Pen & Ink: Seeing the light

Michael Davis

Michael Davis

So someone has invented a better mousetrap, er, light bulb I mean.

Philips, maker of many an electronic gizmo, gadget and whizbang doo-dad, has invented a light bulb it says can last 30 times longer than traditional bulbs. It also uses much less electricity and presumably gives off much less heat.

According to published reports, the bulb is a Light Emitting Diode (LED), which, if you’re familiar with LEDs, you can believe will last a long time. They are typically smaller, brighter, cooler and much more efficient than many other light sources. They’re popular in small electronics because they don’t use much juice, they stay cool and last virtually forever -- meaning you don’t have to break open your gadget to replace bulbs very often, if ever.

Philips’ LED bulb recently won a U.S. Department of Energy L Prize for being an effective replacement for 60-watt bulbs, and the $10 million purse that came with it.

The catch with Philips’ LED light bulb? It’s $50, according to some reports, $60 according to others, and nearly $30 if you look around online a little.

Can’t you see yourself going out and stocking up?

Government regulations -- the enforcement of which has apparently been delayed a while -- will soon phase out the use of the old-school incandescent bulbs with new energy-efficiency requirements.

Compact fluorescent bulbs -- last I remember around 7 bucks apiece -- have been around for several years now and at one time were thought of as the likely heir to the incandescent.

While I’m not generally a fan of the quality of the light they emit (I don’t think I’m alone in that), they do have a remarkably long life. Not 20 or 30 years, perhaps, but I have one in a desk lamp in front of me as I type this that I’m sure I screwed in in 2006 or 2007.

Not a bad run, eh?

So how is the Philips LED bulb going to work out?

Pretty soon, you won’t be able to buy incandescent bulbs, but I’m not sure who would want to, really. They are fragile. They blow out easily. However cheap they are, they just don’t last. They are also hot and inefficient.

I’m sure some out there are stocking up on incandescents for the light bulb end times -- and I’ve heard at least one radio talk show host admit to as much -- but who wants a garage full of light bulbs?

Is the compact fluorescent the ideal replacement? Is the LED a better solution? I don’t know. But I’m not looking forward to putting a $50 light bulb under the hood of my stove and watching a pot of spaghetti sauce splatter on it.

Michael Davis is the managing editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus.