Focus on Lighting: Are Incandescent Bulbs Obsolete?

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Our article in our December eNewsletter as well as recent changes in laws regarding the incandescent lamp and ‘Ban the Bulb’ commentaries have many people asking the question, “Are incandescent bulbs obsolete?” The short answer is that new regulations do not seek to ban a lighting technology, but to force the reduction of energy consumption as a whole. This can be directly likened to edicts given to car makers to develop more efficient vehicles, starting with regulations reducing the obvious gas guzzlers first, then addressing higher efficiency overall.

While down the road we may very well see the end of the incandescent lamp, that road might be very long, dependent on technological advances that would give us both an efficient source of light as well as one that replaces the positive features of the incandescent lamp including low cost; good and consistent color rendering; ease of dimming; lack of major disposal concerns; and (setting aside the energy use factor) its relatively small footprint from a cradle to grave perspective. There is no current and available technology that replaces all of its positive features — yet.

Light is one of the most fugitive resources we consume. Turn off a light source and what residual value is there of the light that was produced? Nothing — unless it enabled you to live, to read and increase knowledge or to enjoy. If not, it was power used that accomplished nothing, the ultimate waste of energy.

Only by using all the technologies available to us can we produce lit environments that address both human needs and environmental concerns. For the foreseeable future, the incandescent lamp and its variations will continue to be in our lives. The answer is to make responsible choices for its proper use along with the other sources available to create environments that are not just efficient but which maximize the human experience.
edit-thorburn-headshot-0811Steve enjoys helping others understand the principals of acoustics and audiovisual technology almost as much as he enjoys sipping a good single malt scotch. He’s been InfoComm’s Educator of the Year, is a two-time InfoComm Facility Design Award Winner, author, teacher and has AV design experience on more than 2000 projects including Universal Studios Toon Lagoon, Hershey Park and Six Flags Great America. Find his company Thorburn Associates online at