Much Ado About Edison Lightbulbs

I recently wrote an article for the local newspaper about the various types of lightbulbs – CFL, halogen, incandescent, LED, etc. And I think I may have stumbled upon a dark side to this light topic.

You know those antique-y looking lightbulbs that are kind of a thing right now? These vintage reproductions are sometimes called Edison bulbs after electric bulb “inventor” Thomas Edison. (I use the scare quotes because apparently there were 22 other inventors prior to Edison, his incandescent lamp was just the most effective.)

Paired with vintage lighting fixtures – often in DIY lighting projects frequently utilizing mason jars (I am such a sucker for this look), Edison bulbs are hot, hot, hot.

But here’s the rub – if Edison bulbs are incandescents and incandescent light bulbs over 40W were banned by the Canadian government in January 2015 due to inefficiency… then what the flip, am I right? Just a quick perusal on the website of a big box home store shows several styles of these bulbs in wattages that are now considered extremely high when compared to an energy-efficient LED.

One of the first Pinterest projects I ever added to my DIY board featured Edison bulbs in mason jars… and I still plan to replicate this project one day! (Image Credit: Woon Blog)

Now, I’m not saying I’ve uncovered a conspiracy (though wouldn’t it be nifty if I had?), but how are Canadian retailers still allowed to sell 40W plus incandescent Edison bulbs? To answer this burning question – I went to a big box store and asked someone. And, let me tell you, I got a lot more than I was expecting (including being approached by two employees inquiring if I was in need of assistance… when does that happen?).

Not only did one of the aforementioned employees agree with me that there indeed was a whiff of conspiracy floating about, I also was regaled with his personal history that included electrocuting himself at the age of four, which subsequently transformed him into somewhat of a superhero (or supervillian?) with the ability to render cell phones useless with just the touch of his finger. (He also apparently has a cousin in West Virginia who has been struck by lightening three times. Someone seriously needs to make a documentary about this family.)

Apparently, incandescent bulbs haven’t technically been banned – manufacturers just aren’t allowed to make them anymore. There are warehouses full of them, but most retailers will no longer order them in (and something further on that note – apparently CFLs, the original eco-friendly alternative to incandescents, are also on their way out as LEDs really are all that and a bag of chips eaten by light of a 5W bulb).

And while Edison bulbs are still offered (and made) in their highly-inefficient incandescent form (because they’re “specialty bulbs” and thus don’t fall under the same jurisdiction as regular incandescents), even they now come in LED.

You read it here first, folks, LEDs are taking over the world. Thankfully, this is a good thing.

Take these two vintage style bulbs for example:

(Image Credit: Canarm and Home Depot)

The one on the left – incandescent. 60W. 2,500 hours. Revealing its inefficiency by being too hot to touch when lit.

The one on the right – LED. 60W equivalent, but only uses 4.2W of energy. 15,000 hours. And as cool to the touch as the bums of those little baby snowmen running rampant in the Disney short Frozen Fever. (Forgive the current depth of my movie references. I have a two year old.)

The price of the LED version is about twice as much as the incandescent, but it lasts six times longer. You do the math… oh, wait. You don’t have to. Because I did it for you.

Conspiracy or not, my final thought on this illuminating subject is the following – just because something looks old fashioned, doesn’t mean the technology behind it needs to be.

Do you like the looks of the Edison bulb? Do you currently have any installed in your home? If so, incandescent or LED? Also, did you know that Thomas Edison (responsible for direct current) and Nikola Tesla (forefather of alternating current) hated each other? I’m considering producing a movie about the feud starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison and Michael Fassbender as Tesla… anyone want to get in on that sweet, sweet action? Please light up my life and leave a comment!

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Posted on April 23, 2016

Former architectural technologist. Current treehugger.

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Much Ado About Edison Lightbulbs

3 thoughts on “Much Ado About Edison Lightbulbs

  • April 23, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Cool tidbit: Tesla’s AC current has been noted for being more efficient, but they are starting to use DC in high power transmission lines because there is less voltage loss over long distances…. I guess the Edison vs. Tesla (AC/DC) debate still has relevance 150yrs later.

  • May 12, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Love this particular post. Never too old to get educated by you. Looking forward to the next blog.

    • May 12, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for the comment Els! Not everyone is as interested in lightbulbs as you and I, but we both know the coolest people are also the nerdiest 😉


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