Architectural Lighting Asks, “What will be the fate of the incandescent lamp?”

lightbulb.jpgArchitectural Lighting called for submissions to answer the question, “What will be the fate of the incandescent lamp?”. In Jeff Miller’s (President-elect IALD, Director Pivotal Lighting) submission he makes an interesting, if nostalgic and sentimental argument in favor of the incandescent bulb. Click here to read Jeff’s Submission

My feeling is that the light bulb and it’s warm, familiar, welcoming glow is far from dead although, with recent advances from Cree, it’s only a matter of time but here’s my take on why it’s not over yet:

Yes, it’s true that the light bulb has greater power consumption then the LED but know that while LEDs have surpassed light bulbs in terms of efficacy, they are only now experiencing the same efficacy as fluorescent lamps (click to read about Cree Inc’s new XLamp LED) but simply replacing incandescent lamps with LEDs just wont work in every application. Certain LED luminaire manufacturers are currently grappling with the technical problems of replacing lamps with LEDs where the lamps are used outdoors in cold environments where the heat in their light output served the practical purpose of keeping the luminaires lens from icing over. This wasn’t discovered until all the lamps (in this case runway beacons at an airport) had been replaced with LEDs and the manufacturer has to now scramble to come up with a solution. Hah! Score one for lamps!

Headlights on your car is another one. Audi recently announced they have developed total LED based headlamps for their top-end automobiles, one can ask why and at what price? These LED headlamps require active cooling from fans in one of the dirtiest, vibration-prone environments know to man where small ball-bearing, brushless fans just won’t last that long. Even if the high-power LED modules used for the headlamps will last 20,000 hours, the fans will fail long before that (click here to read full article). It’s $50 – $100 bucks for a set of two high-end Xenon or Halogen headlamps that go right in (you could replace them yourself) but the LED headlamp assemblies likely require a degree in electrical engineering and a 400 page printed service manual (save the trees!). These LED headlamps with their integrated fans (and controllers), are they really saving anything in
terms of energy? No, cars generate their own electricity and the LEDS certainly are not helping with exhaust emissions. Maybe the auto manufacturers could really concentrate on putting out less pollutants then grabbing some headlines with LED technology. Score two for the lamps!

Finally, the BIG reason light bulbs will be with us for awhile is it will take a really, really, REALLY long time to bake a 4-inch cake in an LED powered Easy Bake Oven! šŸ˜€

What does all this mean? Nothing, its a fact of life that the incandescent and eventually even the fluorescent lamp will eventually be replaced but they’re not going out without a fight.

Thanks to Jim Allen for setting the record straight. I have a tendency to ramble on thinking one thing but writing another.

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5 Responses to Architectural Lighting Asks, “What will be the fate of the incandescent lamp?”

  1. Jim Allen says:


    I agree that auto headlights is not a good market. LEDs are being used in expensive cars where cost is not a big factor (and neither are unit volumes for LED makers.)

    Cree is targeting LED-based street lights. They come on at night, so cooling is not problematic. They face down, so icing is not a problem. And they’re cost effective (i.e., breakeven point is less than three years.)


  2. craigbic says:

    My point was, don’t call the lamp dead yet. LEDS are only now just breaking the surface of efficacy compared to the light bulb and that was in the lab at 4 amps! In many ways LEDS are superior to lamps, particularly in down lighting where the narrow viewing angle is advantageous and there are real energy savings to be realized but they aren’t in every application. I was just giving some examples of how LEDs have yet to trump the light bulb and in applications where heat was an overlooked yet required component in the light output itself, LEDs were problematic. Even in applications where energy savings is the primary motivation, care needs to be taken when selecting LED controllers since their potential vampire power consumption can negate any energy savings.

  3. Jim Allen says:


    LEDs have been more efficient than incandescents for a long time and Cree reach parity with flourescents last year with the XLAMP XR-E.

    Take a look at LLF’s production product, LR6 ( and the announcement of 129 lumens/watt today by Cree (


  4. craigbic says:

    I stand corrected, I was thinking fluorescents and talking incandescents. You are quite correct incandescents have been surpassed and fluorescents look to follow suite except where linear and angular requirements dictate otherwise. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! šŸ™‚

    LLF’s product is pretty neat, thanks for pointing that out. The Cree announcement is really interesting, boy they’re flexing their muscle. I’ll have to blog that!

  5. craigbic says:

    LEDs will never, and I repeat NEVER replace the little light bulbs in Easy Bake Ovens though unless you take a high-power module, stick a heatsink and fan on the board and point the fan to blow hot air on the cake. Hmmmm….an LED powered convection oven. I should patent that. LOL

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