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What Is Incandescent Light?

What Is Incandescent Light?

Incandescent light has been around for quite a while. But in recent years, the use of traditional incandescent bulbs has been greatly decreased. Why is that? And what is incandescent light exactly?

A Brief History

Thomas Edison is most famously credited for the invention of incandescent bulbs, but Albon Man, William Sawyer, and Joseph Swan were all crucial to the creation of light bulbs and providing incandescent light to millions of households across the world.

Edison and his team are responsible mostly for improving the filament that made it what it is today. In 1879, they succeeded in creating a light bulb that could last for almost 15 hours. They eventually went on to produce a light bulb with a bamboo filament that lasted for nearly 1,200 hours, which became the standard for incandescent light bulbs to this day.

What are incandescent lights?

Incandescent light bulbs are, essentially, extremely controlled and conditioned tiny fires.

Here’s how it works: when you flip on the switch, an electrical current is sent to the base of the bulb and heats up the tungsten-coated filament. As the filament heats up, it catches fire and produces both light and heat.

And by heat, we mean serious heat. An incandescent light bulb burns out so quickly because it uses up 90% of its energy just heating up. In approximately 800 to 1,200 hours, the light bulb will burn out as the filament is burned to nothing.

So, when handling a lit up incandescent light bulb, be careful! Those things can get very hot.

What are they best used for?


Generally speaking, incandescent light bulbs are considered the “purest” artificial source of light. After all, it is quite literally fire on display. With no additional chemicals or mercury to create combustions, the light produced is the closest thing you can get to sunlight, but indoors.

This is precisely why some people prefer incandescent light bulbs over LED lights. Incandescent lights may look great in your home, especially if you’re going for a more natural atmosphere.

Decorative lights

Some light fixtures require incandescent lights to create a more homey and vintage ambience. Antique chandeliers, for example, would look terrible with modern LED lightbulbs.

Heat lamps

Due to its intensive heat, incandescent light bulbs are normally used to heat lamps. Plenty of establishments, such as hotel and restaurants, still use heat lamps to heat up the area.

So why is the use of incandescent lights greatly decreasing?

To make the long story short, they’ve been deemed too inefficient and energy-consuming. A law was passed in 2014 that required incandescent lights to reach a certain energy quota and most producers considered it too costly to do so. Hence, they’ve been slowly disappearing over the shelves for years.

The movement to use more energy-efficient bulbs have also affected the sales of incandescent light bulbs as more people switch to more environment-friendly light sources.

Many still search for these bulbs, though, as they are generally much cheaper than LED light bulbs and causes less strain on the eyes.

Pros and cons

On the bright side

Quality of light

As mentioned earlier, incandescent lights are considered the golden standard for artificial light that looks like natural lighting.

People tend to seek out these bulbs as it causes less strain on the eyes.


If you’re looking to cut down on utility costs, then incandescent lights would be perfect for you. It’s normally priced a lot cheaper than LED and fluorescent light bulbs that usually dominate the shelves.


No one can deny the aesthetics of an incandescent light bulb. For years, LED producers have been trying to recreate the same natural light that incandescent lights give off.

On the dark side

Short life span

Given that a normal household keeps its lightbulbs on for 8 to 10 hours a day, then an incandescent bulb will only last you a solid 3-5 months. You might end up spending more on lighting maintenance than the actual bulbs.

Energy consumption

As mentioned earlier, 90% of the energy used to light up the bulbs end up converted into heat. And for most establishments, the heat really isn’t necessary. It might even lead you to turn up the air conditioning due to all that excess heat. This results in a waste of money and energy, which isn’t entirely ideal for many.


Since the law was passed in 2014, the traditional incandescent light bulbs aren’t being mass produced anymore. Halogen-based bulbs became an alternative, but it has a lot of catching up to do since CFLs and LEDs are way ahead.

Overall, incandescent light bulbs may or may not be right for you. You may find that fluorescent or LED bulbs fit your needs best. They may cost more, but manufacturers continue to develop more cost- and energy-efficient bulbs that won’t leave you bankrupt.

This article was written with the help of homely.com.au

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