Burning 109 Years and Counting: The World’s Oldest Light Bulb

It’s been broadcasted on MythBusters, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records and even featured in two children’s books.  George W. Bush called it “an enduring symbol of the American spirit of invention.”  It has its own website, as well as a fan club with thousands of members.

Yes, it’s just a light bulb.  But this light bulb has been burning for 109 years!

Called the “Centennial Light,” the bulb was installed in a northern California firehouse in 1901.  Since then, it has been transferred among various fire stations in the area a couple of times.  However, the longest it has been off since 1901 is a week, during renovations of its resident firehouse in 1937.

The Centennial Light now resides in Fire Station 6 of Livermore, California.  The bulb, which was designed by Adolphe Chaillet, is handblown with a carbon filament.  Chaillet competed against Thomas Edison in the late 1800s to design the brightest, most energy efficient and longest lasting bulb.  Obviously, Chaillet did not prevail; although accounts say his bulb could withstand much higher voltages than Edison’s.

Steve Bunn, who has been deemed Bulb Protector for the Centennial Light, said the fire station once received an offer of $5,000 for the bulb.  He said they have no intention of selling the bulb, and that the fire station will keep it burning as long as possible.

Light After the Incandescent Bulb Ban

The incandescent bulb ban is quickly approaching.  California will be the first state to ban the 100W incandescent light bulb, starting on January 1, 2011.

The rest of the country will begin the phase out starting in January of 2012.  Eventually, 100W, 75W, 60W, and 40W incandescent light bulbs will all be banned from sale.  There will also be minimum energy efficiency standards for existing incandescent bulbs.

The phase out is a part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which is meant to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.  But Americans have been lighting their homes with incandescent bulbs since Edison patented his design in the 19th century.  What will light after the incandescent bulb ban look like?

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) recently published a brochure explaining the various options for replacing incandescent bulbs (halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, and solid state bulbs).  They even included an illustration of a U.S. household with lighting suggestions for each room to replace old incandescent bulbs.  Check out the brochure for details, it’s very helpful!  Also, feel free to weigh in by commenting below:

Will you “go green” early and start switching out your incandescent bulbs?

IKEA & the End of the Incandescent Light Bulb

One of IKEA’s LED table lamps currently on their website. What do you think about this style, compared to a traditional table lamp with an incandescent bulb?

In our Roundup for June 14 to July 2, we noted IKEA’s impending phaseout on the sale of incandescent light bulbs.  We didn’t go into detail about what this means for the lighting industry, and it’s a pretty significant milestone.

With such a prominent retailer officially disassociating themselves from incandescent bulbs (IKEA’s phaseout is expected to begin in August and be complete by the end of the year), the shift across the industry from traditional bulbs to more energy efficient lighting accelerates.

Of course, these changes will take place across the entire lighting industry in the next few years anyway – IKEA is simply beginning the incandescent phaseout early.  In 2012, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will take effect.  There are various components of the law (see the link for more details).  Basically, by 2014, the sale of all traditional incandescent bulbs will be banned.

The phaseout also signifies changes ahead in lighting design.  CFLs, Halogens, and LEDs will take the place of incandescent bulbs, and that means new lighting designs corresponding with the more energy efficient light sources are to be expected.  The picture of the table lamp above illustrates this point: without incandescents, it will no longer be necessary to accommodate for a large incandescent bulb in the design of a lighting fixture.

The entire foundation of lighting design is going to change; and for lighting designers, the possibilities are endless.