Edison's Lamp Shines On
Pity poor Tom Edison. He couldn’t have predicted. His best known invention - the first practical incandescent light bulb - is blamed as one of the causes of global warming, pollution and energy insecurity. He wanted to bring life to the world after the sun went down, not contribute to the end of the world as we know it.
With a massive energy bill signed into law by President George Bush, conventional incandescent light bulbs could burn out permanently within a decade or so as more efficient bulbs are phased in and inefficient bulbs are forced out, off the shelves of the stores. Under the measure, light bulbs must use 25 percent to 30 percent less energy than today's conventional bulbs by 2012 to 2014. By 2020, bulbs must be 70 percent more efficient.
Already, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) meet and beat the new standard. And for some applications, so do light emitting diodes (LEDs). But, quite frankly, people don’t like CFLs very much. They’re too expensive, slow to start up to full intensity, and difficult to dispose of properly. LEDs are a better bet, as prices come down and the technology improves. Yet there’s another alternative - available today - that can meet the 2014 standard of 25 - 30 percent less energy consumption: the Halogen Energy Saver (HES) bulb.
These are NOT the much maligned halogen lights of the past that got so hot they could burn your house down. These are the new improved version. Osram, and perhaps other light bulb manufacturers, have morphed the conventional halogen bulb into the HES to make it safer, while 30 percent more efficient than conventional incandescents with the same light output, lumens. The HES is a bulb within a bulb. The halogen bulb is completely contained within another glass housing or bulb made of special ultraviolet (UV) absorbing glass that keeps the heat ordinarily associated with halogen lights inside. Not only do the HES bulbs look like conventional bulbs, the HES is no hotter to touch than a conventional one. (Which is hot enough.) One measure to achieve the energy savings in the HES, Osram coated the inside of the halogen bulb with a special coating which reflects heat inwards toward the filament so it doesn’t need to be heated so much, thus requires considerably less energy to operate.
Other energy efficiency improvements aren’t disclosed by Osram. The HES bulbs have much in common with conventional incandescents: --- They’re available in a wide range of socket sizes - including the normal screw in medium Edison base. --- The white light is warm and pleasing just like any halogen and similar to a conventional incandescent. Light comes to full intensity immediately and they’re fully dimmable.
--- They’re available in a variety of common shapes; bulbs, candles, and spotlights. Life is about twice that of a conventional bulb.
--- They have no mercury - no need for special recycling. Even the solder used for the base is lead free. They can be tossed into the regular trash. Different from conventional light bulbs, the HES might be hard to find. And, for now, expect to pay near CFL prices for the bulbs. (Yet the technology seems simple enough. Prices could drop with higher production rates.)
Apparently Osram, a division of Siemens, has revamped its entire range of halogen lamps to HES technology. Philips also sells the bulbs under the HalogenĀ· (tm) Energy Saver brand. Look for the energy savings claims on the package such as “40W replaces 60W, or 70W replaces 100W,” or search for model numbers on the web and ask your retailer. True the HES isn’t as efficient as a CFL or LED. But it’s a dramatic improvement on Edison’s conventional version. For the consumer it’s as comfortable to live with as a conventional bulb and it’s here today.