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Power Government News Technology

Incandescent Bulbs Return To the Cutting Edge 569

lee1 writes "A law in the US that is due to take effect in 2012 mandates such tough efficiency standards for lightbulbs that it has been assumed, until recently, that it would kill off the incandescent bulb. Instead, the law has become a case study of the way government regulation can inspire technical innovation. For example, new incandescent technology from Philips that seals the traditional filament inside a small capsule (which itself is contained within the familiar bulb). The capsule has a coating that reflects heat back to the filament, where it is partially converted to light. The sophisticated ($5.00) bulbs are about 30% more efficient than the old-fashioned ($0.25) kind, and should last about three times as long. So they are less economical than compact fluorescents, but should emit a more pleasing spectrum, not contain mercury, and, one supposes, present the utility company with a more desirable power factor."
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Incandescent Bulbs Return To the Cutting Edge

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  • lasers? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:14AM (#28605291)

    There was an article a month or so ago about how this guy used lasers to (I'm guessing) increase the surface area on the filament, thus increasing efficiency by something like 40%. []

    Maybe both can be used for a super-lightbulb?


    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kad77 ( 805601 )

      Exactly what I clicked on comments to post...

      Wouldn't they be motivated to reach a cross-licensing agreement on the patents?

      It would seem there would be mutual interest, but maybe I'm missing something?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jank1887 ( 815982 )

        "maybe I'm missing something"

        like cost of production. I'm sure people are looking into the manufacturing process. once (if) it becomes economically competitive you'll see it in marketable products. not before.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is ridiculous. I've been using Philips HalogenA bulbs for about 15years already, how the fuck is this EVEN SLIGHTLY news? They have an excellent spectrum, are pricey and last about three times as long a a cheap incandescant. The NYT story is pure marketing to the ignorant, but HalogenA is an excellent product that deserves a wider audience.

      • Re:lasers? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mftb ( 1522365 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:44AM (#28605725) Homepage
        And what exactly is wrong with variety in the market (and bulbs for which you don't have to wait five minutes to reach full brightness)?
    • not just that (Score:3, Interesting)

      The article claims that it would be cheaper, and brighter than a compact-fluorescent, and the manufacturing process is simple. Additionally, the nature of the way they're increasing the light output allows for selective modification of certain areas of the spectrum; increasing certain parts of the spectrum and decrease other parts would make for a cleaner, notably whiter light.

    • Re:lasers? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RDW ( 41497 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @08:14AM (#28606231)

      Philips already has production tungsten halogen bulbs with standard bayonet and screw fittings ('EcoClassic 50' here in the UK) that only use about 50% of the power required by conventional tungsten lamps: []

      Right now these are only available in lower wattages, and the 100W replacement still draws 70W like those in the NYT article ('EcoClassic 30' over here). But it looks like existing technologies should be able to bring down the power consumption of this class of bulbs across the board. Lots of details, teardowns of current devices and predictions of future developments here: []

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Whammy666 ( 589169 )
        A company called PureSpectrum is in the process of releasing a line of CFLs with a 0.97 power factor. They are also linearly dimmable and expected to be price competitive to current CFLs on the market. Unfortunately, they still use mercury, but it's down to only 1mg instead of the typical 4mg/bulb. PureSpectrum is also making a line of ballasts which have high power factors and are also dimmable for daylight harvesting applications.
    • Re:lasers? (Score:4, Funny)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @10:24AM (#28607819)
      It's just like my dear old dad used to say: "Son, lasers can make *anything* better."
  • and compact fluorescents are still more economical? why should we change then?

    just because of a more pleasing spectrum? The "mercury" issue should be easily solved by disposing the bulbs in the correct way (i.e. recycle).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The "mercury" issue should be easily solved by disposing the bulbs in the correct way

      easily...with a majority of dumb people disposing trash in the very street whenever they can ? are so naive it is not even funny.

      • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:55AM (#28605531)
        I agree on your cynicism towards people disposing trash properly. However I do think that governments aren't making it easy enough for people to have no excuses. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying it's a complicated equation, but in order for this to work it should be "as easy" to dispose of your light bulbs properly as it is with regular waste. In some places this is true, but that's far, far from all.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:28AM (#28605353)

      Uh.. you can't just stick the bulb in the recycle bin. You have to dispose of it in the proper recycle bin. (and live in a community that has a proper recycle bin for mercury containing bulbs. Mine has a "special dispensation" for CFLs, so if I want my bulbs recycled I have to go out of my way to make sure it happens. Way out of my way. either a 30 minute drive to home depot which I think might work, or an hour and a half drive to the recycle company. by appointment. on specific days only.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by eoinmadden ( 769606 )
        Where I live, in the EU, there will be soon a law mandating stores that sell bulbs to take them back for recycling.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by umghhh ( 965931 )
          Relaying on public to dispose it properly even if the public generally cares is not going to solve the issue. In Germany we have schemes that pay for empty bottles returned to the shop and I still manage to get flat tyre on my back fairly frequently due to all the glass splitter and that even though there are people that actually collect the bottles to get some cents for their own beer. Considering the fact that disposing toxic trash is a big business here which cought attention of organized criminals long
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Swizec ( 978239 )
      The displeasing spectrum IS, after all, what prevents most people from buying fluorescent lights. Also, the whole fact that they DON'T FIT in many ceiling lights because they are bloody too long and weird.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:36AM (#28605413)

      The "mercury" issue should be easily solved by disposing the bulbs in the correct way

      Breakage - accidents happen in the home, office and ...... car(?) OK forget the car for now. the is the list of steps to safely dispose of broken CFL coils (bulbs) -

            Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room

            1. Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
            2. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
            3. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

                  Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

            4. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
            5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
            6. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
            7. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

                  Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

            8. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
            9. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
          10. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
          11. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

                  Disposal of Clean-up Materials

          12. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
          13. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
          14. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

                  Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

          15. The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
          16. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

      a great way to spend the afternoon, huh?

      • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @08:06AM (#28606151) Journal

        Compare that to the method for incandescent bulbs:

        1) sweep broken bulb pieces into adust pan and dump in the garbage

        Plus I don't have to turn off my central air each time I clean the floor after that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

          Because you break your light bulbs so often that this is a major inconvenience that makes it worth trading off the substantial efficiency gains? Something tells me you're doing something wrong...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sandbags ( 964742 )

        OK, besides the fact this is completely paranoid, the rest of the article was equally interesting and revealing: []

        We're not talking a lot of mercury here, in fact, we're talking about 2 mg. Also, this is NOT liquid mercury (elemental mercury) but a mercury compund, and exposure limits are increased accodringly.

        The contamination levels for acceptible CONTINUAL mercury exposure are 0.1MG/m^2. and that's the AIRBORN

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not just more pleasing, but more healthy too... My eyes get tired a lot more easily under fluorescents, just as an example. A lot of people get migraines, etc. I'm not saying fluorescents aren't good for some uses, but taking away all other choices is not right either.
  • Dimmer Savior! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MukiMuki ( 692124 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:19AM (#28605307)

    The moment I find these in stores I am IMMEDIATELY buying a few and replacing every bulb attached to a dimmer switch in my house. Ask anyone with a light dimmer who switched to CFL's, and this'll immediately be their biggest caveat with the tech.

    • Re:Dimmer Savior! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:36AM (#28605411) Journal

      The moment I find these in stores I am IMMEDIATELY buying a few and replacing every bulb attached to a dimmer switch in my house. Ask anyone with a light dimmer who switched to CFL's, and this'll immediately be their biggest caveat with the tech.

      The 'dimmer' cfls actually work pretty well, and the ones I have, have a better color temperature when dimmed than when full-on. Dimmed incandescents do very poorly when dimmed, shifting a lot of the energy into infra-red that you just can't see. Sure, you could save 25% of the power by getting 50% of the usable light*, but is that really efficiency?

      *actually, I suspect it might be worse than that. That's just my first guess without doing any calculus.

  • Canada eh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aoteoroa ( 596031 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:20AM (#28605309)
    I live in Edmonton Alberta, Canada where 8 months of winter is fairly common. Here our old incandescent bulbs have 100% efficiency because the heat generated does not go to waste :-)
    • But you guys also have the biggest allotment of cheap natural gas(to the point where some folks use it in their cars), meaning any process which converts electricity to heat is inherently financially inefficient over there. ;)

    • Or people who have pets, but don't want to buy one of those expensive heatlamp bulbs or whatever.

    • Wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:41AM (#28605429) Journal

      You would find less overall electricity usage by switching to CFL and using the difference in power to run a heat pump. Worst case scenario, the ground doesn't have any heat to give you and your pump defaults to standard resistance heating, which is where you are now. All other scenarios are improvements on that.

      Unless, of course, you're not currently using electric resistance heating as your main heat supply. In which case, by answering the question, "why not," you will also know why you're not saving anything by relying on your lamps as auxiliary heat.

      • Re:Wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:21AM (#28605645)
        It looks to me instead like the energy efficiency advantage for compact fluorescent bulbs is smaller. Recall that the incandescent bulb is much cheaper than its rivals at the moment. So if the energy efficiency of the rivals isn't significant enough, the incandescent can be the better choice. So yes, even though the original poster wasn't entirely right, the incandescent bulb has greater viability in a region which normally is very cold.
    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      Funny but not really true. You are only warming the ceiling. Much better to save the power and use it on something designed to spread the heat around the room.


      • You know, I think the total heat energy in a room matters more than where it is applied. The heat, whereever it is will get dispersed largely everywhere. Insulation keeps it indoors. Also, much of the heat is infrared which is radiant heat that gets absorbed by whatever it strikes which is the floor. The ceilings are white ( not sure how reflective of IR). But whether the heat is absorbed ( and re-radiated ) or reflected is unimportant. It gets dispersed and redispersed as long as it remains inside th
      • by Fzz ( 153115 )
        OK, but where does that heat go from the ceiling your incandescent lightbulbs warmed? Some of it radiates back to the rest of the room, and some warms the room upstairs. The heat is only wasted if it is on the top floor and the loft is poorly insulated. And then not all light bulbs are ceiling mounted - we've plenty of table or standard lamps too.

        There's a much better reason why you don't want to use lightbulbs to generate heat, which is that resistive heating makes very little sense. Either use gas,

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @05:27AM (#28605345)

    Stick a halogen light bulb inside an incandescent light bulb. That's what they sell around here to replace incandescent bulbs once they're no longer sold. Nice spectrum, no warm-up time, longer lifetime than the incandescent bulb it replaces, 30% less energy used compared to the incandescent.

    • Halogen light bulbs are a kind of incandescent bulb.

    • Maybe now is the time to stock up on incandescent bulbs and then sell them on the black market later for a tidy profit...
  • As long as the new bulbs cost more than the old ones + their total consumption in electricity over their lifespan this is a net loss.

  • I'm sorry but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cats2ndlife ( 995125 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:04AM (#28605579)
    I'm sorry but this so called new technology is a farce. 30% improvement in efficiency over 5% efficiency is still just 8% overall. At $5 apiece, which is way more then a CFL, which goes around $2.5 to $3.3 apiece, and it's 75% efficiency, I'm going for CFL.
  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kramulous ( 977841 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:15AM (#28605625)

    Gotta tell ya, I replaced all the lights in my house with the newer fluorescent bulbs, both white and warm, over a year ago and I can now no longer stand the light output of the incandescent bulbs; it seems too harsh. Go figure. I guess humans just adapt.

    The white light works very well in rooms like the bathroom, toilet, shed and kitchen. The warmer lights almost everywhere else. People really need to stop throwing tantrums.

  • LED Lamps (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tuqui ( 96668 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:17AM (#28605629) Homepage

    LED are already here, costs still high but they beat flourescents bulbs in life span and energy consume, and lightup instantaneously.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hoarier ( 1545701 )
      Yes, true, but as of a year or so ago (the last time I looked) the light of an LED was bluish or weak or both.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chrontius ( 654879 )
        Find yourself a Cree q3-5a LED []. Color temperature is comparable to an extremely hot, white, and efficient high-pressure xenon/halogen lamp... but much more efficient still.
  • Strip lights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt ( 752068 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @06:43AM (#28605715)

    I got tired of incandescent bulbs failing, and the low light output of CFLs. I just installed a couple of high output fluorescent tubes in the dungeon, and now it's much easier to see what you're doing. People need to just get over this "warm" light nonsense.

  • Lame (Score:3, Funny)

    by ae1294 ( 1547521 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @07:13AM (#28605855) Journal

    What ever happened to microwave lighting that I saw on TV over a decade ago that was going to kick ass???

    and where is my flying car and VR sex slave.

    o.. and why does my car from 1997 get the same MPG as all the new ones that don't have massive arrays of lead acid battery's?

