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10 Facts About The Humble Light Bulb

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The ordinary light bulb is something many of us take for granted, but how much do we actually know about its origins and how exactly it works?

First invented in the 1800s, the light bulb has had a dramatic impact on people’s lives, transforming homes from darkness or limited to candle light to one of brightness and on-demand capabilities. Nowadays, we can literally have light when we want it and thanks to features like dimmers we can even select the level of light we experience.

So while you read by the light of your lamp and contemplate what life would be like without this invention, here are 10 light bulb facts to enlighten you.

  1. Up to 25% of electricity bills in homes is for lighting and 17.5% of the global power consumed is through lighting.
  2. The incandescent light bulb is credited to the invention of Thomas Edison in 1879. However, the concept had been worked on for a number of decades before this time, with the first light bulb made in 1800 by English scientist Humphry Davy. Some years later, in 1860, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, an English physicist, made the discovery that a carbon paper filament worked well but burned quickly. In 1877, American Charles Francis Brush made carbon arcs and used these to light a public square in Cleveland, Ohio. Edison himself experimented with lots of different filaments before finding the right one, a carbon filament set in an oxygen-free bulb glowed without a fast burn rate and lasted for up to 40 hours. He went on to design one with the capacity to burn for more than 1,000 hours.
  3. Incandescent light bulbs work by heating a filament wire to a high temperature by running an electric current through it, which causes light to be emitted.
  4. Most incandescent light bulbs convert less than 5% of the energy they use into actual light – the rest is lost in heat. This is why these light bulbs are being phased out and replaced by more energy efficient lighting in the form of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).
  5. Compact Fluorescent Lamps or CFLs or energy saving light bulbs, are four-times as efficient as incandescent bulbs and last up to ten times as long.
  6. CFLs work by using gas-filled glass tubes – these contain mercury vapour and electronic ballast through which electricity flows, causing the vapour to give off ultraviolet light which in turn makes the phosphorous coating on the bulb react and produce visible light.
  7. As CFLs don’t have a filament to heat, these light bulbs waste far less energy.
  8. Most types of energy saving light bulbs will last between 6,000 and 15,000 hours – compared to the average incandescent bulb which lasts for around 1,000 hours.
  9. To date, the 75W and 60W incandescent light bulbs have been phased out and in 2012 the 40W and 25W models will no longer be available in the UK either.
  10. There are 750 million active light bulbs in the UK.

O’Brien’s Lighting sell a wide range of modern lighting including ceiling lights

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