Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bored with the Ice Cream Swirl CFL?

Until recently, not much changed in the light bulb world since Thomas Alva Edison invented a carbon filament that burned for forty hours in 1879. Compact fluorescent bulbs were a giant leap forward in energy efficiency and long life that first appeared in the mid 90's when they were very expensive due to the difficulty of manufacturing the swirling glass tubes that have now become so ubiquitous.

But it looks like we may not be doomed to endure over a hundred years of the same ice cream cone twist form. Inhabitat reports on new Plumen lighting forms from Hulger that you probably will not be able to obtain at your local hardware store any time soon, but point to a future of diverse and even artistic forms that suggest that energy efficient lighting does not have to be boring.

Don't fall too far in love with CFLs. Solid State LED lighting is even more efficient and long lasting and can do some dynamic effects with color and form. As with Edison's bulb and the first CFLs, prepare to be shocked when you check the price tag on LED lighting. But be sure to do the math on energy savings and longevity (and less maintenance labor in commercial settings). Even with the high initial cost of these early entries, if you want to do net-zero-energy buildings or experiment with unlimited color, go with LED lighting. You may be able to downsize your alternative energy systems to offset the higher initial cost of the bulbs. For your typical home use, you may want to keep your twisty CFLs for a while and wait until the production volume ramps up and the costs for LEDs come down.

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