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Learn about Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent light bulbs are the earliest form of the light bulb, which produce light by passing an electric current through a wire filament which heats it to a high temperature, causing the filament to glow. They are incredibly inefficient, converting only 5% of their energy into light. The rest is lost to heat. Incandescent bulbs have a low operating life (1000 hours) and high operating costs compared to LED and CFL equivalents.

If you need an incandescent light, consider that halogen lamps have higher efficiency than standard incandescent. A halogen lamp is a type of incandescent lamp that contains a capsule that holds a halogen gas composition around the heated filament to increase the efficacy.

If you actually need the heat from a lamp, such as to help keep chickens or other animals warm, an incandescent bulb can help, because it gives off so much waste heat.

Incandescent bulbs can be purchased at relatively low cost, but the operating cost for the energy far exceeds the cost of the bulb, making them not a very sustainable choice for lighting.

The world's longest-running light bulb has been operating continuously for over 114 years, in a fire station in Livermore, California, USA. And seriously, they have a 'bulb-cam' so you can look at it! Despite the short lifetime of modern incandescent bulbs, this long-lasting lamp, called a Shelby Bulb, is actually an incandescent. The difference is in the filament, which is much thicker and made of carbon instead of tungsten. The down side is, the Shelby Bulb doesn't produce as much light as modern bulbs, for the amount of energy it uses. And they only make replicas of it now.

Why are incandescent light bulbs still not energy efficient?

Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient because the majority of the electricity they consume (up to 90%) is used to heat the bulb’s filament rather than to produce light. 

How long do incandescent light bulbs last?

A typical incandescent light bulb lasts for 1000 hours. 

What are the disadvantages of incandescent light bulbs?

Incandescent bulbs are inefficient and cost more to operate. Only 10% of the energy they consume is used to produce light, and the other 90% is wasted on heat generation. They have a short life span and emit a lot of heat. Available color ranges are limited, and the bulbs are fragile.

What are the advantages of incandescent light bulbs?

The main advantage of incandescents is their low cost. They're easy to install, produce more natural light, and are dimmable. They are made of non-toxic materials and can be disposed of easily.

Who invented the incandescent light bulb?

While the first electric light can be traced back to 1802, the incandescent light bulb was invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison. Edison filed his first patent titled "Improvement In Electric Lights". He continued to improve on his design and on November 4, 1879 Edison filed U.S. patent 223,898 for "a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected to platina contact wires". The patent was approved on January 27, 1880 and was the first commercially feasible incandescent light bulb. On October 8, 1883 the US Patent Office ruled that Edison's patent was invalid, and based on the research of William E. Sawyer. Litigation lasted for six years. On October 6, 1889 the judge ruled that Edison's patent for "a filament of carbon of high resistance" was valid.

Do LED bulbs work in an incandescent light fixture?

LED bulbs are compatible with an incandescent bulb fixture. Make sure the LED bulb does not exceed the wattage limit of the fixture by looking at its wattage equivalent compared to an incandescent. Enclosed fixtures that do not allow adequate ventilation are not suitable for LEDs as heat can reduce their life expectancy.

Is incandescent light warm or cool?

Incandescent bulbs typically produce a warm or soft light in the 2700k - 2800k range. 

Are incandescent light bulbs illegal?

Incandescent light bulbs are not illegal but are being phased out because of their inefficiency.

What color are incandescent lights?

The color temperature of a light bulb is indicated by Kelvins (K). Incandescents commonly produce a warm light in the 2700k - 2800k range. The lower the Kelvin, the more yellow the light is. 

Can you still buy incandescent light bulbs?

Incandescent light bulbs can still be purchased at retailers.

What is the difference between LED and incandescent light bulbs?

LED lights are composed of many small semiconductors that are stimulated by electrons to produce light. In comparison, incandescent bulbs create light using a filament that generates heat and glows. LEDs are brighter, operate at a cooler temperature, consume less electricity, and last much longer.