On December 31, 1879, Thomas A. Edison flipped a switch at his Menlo Park laboratory complex in New Jersey and amid much excitement gave the public a glimpse of the world’s first practical incandescent light bulb. While many inventors were experimenting with incandescent lighting, this date marked the first widespread public recognition of a commercially viable light bulb that would ultimately replace gaslight systems. The age of practical electric lighting had begun.

December 31, 2011—exactly 132 years later—will mark another dramatic turning point in the history of lighting in the United States. That will be the last day manufacturers will be able to legally make a 100-watt incandescent bulb for sale in the U.S.

 

Flash forward: LED products already on the market burn one-quarter of the electricity of a comparable incandescent bulb and last 25 times longer. GE’s new LED bulb, show above, will last 17 years, making it a bulb that can virtually light a child’s bedroom desk lamp from birth through college graduation. The fins keep the bulb cool and help it last longer.

Those seismic changes are coinciding with a dramatic expansion of the energy-efficient lighting sector – with GE’s announcement on October 1 of a $60 million investment in our energy efficient lighting plant in Ohio just one example. The GE Lighting team calls the move away from inefficient incandescent lighting a “transition of a magnitude not unlike that of Thomas Edison’s era of gas lamps to electric light bulbs.”

In a white paper they just released, “A Transforming Global Lighting Industry,” GE Lighting explains the changing landscape; the new types of energy-efficient bulbs already in the market; and the future of lighting.

Already, the environmental benefits from the changes are striking. As the white paper observes, “If the 200 million 100-watt incandescent bulbs sold annually in the U.S. today were replaced with the halogen light bulb, about 4.3 million tons of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases from electricity production nationwide would be eliminated, the equivalent to removing about 750,000 cars from the road. Looking at it in another way, if 50 percent of U.S. citizens choose halogen light bulbs and 50 percent choose compact fluorescent light bulbs as replacements, the savings would be even greater — elimination of 7.8 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the removal of nearly 1.4 million cars from the roads. This is just the impact of 100-watt light bulbs removed from service.”

* Download the paper: “A Transforming Global Lighting Industry
* Learn more about the bulb that lasts 17 years
* Learn more about how lighting legislation will affect you

Learn more in these GE Reports stories:
* “Tacoma Art Museum sees Renoir in a new (GE) light
* “GE unveils a bulb that lasts 17 years
* “Bendable OLEDs and next-gen LEDs grab the spotlight
* “Our (lighting) heroes have always been Cowboys!
* “From geothermal power to LEDs: Two ‘firsts’
* “Starbucks gets a ‘green’ light; Pop. Sci. picks a winner
* “GE’s OLED research: I saw the light — and it bends!
* “Introducing the zero energy home”
* Read “In 1 Day: $128M for Manufacturing; 630 Jobs Created or Retained” on GE Reports
* Read “Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Saves $50,000 Annually with New Lights” on GE Reports