Let there be light! Before the 20th century, light was limited to what came from the sun or fire. Oil lamps and lanterns were used for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until electricity was harnessed to illuminate light bulbs that we were able to really create artificial light. When this finally occurred, it changed the world — perhaps more so than any other invention ever.
Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about different types of light bulbs, from their invention in the 1800s to one of the most ubiquitous and utilized creations; one that has become absolutely essential for daily life in every corner of the world.
How Was the Light Bulb Initially Created?
Before electric light bulbs, flame lanterns and lamps were how people got most of their light. The first electric light was known as an “carbon arm lamp” and it was invented in 1802 by an English doctor named Sir Humphrey Davy. It was created when Davy connected wires from a piece of carbon to a battery. This made the carbon glow, which produced light — though it did not last long and was much too bright for any sort of practical use.
The most common notion of how the modern light bulb was created came about in 1879, when Thomas Edison expanded on a range of work that had been accumulated since 1802 to produce the first economical and practical light bulb. Edison developed a more effective incandescent material and better vacuum than any previous bulb, as well as centralized electrical distribution. These factors are largely what made Edison’s bulb so economically viable, which led to its increased popularity and essentially kick-started the artificial light revolution that began all over the world.
Why Are Electric Bulbs Not Filled With Air?
Electric bulbs are not filled with air because it would lead to the bulb not being able to function. The filament in incandescent light bulbs — the most common type of traditional light bulb — is made from tungsten, which becomes extremely hot when illuminated. This filament would burn up extremely fast if exposed to regular air, given the oxygen content.
Most modern electric bulbs are filled with chemically inert gases such as argon or nitrogen. However, the earliest light bulbs were made without gases at all — the inside of the earliest bulbs were vacuum tubes. They also used other elements besides tungsten to create light through heat from electric charges passing through the filament.
How Long Do Light Bulbs Last?
Traditional incandescent light bulbs typically last between 1,500-3,000 hours. These particular lights are fully dimmable, so you can increase the lifespan if you keep the lights regularly low with the use of a dimmer.
Other types of light bulbs can last much longer. LED lights can last up to 50,000 hours, or about 50 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. To put this in perspective, if an LED light is left on for 12 hours a day, every day, it will last more than a decade before needing to be replaced!
What Are the Different Types of Light Bulbs?
Light bulbs come in all shapes and sizes, with different electrical requirements, brightness levels, and purposes. However, there are surprisingly few “types” of bulbs as a matter of classification.
While there are many shapes and sizes of bulbs with varying strengths and wattages, there are only a handful of main types of light bulbs: incandescent, fluorescent, CFL, halogen, and LED. These are the types of light bulbs that you will encounter in almost every home, building, or outdoor electrical lighting in every part of the world. Below is a short description of each of the main types of light bulbs.
Incandescent bulbs are the most well-known type that have been used nearly everywhere up until recently. They are the source of the iconic bulbous light bulb shape, with the filament visible through the glass. These use tungsten filaments and convert heat to light. They are simple and bright but not energy efficient.
Fluorescent bulbs are more complex than incandescent lights. Inside fluorescent tubes, which is how these bulbs are shaped, cathodes receive electric currents. These currents excite gases such as mercury that are contained within the tube. This radiates energy, which is converted by the external phosphorous coating, turning radiant energy into visible light.
These types of light bulbs use less energy than incandescent ones, and they last much longer. That said, they’re difficult to dispose of because of the mercury contained in the tubes.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)
Compact fluorescent lamps, better known as CFLs, are just like regular fluorescent lights except they are coiled and much smaller. They operate as a fluorescent bulb but look more like an incandescent bulb. They have a lifespan of up to 10,000 hours.
Halogen lamps are essentially a better version of traditional incandescent light bulbs. They both use tungsten, although in halogen lamps the filament is wrapped with a compact transparent envelope. These bulbs contain a small amount of halogen with other inert gases, which increase brightness and lifespan. They are also smaller than regular incandescent bulbs.
