Light Bulbs – Bringing Light into the Darkness

Light bulbs

Most people subscribe to the view that American inventor Thomas Edison should be credited with creating the first viable incandescent light bulb, in 1879. Others disagree, suggesting that the bragging rights should go to one of the many other individuals who made valuable contributions to incandescent bulb technology from the nineteenth century onwards.

But whoever invented the revolutionary light bulb technology, there is no doubt that the incandescent light bulb changed our world for the better. It made safe and affordable domestic and public lighting available for the very first time. After centuries of potentially dangerous lighting solutions, such as oil lamps, the world was gifted with a convenient way to bring light into the darkness.

The types of light bulbs in a nutshell

  • The incandescent, traditional light bulb which, for the most part, remained the same up to this day.
  • The halogen light bulb which is often used in commercial setting such as TV studios where bright light is required.
  • The energy-efficient fluorescent tube which has been developed in the 1970s.
  • Gas discharge light bulbs which are closely related to neon lighting.

LED ceiling lighting: What stands ‘lumen’ for?

Another feature of LED bulbs that you may not be familiar with is the method of measuring brightness. In the past traditional lamps only had a value expressed in watts. This is actually an indication of power consumption that was used in the past to roughly indicate the level of brightness. This is no longer the case with LED bulbs. Their brightness is expressed in terms of ‘lumens’. In the product details of each LED ceiling light, which is delivered with LED bulbs, we have indicated the lumen value for the bulb/s. This value is not an indication of power consumption – all LED bulbs use comparatively little power. It is purely an indication of the brightness of the light

The history of light bulbs

Light bulbs are based on the idea of trapping gas in a glass vessel. When a metal filament in the same vessel is made to glow by passing an electric current through it, the gas consequently stops the filament from burning out. Thomas Edison’s major and in a sense revolutionary achievement was to make the filaments better. In fact, he managed to create bulbs that lasted up to 1,500 hours. One of his most famous quotes suggests that it took him over 1000 attempts at inventing the light bulb before he finally succeeded. The incandescent, traditional bulb has remained more or less unchanged up to this very day. There are, of course, bulbs with different colours, and bulbs that create a softer light, but the technology itself is essentially the same. In the latter part of the twentieth century, other technologies came along that improved greatly on its relatively short life expectancy and its rather inefficient use of energy, and in some countries they have even been withdrawn from use. However, there are situations where their drawbacks are a positive advantage. Although light bulbs tend to produce a great deal of heat as they turn energy into light, that makes them ideal for use in chick incubators and certain types of heaters. In fact, in our incandescent, traditional light bulb range you will find bulbs with flame-like shapes and special features that mimic the appearance of fire. The range also includes a bulb with an infrared reflector, which is intended for use in certain health treatments, such as ear infections and treatment of strained muscles.

Developing the traditional light bulb: Halogen

The halogen bulb is an extension of incandescent, traditional bulb technology, first developed in the 1950s. Because the gas inside the bulb is under much greater pressure, the bulb has to be made of a tougher substance than glass – often quartz. Halogen bulbs produce a much brighter light, and, as a result, became popular in commercial settings where detailed work was taking place. They also became the default technology for lighting TV studios. They tend to become hot, and are not as efficient as more up-to-date technologies like LED (as discussed below), but they certainly have the advantage of being extremely bright. Halogen light bulbs are also comparatively cost effective, requiring less energy than an incandescent bulb for each lumen of light produced.

Developing the traditional light bulb: The fluorescent tubes

Another bulb technology that came to fruition in the twentieth century, the fluorescent tube, was actually worked on by Edison as far back as the 1890s, but the decisive breakthrough was left to others. The energy crisis of the 1970s was the motivating factor in the development of the fluorescent tube. Incandescent, traditional light bulbs were proving just too expensive to run in an age of increased electricity-generating costs. The fluorescent tube technology is based on the idea of trapping gas in a tube and subsequently passing an electric current through the gas so that it produces light. This technology has two major advantages over the incandescent, traditional light bulb. Fluorescent tubes generally last longer and consume much less energy than incandescent bulbs.

