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Are incandescent lights being phased out?

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We all remember the panic that ensued when the old fashioned light bulbs were ‘phased out’ and the newer ‘environmentally friendly’ bulbs were introduced. The traditional bulbs flew off shop shelves, and people spoke of the evils of their replacements. While some complaints were true (the new bulbs were more expensive and didn’t last as long) over time, people gradually converted. Now, ‘incandescent light bulb’ is almost an antiquated term, and people speak of them in hushed tones. Usually in the dark.

LED lights are a better choice

So what exactly is an incandescent light bulb? Are incandescent lights being phased out? Can we ever properly adapt to a new life without them?

Incandescent lighting is a term used for the bulbs we’re all used to seeing, with the pear shape and curly wire. Electricity is passed through the wire, and by a process of pure magic, we get light.

Well, not exactly. It’s a bit more complicated, so here it is in simpler terms:

  • Electricity is passed through the tungsten wire
  • (Tungsten has a very high melting point, so it glows before it melts)
  • Electricity excites the electrons in the atoms of the tungsten
  • Electrons jump up to a higher energy level
  • As they fall back down to their usual energy level they give off a little bit of energy
  • This energy is a photo – a light particle.

Incandescent lighting is cheap and contain very little toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, about 90% of the electricity it uses is wasted – only 10% goes to actually producing the light. For this reason, some incandescent light bulbs are being phased out.

The phasing out of incandescent lighting started in about 2009, and if you take the government’s statistics as gospel, the process is saving about 2.6 terawatt-hours if electricity each year. Each house is reported to be saving about $75 a year. Which bulbs are going? Anything that has an energy efficiency of less than 15 lumens per watt (a measure of light output per energy input).

Sales and importation of the pear-shaped bulbs began in 2009, along with extra-low-voltage halogen non-reflector lamps and self-ballasted compact fluorescent lamps. In 2010, sales restrictions extended to candle, fancy round and decorative bulbs of more than 40W and extra-low voltage halogen reflector lamps. 2011 saw mains voltage halogen non-reflector lamps’ sales restricted and further sales restrictions were imposed on candle, fancy round and decorative lamps greater than 25W. Further sales restrictions are coming in October next year.

Recommended alternatives are LED lighting, and compact fluorescent lamps (with the ballast – the unit preventing too much electricity from flowing to the bulb – in the light socket and not the bulb).

So there you have it – yes, incandescent light bulbs are being phased out, but the newer  LED lights are a better choice all round. 


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