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
LED bulbs have become the electric light of choice in much of the world because of their energy efficiency and variety of light colors. The colors are created by the wavelength of light emitted rather than a color-tinted exterior — this is why LED lights can change colors. These bulbs exist as a semiconductor, with electricity applied to negatively charged diodes. This process releases photons, leading to light being emitted from the diode that uses considerably less electricity.
What Are the Best Energy Saving Light Bulbs?
Compact fluorescent bulbs use the fewest watts, but LED lights are by far the most energy efficient. For comparison, a small 10-watt LED bulb will emit more light than a 60-watt incandescent bulb. This is because an LED bulb emits light — as its name states, it’s a light emitting diode. On the other hand, incandescent bulbs really emit heat, which gives off light as a byproduct.
Incandescent bulbs and halogen bulbs have the highest wattage, which makes them less energy efficient bulbs than the other types. The more wattage, the more energy is needed to power the light, which makes it less energy efficient.
What Are the Best Types of Light Bulbs For Bedrooms?
The best types of light bulbs for use in the bedroom are LED bulbs, followed by halogen lamps. LEDs are the most efficient, longest lasting, and most durable option. That said, halogen bulbs are also a good option for most bedrooms, especially in bedside lamps, because they are perfectly designed for the low-level light usually desired while in bed. Plus, they last a long time without needing to be changed.
However, if you’re looking more for ambiance than energy efficiency, warm white (2400K) incandescent bulbs are a great choice. Warm color temperatures resemble candle light, making them perfect for soft, soothing illumination.
What Are Some Recommended Light Bulbs For the Kitchen?
Since it’s essential to have a well-lit kitchen when preparing food, the most popular option might be daylight (5000K) incandescent bulbs. With a bright, white light, these bulbs are designed to evoke the feeling of the sky at noon on a cloudless day. However, since these types of light bulbs are energy guzzlers, it’s best to use them sparingly in a kitchen. If you must, only use them in light fixtures above food prep areas or other places that need illumination.
For more energy efficient options, CFL and LED lights can provide nearly as good visibility, though the mercury in CFLs can be an issue for some people, as they can be toxic if not disposed of properly. (We’ll explain how to do this safely later in this guide.) LEDs are also a good fit for ambiance — especially in a dining room chandelier — if that’s a primary goal as well.
What Are the Best Outdoor Light Bulbs For Cold Weather?
Certain types of light bulbs perform better in specific weather conditions than others. The best and most suitable type for outdoor lighting in cold weather is the LED light bulb. They are energy efficient, durable, and require less heat. Because they emit less heat, LEDs work efficiently year-round, even in extremely cold weather.
Why Are LEDs Better Than Incandescent Bulbs?
LEDs are better because they use much less energy than incandescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that diode light is much more energy efficient than incandescent filament light. On average, LED bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. LEDs also last a lot longer, which is another aspect of why they are generally considered better.
What Is a Motion-Activated Light Bulb?
Motion-activated light bulbs are paired with infrared light sensors. These bulbs automatically turn on when motion is detected in darkness or over any predetermined period of time. These lights turn off after the movement has subsided without the need for a controlling switch.
How Do Motion Detection Bulbs Work?
When a motion detector light bulb senses an object moving across its field of view — especially warmer objects such as people, animals, and cars — it electronically turns on the lights.
Do Motion Sensor Lights Need Special Bulbs?
No, motion sensor lights do not require special bulbs. A motion detector basically consists of a motion sensor for motion detection and an electrical switch. In general, it does not matter whether the motion detector switches an incandescent bulb or LED light.
A Few Words About Fixing Bulbs
No light bulb lasts forever. Sometimes they break and sometimes they simply burn out — even long-lasting LED lights need to be replaced eventually. While certain situations can lead to an easy fix, other situations call for more specific ways to get broken lights out of a socket or to change bulbs in hard to reach places. Here are a couple of top tips to help you out.
How Do You Get a Broken Light Bulb Out?
First things first: turn the light switch to the off position. Afterwards, put on gloves, eye protection, and other personal protective equipment to remove any loose glass.
Next, cut a potato in half and push it against the jacked glass that is protruding from the socket. Twist counter-clockwise once the glass is securely held inside the flesh of the potato. This should allow you to remove the broken part of the bulb that was stuck inside the socket.
