Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Short (and Personal) History of Light Bulbs

Once upon a time, light bulbs were pretty simple. You picked a wattage: 40 / 60 / 75 / 100. You picked a brand: GE or Philips or Westinghouse or something generic. There would be some tweaking around the edges (light color, minor increases in efficiency, bulb shape) but pretty much a light bulb was a light bulb. If you got fancy, there were three way bulbs 30 / 70 / 100 or 50 / 100 / 150. And there were some odd shapes and sizes for ceiling fans, chandeliers, wall sconces, etc.

I recently gathered up all the loose bulbs kicking around. I've got a small box of incandescent bulbs - dregs from a much earlier time; replacement units that never quite found their way into a socket. Many of these were installed and replaced (by CFLs or LEDs) others were spares never installed. I confess that, long after CFLs were dominant, I would opt for an incandescent bulb in a few places where I valued the "instant on" ability, dimmability, or the warmer lamp color. And I've got some clear globular lamps that were bathroom vanity lighting for many years.

I've also got a much bigger stash of CFL bulbs. These were much more finicky - I'd buy bulbs that took too long to warm up, bulbs that were slightly different colors, bulbs that were slightly smaller or larger or enclosed. Over time, I replaced most of the bulbs in my home with CFLs, and over time, most of those got swapped out for more efficient and friendlier LED bulbs - I've really enjoyed watching LED technology come into the marketplace, prices to drop, features to improve. Since the CFLs did indeed last longer than incandescent bulbs, there were a lot fewer opportunities to swap them out organically.

So now I've got a bin full of bulbs. I'm too much of a yankee to throw them out  - perhaps envisioning an end-times scenario when older technology bulbs might come in handy. Been interesting to watch this particular bit of technology shift and change over my lifetime.