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GE Developing Incandescent Light Bulb That Matches CFL’s Efficiency

Don’t count Thomas Edison out yet. GE says that advancements to the light bulb invented by GE’s founder Thomas Edison could potentially elevate the energy efficiency of this 125-year-old technology to levels comparable to compact fluorescent lamps. Over the next several years, these advancements could lead to the introduction of high-efficiency incandescent lamps that provide the same high light quality, brightness and color as current incandescent lamps while saving energy and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to GE, the new technology could be expanded to all  incandescent types. The target for these bulbs at initial production is to be nearly twice as efficient, at 30 lumens-per-Watt, as current incandescent bulbs. Ultimately the high efficiency lamp technology is expected to be about four times as efficient as current incandescent bulbs and comparable to CFL bulbs, GE says

The question is, does GE have three years to improve the efficiency of incandescents? California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine introduced legislation to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs. Earlier this week, Australia announced it would phase out incandescents and Greenpeace asked India to follow Australia’s lead. 

Yesterday, a campaign was launched by Yahoo, Wal-Mart and other groups to get people to switch to CFLs. Wal-Mart has set a goal of selling 100 million CFLs by 2008.

One positive for GE is that Incandescents don’t face the recycling hurdles that CFLs do. CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin, and manufacturers, retailers, and the government have yet to come up with effective ways to recycle them.

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10 thoughts on “GE Developing Incandescent Light Bulb That Matches CFL’s Efficiency

  1. I write a weekly column for my local paper about climate change and I’m also someone with a condition called acrodynia, hyper-reactivity to mercury. In the spirit of walking my ‘shrink your carbon footprint’ talk, I changed every lightbulb in my house to CFLs. Over four months time I became acutely ill with mercury toxicity symptoms. I’m being treated by an environmental medical group. The GE incandescents will mean I don’t have to live by candlelight, sequestered in my own home. LEDs may also save me. Acrodynia seems to be the result of a weak variant of a gene that governs mercury detoxification. My mother and sister have the condition as well and my sister’s quality of life was destroyed by dental work in her late teen. There are those of us out here who will not be able to tolerate a CFL saturated world, especially since no one seems to know they have to be recycled as hazmat and there’s a stringent protocol for cleaning up a broken one. Talk about trashing the environment to save it…

  2. Let me get this, the proposed incandescent will be 2X efficient as today’s bulb or half the wattage usage–OK. But the PL is still 4X better in efficiency.
    The new incandescent will last 4X longer but the PL will last 8-10X longer -resulting in a reduced waste stream.

    So what am I missing here and why did GE decide to do this after 125 years of the same old stuff–lossing market share perhaps.

    Also in response to MS. Beckett. Yes there is a minute amount of mercury as the “starter” process as there is in all fluorescent lamps to ignite the light for a millisecond in every facility you walk into from your bank to your grocery store. And all manuacturers have gone green there to having cut that amount to less than half. This also exists in a internal vacuum atmosphere. From a dispose aspect– that is why one should recyle as businesses are required by law.

    But how much mercury is given off from your local coal power plant DIRECTLY into the airstream to generate power to light for your 60W GE Bulb??? The math says simply that over the life of the PL your energy savings will extemely-extremely outmatch the amount of mercury from your local power plant to generate power for that new technology incandescent.

    Also unless one is planning to digest your PL then I suggest one’s mercury problem lies somewhere else. And your existing GE incandescent bulb, candle lights, fireplace, etc all have more direct toxic gases / materials.

    So before we jump off the ledge, do the math and study the science before one generated folklore misinformation.

    This sounds like another urban legend in the making—perhaps generated by the people who make a living manufacturing incandescents-hmmmmm.

  3. In response to Ann Beckett please note that the power use saved directly translates into less mercury emissions into the environment via coal fired power plants. The amount of mercury emitted overall decreases because of this fact in spite of the relatively small amounts of mercury contained in CFL’s. Also keep in mind that the mercury in these bulbs would only be released if they are mishandled. On balance it is still wise to buy and use CFL’s in place of incandescents.

  4. If incandescents are banned, what will illumunate our refrigerators and ovens?
    I have not seen a CFL labeled for these uses.

  5. Talk about government abuse into the private lives of its citizens. The incandescent light is a choice. How dare government allow things like abortion and yet outlaw a lightbulb. What is going on here???

  6. Another drawback to CFLs is that they are only designed to work at temperatures above zero degrees F. It’s reported that the DoD has some that can function at minus 20 F, but below that, you’re out of luck for light. And even if the bulb starts, the light quality and intensity decreases redically as the temp declines.

    A complete ban on incandescents is short-sighted and stupid. Next time your restauranteur needs a frozen steak from the walk-in, you go in and hold the flashlight for him.

  7. How much energy is expended in the manufacturing of an incandescent bulb? If the CFL can operate 8-10 times as long, then there will be less need for incandescent bulbs to be made, reducing pollution caused by making the energy needed to manufacture them, besides the power to produce the light, or the power required in air conditioning a home normally heated by incandescent bulbs. Of course, in cold climates the incandescent bulb may be more desireable since they need the extra heat from the bulbs to reduce demands on the furnaces.

    But I agree with the question concerning GE boasting that they can make incandescent bulbs as efficient as CFLs. Why did’t they do it a while ago? Granted there may still need to be incandescent bulbs just because of certain conditions that make CFL’s not suitable. But GE should still offer the more effifient models for those applications rather than the old technology.

  8. For the record, as far as know no country plans to ban incandescent bulbs explicitly. Rather, legislation mandates minimum performance standards of about 20 lumens per watt, which should be possible with photonic band gap technology.

    As for why GE took 125 years to get round to this, the basic nano-scale technology is quite recent.

  9. * Even if incandescent lamp has remained the same for a hundred years or more, efforts by the pioneer GE to revitalise it is welcome as CFL will have a competitor in the advanced incandescent lamp. It is something like trying to revitalise the steam engine to match the IC/CI engine or the effort to revitalise natural rubber to match synthetic rubber or to promote hydrogen burning engines to match fossil fuel burning engines.
    * CFL has unbalanced spectrum and is too dazzling to the eye. Its brightness fades sharply with distance, and its light is too diffused making it unsuitable for reading, writing and drawing work, or to look at surface details requiring good resolution. While the cost has come down, most CFLs in the market are of low quality and do not last half the time advertised. As usual, manufacturers’ guarantees have no value. With these shortcomings, it cannot match the comfort of the incandescent lamp.
    * Government agencies have no business to try to ban incandescents. Or do they have some business with the manufacturers and marketers of CFLs!
    * Rather than go whoring after CFLs, Government research establishments should join hands with the likes of GE to find better alternatives(at least some competitors) to CFL.

    -JS Karkada, Bangalore-India

  10. Most Incandescents: Made in USA…Most CFL’s: Made in China…Ive built a considerable stockpile of incandescents, so ban away, I have enough to last me the rest of my life, and possibly most of my childrens. I’d rather pay a little extra to an American worker working in a power plant than pay the Chinese, and with the price differences between incandescents and CFL’s it all equals out in the end, its a question of where you wanna send your money, here or China?

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