Since the creation of electricity, harnessing light and finding the most efficient way to project it has been a task lasting to this day. Today, the most common light bulbs are divided into three categories: incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs.
The first bulb invented, the incandescent, consists of a tungsten wire filament encased in a glass covering, where electricity passes through the filament, creating light. The lifespan of the standard incandescent light bulb is very short, especially in comparison to other light bulbs because when the filament evaporates from long usage, the bulb can no longer be used. This variety of light bulb no longer meets federal energy efficiency standards.
In a law passed by Congress in 2007, the most common wattages of the incandescent bulb, 40- and 60-watts, can no longer be manufactured in the United States. Once the available supply of these bulbs runs out, the classic incandescent bulb may see a dimming of popularity in the United States.
Another option in place of the common incandescent light bulb is the halogen bulb. Filled with halogen gases, the halogen bulb increases the lifespan of the incandescent bulb by delaying the evaporation of the wire filament. In order to operate, however, the bulb must be hotter than the average incandescent, increasing the potential for fire and burn accidents. The bulb also emits ultraviolet rays, which may cause sun burn for people with sensitive skin.
Many consumers have turned to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, as a replacement for the incandescent light bulb.
In a CFL light bulb, an electric current is pushed through a tube containing argon and mercury vapor, creating ultraviolet light, which then stimulates a fluorescent coating inside the tube, emitting visible light.
While the CFL takes about 70 percent less electricity to operate than an incandescent bulb, it creates many more health hazards. If a CFL bulb breaks, the mercury vapor contained in the tube is released, which may lead to mercury exposure. The United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests airing out the room where the bulb broke for several hours to prevent any exposure.
The most energy efficient light bulb is the LED, or light-emitting diode. In an LED bulb, an electric current is passed through a semiconductor material, creating light. The heat produced is absorbed by a heat sink. When created properly, an LED bulb can be more durable and longer lasting than other bulb types.
Just recently the LED bulb was redesigned to be installed in any appliance, rather than only being a flat bulb that could only be pre-installed with the appliance.
One downside to the LED light bulb is the cost. Almost twice the price of an incandescent light bulb, the LED bulb is not the most cost-effective option for every day consumers.
When deciding on what type of light bulb is the best option, it is important to weigh the benefits and costs of each one.