5 Common Incandescent Light Bulb Problems

Woman changing a light bulb fixture.
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Regarded as the first practical electric lighting device created, the incandescent light bulb has been part of people's homes since it was popularized by Thomas Edison during the early 1900s. However, there have been numerous criticisms made against it, and various lobby groups demanding that it be phased out have been cropping up over the years. Below are common problems of incandescent light bulbs, the first couple of which are also the reasons behind calls to ban them.

1. Low Efficacy

For an incandescent light bulb to work, electrical energy has to pass through a filament for it to be converted to heat. It is when the filament becomes hot enough that light is produced. Since this process generates more heat — about 90 percent of its output — than light, a great deal of electrical energy is actually wasted. This makes incandescent light bulbs less efficient compared to compact fluorescent lamps and other devices, which require less electricity to give off the same, if not more, light.

2. Negative Environmental Impact

Environmental lobbying groups have labeled incandescent light bulbs as harmful not only because of the electricity they waste in producing heat but also because of the substantial amounts of carbon dioxide they emit. In addition, the heat they generate pushes cooling systems like air conditioners to work harder, especially during the summer. These cooling systems are dependent on coal power plants, which are known for the greenhouse gases they emit. It becomes a vicious cycle.

3. Short Lifespan

The lifetime of a standard incandescent light bulb can range from 700 to 1,000 hours. This means that, if used regularly, it will burn out in less than a year. Compact fluorescent lamps, on the other hand, can last for 4 or 5 years while regular fluorescent bulbs have a maximum lifespan of 20,000 hours.

4. Costs Involved

Incandescent lamps may be cheaper than the more efficient and longer-lasting alternatives, but they are actually not as economical. They drive up electric bills because of the large amount of energy they consume. Due to their short lifespan, they are more costly in the long run, as they need to be replaced often. With incandescent light bulbs, you will need seven or more replacements within a 4-year period. If you use compact fluorescent lamps, however, you will only need one.

5. Sensitivity to Vibration

Though shock-resistant light bulbs are now being sold, incandescent lamps, in general, are vulnerable to vibrations. They tend to perform poorly and their bulb life is shortened when they are placed in or near areas that are often exposed to shaking, such as garage doors and staircases. Regular slamming of doors and crookedly fixed ceiling fans can also cause incandescent light bulbs to burn out quickly.

Despite the many problems associated with the incandescent light bulb, it continues to be in demand in many parts of the world. Product designers and manufacturers are also constantly trying to come up with modifications designed to address concerns people have about the light bulb.