb goes into heat rather than light so I was very happy to read in the Edmonton Journal (Feb. 6, 2016) that US scientists have come up with a way to improve the efficiency of the older bulbs. According to the article ‘researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a way of recycling a bulb’s waste energy and putting it back on the filament where it is re-emitted as visible light.’  

A warm and cosy parlour made even warmer with incandescent bulbs. Twin Gables, Calgary Alberta
A warm and cosy parlour made even warmer with incandescent bulbs. Twin Gables, Calgary Alberta

So why should we care? Because, in my opinion, nothing on the current market compares with the colour of light of the incandescent – in spite of repeated attempts. Skin tones look their best and interiors feel cozy.  Brighter is not better unless you are performing a specific task and need the strong light the newer bulbs can provide. I’m hoping we will continue to have a choice.

4 thoughts on “Shedding New Light on Old Light Bulbs

  1. Hi Johanne,
    I couldn’t agree with you more! I would much rather rely on dimmer switches or ‘turning off the lights when not in the room’ then settling for a unpleasing light source. LED’s are a improvement from fluorescent bulbs but nothing looks better then the classic ‘A’ bulb or other incandescent light sources.
    Thanks for the article.
    Angela Bridge

  2. The heat cast by those older bulbs can be significant but very useful. My sewing room/studio is in my basement, which is cool at the best of times. I recently switched to the new LED bulbs to get full spectrum lighting and save on electricity– only to find out that my room is now significantly cooler! In the winter months, I now have to add a small space heater. Not much saving in electricity after all. And you are right about planned obsolescence. I too have wondered how long the long life bulbs will be around before there is a ‘flaw’ discovered with them. But perhaps I am cynical.

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