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All About Incandescent Lightbulbs

Graphic with the title "All About Incandescent Light Bulbs"

If you're like most Americans, you probably still have a quite a few incandescent lightbulbs throughout your home. Cheap, effective, and easy to use, incandescent lightbulbs provide the second most used form of lighting in the world today behind fluorescent bulbs. The history of the incandescent light bulb While Thomas Edison typically gets the credit for the invention of incandescent lightbulbs. He was far from the only person involved in their history. Technology and variations over the years include…

  • 1809 English chemist Humphry Davy invents the first electric light. Called the arc lamp, the light connected a battery at one end to a charcoal strip at the other.
  • 1820 Warren De la Rue tries a platinum coil in an evacuated tube, but it proves too expensive for production.
  • 1850 Edward Shepard invents an electrical incandescent arc lamp with a charcoal filament.
  • 1854 The first true glass bulb is invented by watchmaker Henricg Globel.
  • 1874-75 Canadian inventors Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans patent an incandescent light bulb consisting of carbon rods in a nitrogen filled glass cylinder that can burn up to 40 hours. They then sell the patent to Thomas Edison in 1879.
  • 1879-80 Edison’s team upgrades the Canadian bulb with a carbonized bamboo filament capable of burning for over 1,200 hours.
  • 1882 The first set of incandescent Christmas tree lights is invented, but they remain too expensive for the average family until the 1930s.
  • 1893 General Electric releases its searchlight at the Chicago world’s fair.
  • 1903 Willis Whitnew invents a metal-coated carbon filament that will not turn the inside of a bulb dark.
  • 1906 General Electric patents a method of making (costly) tungsten filaments.
  • 1910 William David Coolidge invents a more practical, cost-effective method for making tungsten filaments.
  • 1923 Neon lighting tubes are invented by French engineer and chemist Georges Claude, spreading throughout the U.S. and eventually making their way to Vegas.
  • 1925 Frosted bulbs are invented around the time of Prohibition.
  • 1991 Philips invents a bulb capable of lasting 60,000 hours using magnetic induction.
  • 2007 Congress passes the Energy Independence and Security Act, setting efficiency standards that will result in the phase out of incandescent lightbulbs.

What are today's incandescent lightbulbs made of? Lightbulbs are comprised of a base with two metal contacts. These contacts connect to the ends of an electrical circuit and are attached to two stiff wires, which are then attached to a thin tungsten metal filament (about 6.5 feet long and one-hundredth of an inch thick formed into an inch long coil in the typical 60-watt bulb). The filament sits mid-bulb, held up by a glass mounting structure. The wires and filament are then enclosed in a glass bulb filled with an inert gas, such as argon, to reduce the loss of tungsten due to combustion. When connected to a power supply, current flows from one contact to another, through the wires and on to the filament where they heat up, creating visible light. Why they're being phased out Due to the incandescent light bulb's inefficient nature, which gives off 90 percent of energy as heat and only about 10 percent as visible light, it is giving way to the more advanced and efficient technologies cool light sources such as fluorescents and LEDs. The phase out of these bulbs by the government will help consumers:

  • Save on electrical costs.
  • Avoid the annoyance of frequent bulb replacement, as the newer bulb technology of CFLs and LEDs lasts far longer.
  • Reduce landfill waste.
  • Reduce heat emissions, and consequently cooling demands.
  • Protect the environment thanks to reduced energy use and greenhouse gases.

Ready to update the incandescent lightbulbs in your home and save? Contact Mr. Electric® today. Mr. Electric offers an array of lighting solutions and upgrades to add beauty and value to your home.