    The light bulb is lame. I want my damn sharks with flipp'en lasers and you need to get off my LAN son....

  • Similarly... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @07:46AM (#28606031)

    The last major gas mileage increase in North American cars came as a result of legislation.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @07:54AM (#28606069) Homepage

    A TOTAL ban on incandescent lamps? I think not. You can't put CFL's in the 'fridge. They won't work in ovens. They don't work worth a damn
    with dimmers (I've tried several "dimmable" CLF's, they have a range of maybe 20%). Until they make CFL's or way cheaper LED bulbs equal to 60-100W incandescent lamps that work with a dimmer, I'll keep the "Edison bulbs" in my dimmable fixtures, even If I have to buy black market lamps from Korea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sandbags ( 964742 )

      I have a CF in my oven. it cam ethat way new.

      I have about 20 dimmable CFs. They work great, and have a range from about 20% to 90% of an equavalent CF. I have 60watt 5000K dimmers. They were about $12 a bulb when i got em, they're about $6 now.

      If you buy the cheap crap Walmart pushes, you get cheap crap... Look online at one of the many 1000+ bulb stores, check the ratings on each bulb, and it;s FULL stats (temp, range, watts, lumens, etc).

      You'll also not that the ban taking effect in 2012 actually onl

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @08:04AM (#28606139)

    Cripes, the infamous light bulb efficiency gimmick again. What's next, we gonna tie light bulb usage to Global Warming?

    Seriously, any of you ever actually take a measurement of your electric usage in your house? Instead of screwing with 60W of light you use really only part of the day, take a look at your A/C unit. Older A/C units under 10 SEER drawing 20A or more will suck $80 - $120/month out of your wallet while new ones will draw less than 1/2 of that (7 - 10A). A dryer that runs 2 hours a day (not hard for a family of four) will run over $30/month pulling 20A. Own a pool? Average 1HP pump will suck another $25 - $35/month from your wallet if you run it according to what you've heard is "the norm". Geek running a server farm out of your home powered 24/7? Had a measly el-cheapo Dell headless tower that ran me $10/month by itself.

    Point here is there's a HELL of a lot MORE we can fine tune and adjust lifestyles around to save a hell of a lot more than that 60W light bulb that you don't even turn off when you leave a room anyway.

    Technology for Al Gores sake is not always necessary.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @08:04AM (#28606141) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, these new incandescents are 30% more efficient, but my CFLs are 400% more efficient than the latest "normal" bulbs they compete with. They're therefore 3x as efficient as these new incandescents. And these new ones, at $5 apiece, cost 8.75x what my CFLs cost in a box of 12. The CFLs will last something like 10 years, instead of about 2 for incandescents (maybe 5 for these new, less hot ones). But at such high efficiency, the CFLs add very little heat to the room to be cooled with my air conditioning - even more overall system efficiency. As for the spectrum, my CFLs side by side a new GE incandescent at the same luminosity show the CFL with a slightly yellower light, which is the "warm" light we like to associate with homey incandescent.

    If we didn't have good CFLs, these new incandescents would be welcome. They might have some applications, given their small size, and cheap dimmability (dimmable CFLs cost 2-3x as much, last half as long, at least during their own early days). But within a couple years LEDs with 1300-1900 lumens will cost less than CFLs now, and can run directly on DC power - thereby increasing solar PV efficiency driving them by eliminating the 30-50% now lost on DC/AC/DC conversion. The LEDs will have a more tunable spectrum, last longer, and fit smaller fixtures, with even less heat inefficiency to cool (or disperse in enclosures).

    CFLs today, LEDs tomorrow. Incandescents in movies about the 20th Century.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) *

      If we didn't have good CFLs, these new incandescents would be welcome.

      We don't have good CFLs, ergo incandescents are welcome.

  • Silly questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @10:18AM (#28607701) Homepage Journal

    The "rule of thumb" for the old, straight tube florescent bulbs bulbs was to only turn them off if you weren't going to be needing the light again for at least fifteen minutes. This is due to the start up energy costs to establish the initial arc in the gas. First question: Do CFLs have the same or similar start up costs? If so, it would seem that old style incandescent bulbs should still be used where the light is frequently turned on and off and, typically, the light only remains on for short periods of time (e.g., a bathroom light, closet light, refrigerator light, etc.). Second question: Is this "leave it on" period different for CFLs?


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