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It’s Lights Out for 75 Watt Light Bulbs [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

Check your lamps and the supply closet. The government has pulled the plug on 75 watt light bulbs. The packs that are left on store shelves are it. While the 75 watt bulbs may now be gone – the feds aren’t stopping there!

A quick trip to your local Home Depot or Target can overwhelm you with a giant selection of light bulbs. In fact, you may not even realize that the old school 75 watt incandescent bulbs are gone. But, if you have a lamp that calls for one – you soon realize, you will have to change.

The incandescent light bulb can trace its start back to 1802, when British inventor Sir Humphry Davy passed a current through a thin strip of metal to light the first bulb. The light that was given off was very low and lasted only a few seconds. Over the next few decades, he and other inventors would try to refine the product.

An incandescent bulb causes light by heating a filament wire to a high temperature by passing an electric current through it. The filament is protected by a glass dome. The bulb is screwed into a lamp or socket by lining up the metal grooves at the bottom.

A total of at least 22 inventors have been listed as helping to perfect the modern incandescent bulb. In 1841, British inventor Frederick de Moleyns received the first official patent.

In 1878, American inventor Thomas Edison would begin work on a more practical model that would be more affordable, brighter, and last longer. On October 22, 1879, he would create a bulb that would last for 13 ½ hours. He later discovered a bulb that could burn over 1200 hours by using a bamboo filament.

It wasn’t until 1880, that another British inventor Joseph Swan perfected the first commercially sold incandescent light bulb. He quickly began to sell and install the bulbs in homes, businesses, and landmarks around London. His home would be the first in the world to be lit with the bulbs, and the following year The Savoy Theatre became the first public building in the world to be lit by electricity.

Edison first installed his new bulbs on the steamship, Columbia. But six months later another competing British inventor, Sir Hiram Maxim, lit up the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company in New York City in the fall of 1880.

While some companies continued to refine the bulbs, General Electric began using tungsten wire inside in 1911. Work would continue to improve the bulbs and by 1945, 795 million were being sold a year, which worked out to 5 bulbs per person.

A row of now discontinued 75 watt incandescent bulbs above a bathroom mirror.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, a bulb has been dimly illuminated at a Livermore, California fire station since 1901. A brighter 40 watt bulb has been in continual use in Texas since September 21, 1908, first at an opera house and now at a museum.

The problem from the start with incandescent bulbs is the large amount of energy that is wasted. 90% of the energy used is given off as heat and not light. The cost to produce the bulb is only a fraction of what it costs to operate it.

Newer, more energy efficient bulbs such as compact fluorescent or LED (light emitting diode) are widely on sale and the government has decided to phase out the old fashioned incandescent bulbs in favor of these new technologies.

A ompact fluorescent light bulb in an old lamp. Some consumers complain about the color and the dangerous chemicals from manufacturing.

100 watt incandescent bulbs have been banned and off store shelves for a year now. Did you notice? Next year, the 60 and 40 watt versions will be phased out. Now, that the 75 watt versions are banned, stores are only permitted to sell the stock they still have. As of January 2nd, no new manufacturing is taking place.

So, what’s the big deal? It’s just a light bulb, right? Not so fast…

One of the major complaints about losing the old incandescent version is the quality of light put out by their replacements. An incandescent bulb gives off a warm, golden glow, almost be compared to a lit candle. Most fluorescents give off a sickly, dull white color and are coated with hazardous chemicals inside. Many LED bulbs are very bright to look at or read under, but they give off a truer white color. Some LED bulbs have color filaments to throw off a more traditional light.

Some of the newer bulbs for sale have the same shape and color as the old incandescent models, but they sell at a premium price. The trade off is that they will last much longer and will be lighter on your electric bill.

Side by side comparison of the light hue given off by a discontinued 75 watt incandescent bulb (left) and new compact fluorescent (right).

One place these new energy efficient bulbs can easily be spotted at are Las Vegas casinos. Many of the older properties still have the older bulbs on their flashing signs, while some properties have replaced with the new energy efficient versions next door. The result is a less desirable light hue, going from a flashy Vegas gold to a mute white. The dramatic change was definitely noticed when the old school Plaza Hotel & Casino changed their historic light scheme during a recent renovation.

THE 411

What: incandescent light bulbs
Banned: 75 watt versions now banned for sale by the government
Why: more energy efficient bulbs are now on the market in an effort to “go green”
Last Manufacture Date: December 31, 2012

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:

I bought another pack of the old school 75 watt bulbs and have them installed in my living room lamps. My workplace stopped buying them last year and the replacement bulbs that maintenance as brought in is definitely noticed. There were still lots of 75 bulbs on the shelf at Home Depot and a quick internet search reveals many stores still have them at this time, selling for the same price they always have.

I find the older bulbs easier on the eyes, even when it comes down to reading a paper or using the computer.

But, once they are officially gone and I’ve made the transition to the new, energy efficient ones, I’m sure that I will simply get used to it. It is neat to have the same kind of bulbs lighting my living room that my grandmother did when she was a kid. Some newer bulbs are more expensive, but they are supposed to last for decades and will cut back on your light bill. As more people make the switch, the prices are falling.

As technology keeps developing, I’m sure we’ll have even bigger and better lighting options and in a few years, no one will even care about these old 75 watt bulbs. But, if you really are a fan of the old bulbs, go get some while you can.

Image credits: jlodder & Alejandro Morales-Loaiza