Light Bulbs – a Bright Idea
We all like to imagine Thomas Edison as the inventor of the light bulb – hovering in an archaic laboratory over a glowing wire and making ecstatic exclamations. However, the truth of the matter was that Edison’s invention was intended to be another weapon in his arsenal during the great War of Currents between Edison and Tesla, a battle for the control of America’s electrical future – DC vs AC, a battle that was fraught with nasty PR skirmishes, including the invention and implementation of the electric chair and publically electrocuting a man-killing elephant. It was all very soap-opera like. In addition, Edison wasn’t really the ‘creator’ of light as we understand it – filament and current experiments had been going on for years beforehand; he just happened to be the guy who got a big name for it, a big patent, and lots of money via Edison Electric.
The truth about the light bulb is: what we first produced at Menlo Park, the World Fair, and beyond, was not really what we traditionally imagine a light bulb to be.
Simplistic, almost crude in nature, and nowhere near as beautiful as the fixtures we now advertise as ‘Edison bulbs’.
But when someone asks me about light bulbs, the image that pops into my head is far more grandiose – and nowhere near as limited or as resource-consumptive as pouring electricity through tungsten elements and inert gases like argon, nitrogen, krypton, or xenon. I imagine a technology that could possibly have existed as early as 1801 as archaic, and I feel almost defeated in the fact that we still cling to it. Instead, my ideas of illumination are grandiose, progressive, technology-laden – and cheap to run.
If you aren’t willing to take my word for the value of a good light bulb, allow me to demonstrate with some basic math calculations.
There is a neighbor living behind me whose back porch light that is always on – day, or night. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, every week since I have lived behind them. Can you imagine their electricity bill? Well, we can try to imagine it for that bulb –
Traditional Incandescent (from any box store): $.45 to buy, avg life of 975 hours, 60W rated
60W/hr x 8760 hours = 525600 W/hours = 525.6 kWh x $.11/kWh = $57.82
(24hrs x 365 days) (Average price per kW/h domestically)
Not to mention – in 8760 hours of use, the light bulb must be replaced 9 times, which is another expense of $4.05. In terms of consumption and replacement, that bulb costs my neighbor $61.87 a year to keep burning in the back 40.
If I could get him to switch to a 60W equivalent Compact Fluorescent Lamp things look pretty impressive: $2.30 at your local store, 14W rated (60W equivalent) lamp with a life of 9900 hours.
14W/hr x 8760 hours = 122640 W/hours = 122.64 kWh x $.11/kWh = $13.49 + $2.30= $15.79
The bulb wouldn’t need replacing, since its lifespan is longer than a year. This is a savings of 72%.
I’d like to save 72% off my utilities bill – it’s too bad there are no other choices quite so easy to make in terms of general utility usage.
Oh! But there is! Perhaps next time we can explore other ways to reduce resource consumption – or conserve what we do consume. While not always the same thing, they frequently go hand in hand.
For those of you – like me – who are advocates of the LED movement:
60W equivalent Light Emitting Diode : $9.97 for a 5000K daylight 10.5W bulb, 25000 hours of life.
10.5 x 8760 hours = 91980 W/hours = 91.98 kWh x $.11/kWh = $10.12 + $9.97 = $20.09
While a larger initial investment, even burning for twenty four hours a day, the bulb will survive for over two and a half years – which means the life of the bulb costs far, far less than any other bulb available on the market today.
Lifetime of an incandescent = 975 hours – $6.44 lifetime cost to operate constantly for 40 days.
Lifetime of a CFL = 10K hours – $15.40 lifetime cost to operate constantly for 417 days.
Lifetime of an LED = 25K hours – $28.88 lifetime cost to operate constantly for 1042 days.
Reverse engineer it –
1042 days of incandescent = (26 bulbs x $.45/ea) + (26 bulbs x $6.44costs)= $179.14
1042 days of CFL = (3 bulbs x $2.30) + (3 bulbs x $15.40) = $53.10
1042 days of LED = $9.97 bulb + $28.88 = $38.85
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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