You can also use needle-nose pliers or other tools to take out a broken bulb — but make extra sure that the electricity is shut off from reaching the socket or you risk electrocution.
How Do You Change Light Bulbs In High Places?
If you’re able to safely use a ladder to get yourself to a higher position, you can change a light bulb. However, if this isn’t possible, you can use a specially designed, extendable light bulb changer. According to at least one review site, top DIY options include:
- STAUBER Best Light Changer
- Bayco LBC-600C Deluxe Light Changer
- Ettore 48350 Changer
- Bayco LBC-200 Floodlight Changer
- Designers Edge E3001 Light Changing Kit Foot Metal Telescopic Pole
- Docazoo 5-12 Foot DocaPole Light Changer
Of course, you can always call an electrician or other professional who can safely change light bulbs in hard-to-reach places.
Negative Effects of Light Bulbs
Light bulbs have provided such a positive advancement for society, but there are a few downsides, especially from certain types of bulbs. From mercury contained within bulbs to the possibility of harming your skin, there are some precautions to take with certain types of light bulbs.
Can Light Bulbs Cause Skin Cancer?
Light bulbs that are specifically used for the purposes of tanning can be harmful. These are typically fluorescent or CFL bulbs that are turned on very close to the skin for an extended period of time, as much as 20 minutes or more. CFL bulbs produce some levels of UVA and UVC radiation, which has been shown to cause skin to age and burn. Prolonged UV exposure can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
Why Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Bad For the Environment?
Indirectly, incandescent bulbs are bad for the environment because of the extra coal associated with their use. Most electricity still comes from fossil fuels in the United States, which is a major source of mercury pollution. These release up to four times more mercury into the atmosphere than CFL bulbs — and CFL bulbs literally contain mercury, so this is quite significant.
Recycling and Disposal of Light Bulbs
It would be nice if light bulbs never burned out and could be used forever. This would prevent not only the need to change them (which is sometimes difficult to accomplish), but it would also be better for the environment. Proper disposal of light bulbs is crucial as there are some dangers that can result from not getting rid of them in the right manner.
Can You Throw Away Light Bulbs?
You can throw away incandescent light bulbs and halogen light bulbs, which do not contain any hazardous materials. As such, you can dispose of them with your regular household waste, just be sure to wrap them in newspaper or other protective covering in case they break. They cannot be recycled like normal glass because of the wires within the bulb.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t throw away CFLs, fluorescent bulbs, and other bulbs that contain mercury. Instead, you should recycle them. Visit search.Earth911.com to find a recycling center near you.
Can You Recycle Light Bulbs? Where Do You Recycle Them?
Some types of light bulbs are recyclable, but due to the processes necessary to separate the materials, most recycling centers do not accept every kind of light bulb.
Since fluorescent and CFL bulbs contain mercury, it is critical that they do not end up in a landfill, where they can potentially contaminate ecosystems. While they’re safe to use in your home, you should make sure they are disposed of properly when they are no longer functioning by sending them to a specialized recycling center that accepts fluorescent bulbs. Earth 911 is a good resource if you are looking for recycling options.
How Do You Dispose of LED Bulbs?
LED bulbs are non-toxic, and they are built to last for many years. However, they can still be damaged or stop working after a long period of time. It’s important to note that Earth 911 is a great resource to consult for proper disposal of these types of bulbs.
What’s Next For Light Bulbs?
With the advances of light bulbs from hot, electrical filaments in the early 1800s to the energy-efficient LED bulbs that constitute a growing proportion of lights across the world, the future looks bright for bulbs.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Just as we were unable to see the progression coming before CFLs and LEDs were created, we will not know what new types of light bulbs will be available until they are invented and become available.
In the meantime, whether you’re using incandescent or LED bulbs, make sure you make the most of your energy conservation efforts by getting your electricity from companies that provide efficient electrical services, such as Tara Energy. Turning off the lights when you don’t need them is one way to save energy — the other is to have a more eco-friendly electricity company combined with the most efficient bulbs for when you need the lights to stay on.
Brought to you by taranergy.com
All images licensed from Adobe Stock.