Light Bulbs

What better way to kick off an idea website than with the light bulb.  A 60 watt incandescent bulb from way back when (maybe 10 years now) will be used as the normal reference point.  Watts mean the amount of power or energy the bulb uses.  The electric bill totals the amount of kilowatt (1,000 watts) hours or kWh you use each month.  A 60 watt bulb left on for 1 hour calculates to .06 kWh.  Lumens are basically how bright is the bulb.  The normal bulb is 800 lumens.  Generally, if you need a brighter bulb, increase the wattage and the lumens will increase.  Kelvin measures the color temperature and thus determines the color of the light.  The basic yellowish light bulb, or classified as a soft warm light, is around 3,000 Kelvin.  Bright or Cool White is around 4,000 Kelvin and Daylight is 5,000 Kelvin and above.  Voltage measures the current.  Most house fixtures use 120 Volts.  Always double check the Voltage needed.  20 year cost will factor in the cost of the bulb and the cost of energy usage at 12 cents per kWh.  Average usage for a main bulb will be about 3 hours a day for 365 days or conveniently 1,000 hours per year or 20,000 total hours for 20 years.


The first light bulb man encountered was the sun.  Let there be light!  Nothing man has come up ever can match the power of the sun.  The sun is also the cheapest form of light available to us, however there are plenty of indirect costs associated with the sun.  The biggest difficulty with the light from the sun is control.  The control freaks that we are cannot use it when the sun goes down.  Also, with the sun being so far away, there are times when things get in the way like the clouds or the moon.  As when the moon blocks the sun, it becomes newsworthy.  Take that clouds!  Continuing with the astronomical theme, the sun isn’t quite an endless supply of light.  At the time of this writing, the sun has only 4 billion years worth of energy as it will then move on to its Armageddon phase of its existence.  There are some indirect costs to the sun.  The heat from sun in the winter is a good thing, but during the summer take a look at your energy bill due to the high use of air conditioning.  Chalk up sunscreen (or the pain from sunburns if you prefer to go au natural) to the indirect costs of the sun.

Stats – 0 Watts / 100,000 lumens / 6,500 Kelvin

Recommended – Anytime when your outside during the day


Man eventually got greedy and wanted light all the time, so in comes fire.  Once you have all the ingredients to create a fire, it is a fairly cheap source of light.  Fire can be controlled more than the sun.  The downfalls exist with preparing to start the fire.  Whether, you use two sticks, matches or a lighter there is some effort involved in starting a blaze.  Then, you have to have a source ready to burn to keep the fire going from a candle wick, newspaper, wood or propane.  Flames may produce light, but they aren’t that bright.  Candles are adequate for walking around a room, but any lengthy reading will be difficult.  The biggest disadvantage would be the danger factor.  As a parent, I am happiest when I can get the kids to do something for me.  They are not quite at fire starter age.  Fires are bad and unpredictable.  If the winds blow a certain way or a cat gets curious with a candle, you could start racking up some unexpected costs.

Stats (Candlelight) – 0 Watts / 13 lumens / 2,000 Kelvin

Recommended –  Power outages or camping


Thomas Edison gets credited with inventing the bulb mainly because he profited from it the most.  At least he shared with the others before him by merging (take down) with their companies which eventually became General Electric.  The incandescent bulb has provided practical lighting everywhere and with the ease and control of a flip of the switch.  Slight tweaks through the years have lowered the cost of the bulb and made them last longer.  However, the biggest downfall of the old light bulb is that only 10% of the energy produced went towards the lighting aspect.  If you have touched the bulb after it has been on, you would have a good idea where the other 90% goes.  Incandescent light bulbs will soon be extinct.  Governments have restricted the production of the lights in favor of more energy efficient bulbs.

Stats – 60 Watts / 800 lumens / 3,000 Kelvin / $166.00 20 year cost (20 bulbs needed @ $0.50 each + 1,200 kWh @ $0.13 per kWh)

Recommended – If you still have some, place them in areas of minimal use like attics.


The first real production of energy efficient light bulbs are the compact fluorescent lights.  These bulbs use a fifth of the energy than the previous bulbs and last about 10 times longer.  Also, they never get too hot to touch.  They have fixed everything wrong with incandescent bulb.  They are the perfect bulb, right?  They contain mercury.  It is small amounts of mercury, but still enough that you cannot just toss them in the trash when you are done with them.  Your local hardware store should be able to take those off your hands when you are done with them or your city may have programs.  Nevertheless, there is a slight hassle to discard them.  Fluorescent bulbs also have some slight irritants associated with them.  They need to warm up to shine bright.  Conversely, they need extra time to shut off.  Do not use these bulbs in areas of constant on and off.  These lights have been known to lose their energy efficiency effectiveness.  As they age, their brightness fades up to 20% their peak brightness.  Once you get past all of that, you need to deal with their unique look.  Basically, they are the same tubes you see in offices just wadded up in a bulb.  Thats how they need to be to work and some of the bulbs come with covers to make them look like a normal light bulb.

Stats – 14 Watts / 800 lumens / 3,000 Kelvin / $39.40 20 year cost (2 bulbs needed @ $1.50 each + 280 kWh @ $0.13 per kWh)

Recommend – The mercury disposal makes them not desirable.


The latest mass produced evolution of the light bulb are the LEDs.  They made their first impact in the Christmas light world and are now starting their domination of the entire light bulb world.  They use almost half the energy of the CFLs and last twice as long.  They are not made of dangerous material, so you can chunk them in the trash whenever they do fail.  The downfall with the LEDs are the options.  You are no longer buying a normal light bulb.  There are so many options with the lumens brightness or the different Kelvin color temperature.  Also, you need to be aware of the ability to be dimmed, the different colors or its use in our “smart” world.

Stats – 8.5 Watts / 800 lumens / 3,000 Kelvin / $25.10 20 year cost (1 bulb needed @ $4.00 each + 170 kWh @ $0.13 per kWh)

Recommend – YES

The light bulb has changed more in the last 10 years than it had since its invention.  Who knows what is next.  Will the incandescent bulb make a comeback like all other vintage items?  Scientists are working on better insulation of the filament to convert more of the energy in the bulb towards light and less towards heat.  If they can get to a 50/50 split, they will be more appealing than todays bulbs.  But then again, todays bulbs are being improved.  Some bulbs have a chip that can “listen” to you.  Others can be hooked up to hubs to be controlled by phones or other AI devices like Alexa, Siri, or Google.  Apparently, the scientists behind light bulb technology have gotten bored.  I just need a light bulb to turn on and off.  I am old fashioned that way.