So . . .What’s Really Happening to the Incandescent Lamp?

I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. I hear it from Clients, Architects, Building Owners, and last weekend from my parents. There has been a lot of noise on the subject. I say noise, because most of it is only partially informed and has a sub-par solution- replacement with compact fluorescents that don’t dim, don’t last as long as they claim, don’t have universal operating positions and often have unacceptable color.  I have read a thousand articles in local and even national newspapers with scary headlines like “INCANDESCENT LAMP TO BE BANNED!”  The reality is quite different. I don’t for-see a future cast under blue-ish white LED’s or dim fluorescents with no punch and no pizzazz.

The truth on this topic is, in 2007, the Department of Energy passed the Energy Independence Security Act (EISA). This piece of legislation set efficiency standards for energy consuming products. It did not ban the incandescent lamp, just set the bar higher, for a better more efficient one. The standards will be phased in over the next few years, setting higher standards each time.  It doesn’t affect those little decorative flame shaped light bulbs in your chandeliers or the appliance lamps for your fridge; just standard general service incandescent lamps. (But – there is always a but … additional legislation is being reviewed right now that will affect efficiency standards for Par and MR reflector type lamps. But . . .we are safe right now!)

By 2012 you would need a lamp as bright as the current 60 watt A-19, that consumes only 40 watts. And it has to last 2x as long. Last year, Philips came out with a new product from their Halogena line that only consumes 40 watts, is as bright as the standard 60 watt and lasts 3x as long. It’s not quite the same as the incandescent, but, I think it’s better. I can dim it 100%, it doesn’t flicker, the color is beautiful and I am saving energy, and, it already meets the new efficiency standards.   

For years General Electric (Thomas Edison’s own company) had been working with nano-technololgy to create stronger and more efficient lamp filaments that would glow brighter and last longer. The last stretch to keep our incandescent technology alive.  But this past year, they decided to abandon it, no doubt the economy took a toll on their development funding and they had to make a choice.  The New York Times recently reported on several R&D folks working on similar projects.

So, the incandescent lamp is not dead yet, it’s just under construction (but . . . just in case, I am stocking up on light bulbs!)