In the case of products that include spotlights you obviously have the possibility of adjusting the position of each lamp head. This can be an extremely useful way of creating dramatic lighting effects. In a kitchen, for example, you could use one spotlight to pick out the hob. Another could be trained on the work surface where you prepare food and a third could highlight an attractive feature such as a group of display items. Lighting manufacturers very quickly came up with fluorescent tubes in different shapes and sizes to expand the variety of lighting solutions. The quality of fluorescent light had a bad reputation for a while as many people felt its brightness was too harsh, but it is now much softer on the eye and pleasant to live with. Since the nineteen-eighties, we have also seen the advent of compact fluorescent tubes. They offer all the efficiency advantages of fluorescent technology, with the added advantage of a smaller size due to their convoluted forms. As a result, they are suitable for many more applications than standard fluorescent tubes. You will even find them in table lamps.

Ultra-efficient light bulb technology: the popularisation of LED

As with fluorescent tubes, a world crisis prompted the development and popularisation of LED bulbs. Concern over the environmental consequences of uncontrolled energy usage brought LEDs to the fore as an extremely promising low-energy solution in the early 2000s. Initially, they were no more efficient than incandescent, traditional light bulbs, but a great deal of work was done in a short space of time to make it the ultra-efficient technology we know and value today

Modern LED bulbs are 6 – 7 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and conveniently produce much less heat in the process. It should be noted that they do require an appropriate light fitting to shed heat optimally, so it is advisable to use LED bulbs only in products designed for the purpose. As with so many environmentally-friendly solutions, LED bulbs are also good for your budget. Not only do they save you money by consuming less energy, they also last much longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs, and are much less prone to breakage if they are dropped or knocked.

A further advantage of LED bulbs is that they come in so many different shapes and sizes, from tiny points of light to something rather like traditional incandescent bulbs in appearance. As a result, LED light solutions can be used to create a vast array of different effects: unbroken fields of light with a clean and clinical appearance, magical constellation-like arrays of small LEDs, groups of powerful spotlights that pick out your favourite decorative features, and much more.

Gas discharge lighting for home and commercial settings

To complete our picture of modern light bulb technologies, we should briefly look at gas discharge lighting. It is a close cousin of the neon lighting that we usually associate with advertising signs. Its invention in fact predates the incandescent bulb. But given that they live much longer than incandescent bulbs and are of much greater efficiency, gas discharge bulbs can be considered an important modern lighting solution, suitable for both home and commercial settings..

Can I use light bulbs for outdoor spaces?

Garden lights will make your property more secure and help you creating a nice ambience outside. In terms of the light bulb it’s important to note that they need to be protected from rain. However, since outdoor light fittings are built to shield the light bulb from bad weather conditions, there is no need to purchase special light bulbs for outdoor usage.

Picking the right light bulb: connector types

Whichever type of bulb you are looking for, there is a factor that you need to bear in mind when making your selection. The sockets presented by lighting products vary greatly, and so also do the the connectors on the light bulbs themselves. There are screw-in style connectors of various diameters, and connectors that are based on pins or ‘bayonets’ of one kind or another. The same connector may be found on different types of bulb – halogen, LED, incandescent etc. Each of the connector types has a specific code. So, when you are shopping for bulbs, it is important to consult the documentation for your light fitting, or at least check any bulbs that worked in it previously.

When browsing our light bulb range, you should then carefully read the product notes and make sure that you are buying exactly the kind of bulb you need. If you are shopping for a light fitting and buying bulbs at the same time, it may be worth looking for LED light fittings with sockets that help you achieve optimum energy efficiency. E14 is considered a particularly energy-efficient socket.

Picking the right light bulb: compatibility with dimming devices

There is another factor that you may wish to consider when buying bulbs: the question of whether or not they are compatible with dimming devices. If you have old-style dimmers as part of your current lighting setup, or if you have more modern light fittings that benefit from remote control dimming functionality, you should carefully consult the product notes for your chosen bulb before making a purchase. If you are purchasing your light fittings from this site, you should also consult the product notes for the chosen fitting to make sure it is compatible with your dimmer.

Light bulbs have been a feature of our homes and public spaces for more than a century now, but today’s products far out-strip the performance of Edison’s original invention. He would no doubt be in wonder at the amazing efficiency of modern products such as LED and fluorescent tubing. But almost as miraculous is the incredible flexibility of these technologies. The compactness of modern fluorescent bulbs was unheard of thirty years ago, and the creative possibilities opened up by LED bulbs, with their varied shapes and sizes, could only be dreamed of a decade ago. So, take your time to browse our product pages and let them inspire you with a sense of what is possible in the world of modern lighting.

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