Top 25 things vanishing from America: #12 -- Incandescent bulbs


This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

Before a few years ago, the standard 60-watt (or, yikes, 100-watt) bulb was the mainstay of every U.S. home. With the green movement and all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb (CFL) is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. Should we merely brush aside the standard light bulb after such am impressive longevity in U.S. homes and businesses? I say yes, although there are a few caveats, one being that the standard lightbulb is a universal icon for industrial ingenuity worldwide and can evoke emotions as such. Not that my opinion matters much, now that the government has mandated a phasing out of the common incandescent bulb in the recently passed energy bill.

The cost for a CFL is still high compared to its century-old counterpart, but with the energy savings you can receive, the cost will pay for itself shortly. Besides, it's not all about cost, right? Aren't you doing the planet a favor by purchasing those costly CFLs in order to waste much less electricity in terms of wattage output? Yes, you are.

But one of the nuisances of new CFL units is that they can't be easily dimmed. For those with elaborate lighting control systems and those who prefer to set the mood with none other than lighting, the shedding of incandescent bulbs may be much harder to do. I'm convinced that if it wasn't for energy consumption, most consumers would still choose the incandescent light bulb over the longer-lasting CFL just for the flexibility factor alone. And, don't dispose of those newer CFLs in the trash -- the mercury contained in them is poisonous. They need to be recycled in special collection facilities.

Just like computers, cars and refrigerators, there will always be newer technology to come along and replace the old. In the case of lighting, getting the same amount of light output in one-seventh the energy consumption is a tasty treat indeed. But incandescent bulb won't just fade away nicely, though. I suspect it will be with us for at least the next ten years at least.


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