Today, 1 September, marks the first day of a planned multi-year EU phase-out of energy-inefficient light bulbs, including the humble yet wasteful incandescent.
In honour of the incandescent’s now-underway passing, we thought we’d look at a few of the unique facts and characteristics concerning these century-plus-old lamps:
- As of 2006, more people were living without electric lighting than did when the incandescent lamp first became widely available in the 1880s, according to a study by the International Energy Agency;
- Incandescent light bulbs have an energy-to-light efficiency of just 5 per cent, losing most of their energy in the form of heat. In fact, few noteworthy improvements to the incandescent’s efficiency have been made in the past 70-plus years;
- If every incandescent light bulb in the world were replaced by a compact fluorescent lamp, we could reduce our annual energy consumption by 728 terawatt-hours and cut lighting’s energy footprint by 27 per cent;
- American Thomas Edison and Englishman Joseph Wilson Swan both obtained patents for the incandescent lamp between 1878 and 1879. While Swan successfully sued Edison over the invention, he later sold the rights to his patent to Edison;
- Low-energy, efficient passivhauses in places like Scandinavia actually use incandescent light bulbs as a source of heat;
- The first known incandescent Christmas tree lights were used in 1882;
- The worldwide light bulb market was — between 1924 and 1939 — controlled by a cartel of lighting companies known as the Phoebus cartel. Blamed for stifling innovation in lighting technology, the cartel was also depicted in fictional form by novelist Thomas Pynchon in his work, Gravity’s Rainbow.