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Light Bulb Conspiracy and Planned Obsolesence

Graycenphil

Registered
Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
I watched a very interesting documentary this evening. "The Lightbulb Conspiracy" is about planned obselence in general, but it starts off with a story about a hundred year old light bulb in a firehouse in California. This bulbs been on for over 100 years continuously. It's gotten kind of famous, so some years back they put a webcam on it. Two webcams have worn out, but the bulbs still going.

Apparently in the early days, bulbs were really built to last. But sometime back in the 20's, they decided this wasn't good for business. All the bulb manufacturers got together and agreed to make bulbs that would only last 1,000 hours. They actually had documents of this, and companies that violated the agreement were fined.

The film moved on into the whole planned obselence thing, which I'm sure many on here will appreciate. I can't make a link, but if you just google "Light Bulb Conspiracy" you'll get a few YouTube links. Some have subtitles, so if the first one doesn't work, try another.

I have a few hundred year old bulbs. I was surprised that they worked, but I guess I shouldn't have been.
 

Jim McIntyre

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

This is such a crock of crap. The lifetime/efficiency tradeoff has been known since the incandescent lamp was a glimmer in Edison's eye.

That light bulb manufacturers decided that 1000 hours was a good baseline isn't necessarily a conspiracy. You want a 10,000 hour lamp? no problem, but it's lower efficiency will end up costing you way more than you'd save on buying fewer lamps...

You want a 100 year lamp? No problem, just buy a 220V lamp and run it on 120V.

In other words, take your pick: you can have an 'efficient' incandescent lamp or a long life lamp. Not both.

Below excerpted from here: http://donklipstein.com/bulb1.html

Why making bulbs last longer often does not pay

You may have heard that the life expectancy of a light bulb is roughly inversely proportional to the 12th or 13th power of the applied voltage. And that power consumption is roughly proportional to voltage to the 1.4 to 1.55 power, and that light output is roughly proportional to the 3.1 to 3.4 power of applied voltage. This would make the luminous efficiency roughly proportional to applied voltage to the 1.55 to 2nd power of applied voltage.
Now, if a slight reduction in applied voltage results in a slight to moderate loss of efficiency and a major increase in lifetime, how could this cost you more?
The answer is in the fact that the electricity consumed by a typical household bulb during its life usually costs many times more than the bulb does. Bulbs are so cheap compared to the electricity consumed by them during their lifetime that it pays to make them more efficient by having the filaments run hot enough to burn out after only several hundred to about a thousand hours or so.
Here is an example with actual numbers (using U.S. dollars, in 1996):

Suppose you have 10 "standard" 100 watt 120 volt bulbs with a rated lifetime of 750 hours. Such bulbs typically cost around 75 cents in the U.S. The electricity used by all ten of these bulbs is 1 kilowatt, which would typically cost about 9 cents per hour (approximate U.S. average).
Over 750 hours, this would cost (on an average) $67.50 for the electricity plus $7.50 for 10 bulbs, or $75.
Now, suppose you use these bulbs with 110 volts instead of 120.
These bulbs would consume about 87.8 watts instead of 100. However, they would only produce 76 percent of their normal light output (and this is a slightly optimistic figure). To restore the original light output, you need 13 of these bulbs. (And this will fall very slightly short.) Using 13 bulbs that consume 87.8 watts apiece results in a power consumption of 1141 watts. Over 750 hours at 9 cents per KWH, this would cost $77. This is more than the $75 cost of running 10 bulbs at full voltage even if the bulbs never burn out at 110 volts.
At 110 volts instead of 120, the life expectancy of the bulbs may be tripled. One third of 13 times 75 cents is about $3.25, which adds to the $77 cost of electricity to result in an average total cost of $80.25 for 750 hours.
This example should explain why you often get the most light for the least money using standard bulbs rather than longer-lasting ones.
 

Thaumaturge

In Memory Of
Age
68
Last Subscription Date
07/12/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

Actually, one of the greatest cause of failures of lightbulbs is thermal fatigue of the element due to the light heating up when on and cooling down when off. A lightbulb which is left on will not suffer these thermal fatigues, and will thus last longer. If you think about it, you almost never saw an incandescent light burn out after it has been on for a while. It nearly always burns out when it is just switched on.
Doc
 

RobW

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
06/11/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

Actually, one of the greatest cause of failures of lightbulbs is thermal fatigue of the element due to the light heating up when on and cooling down when off. A lightbulb which is left on will not suffer these thermal fatigues, and will thus last longer. If you think about it, you almost never saw an incandescent light burn out after it has been on for a while. It nearly always burns out when it is just switched on.
Doc
The reason for that is that during the 1st half or full cycle a 100W lamp draws several amps due to the low resistance of the cold filament.
 

Graycenphil

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Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

I'm not so sure it's a crock. While there may be a trade off between efficiency and longevity, these folks were pretty adamant about offering only efficiency. They even fined members who exceeded the longevity standard.

I would prefer to have been offered the choice. Buy a less efficient, long lasting bulb if you prefer.
 

Tom Stockton

Member
Age
66
Last Subscription Date
01/30/2020
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

If there were really a conspiracy to limit life, they sure missed the boat with LED bulbs.
I'm getting over 50,000 hours from them, & they consume very little power.
And I can buy a 60W equivalent at Menards for a buck apiece.
 

Graycenphil

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Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

The conspiracy ended in the forties, when it was exposed.

I have been relatively unhappy with the CFLs; many never came close to their advertised life. I doubt there was a conspiracy there, just cheap manufacturing.

I've switched a lot of lights to LEDs, and I like them. I just hope their longevity comes close to what they claim. Time will tell.

I like my 100 year old bulbs too, but I don't use them very much.
 

dstryr

Registered
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

I'm not so sure it's a crock. While there may be a trade off between efficiency and longevity, these folks were pretty adamant about offering only efficiency. They even fined members who exceeded the longevity standard.

I would prefer to have been offered the choice. Buy a less efficient, long lasting bulb if you prefer.
You could use a nail for a filament and it would last until the end of time. Filaments will also boil off atoms and the dark haze inside an incandescent lamp is atoms collecting on the inside surface of the glass envelope. While some redeposit on the filament it is not uniformly. Over time, the place in the filament that boiled off more atoms became the weak spot and victim of the thermal shock when power was applied. Halogen lamps that became popular in the '90s partially solved the problem of atoms boiling off with halogen gas in the lamp that helped keep the atoms from depositing on the glass and instead back on the filament which led to significantly longer hours of service. Marketing of incandescent lamps to the general public was about more light from the same watts used vs. a competitor.

As for any industry economics plays a huge part:

Manufacture a lamp with the least amount of material and overhead cost that meets and satisfies a perceived value held by the consumer and puts the most money on the bottom line for the company.

As for perceived value, there were state contracts 20 years ago where 60A, 75A and 100A lamps- same ones in your table lamp were sold for 20 to 30 cents each. We paid 75 cents to a couple bucks a piece for the same identical product, depending on the retailer. What we're willing to pay for a product is all about perceived value.
 

Graycenphil

Registered
Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

About those halogen bulbs. We have some of those bayonet mount ones in the kitchen and a bathroom.I assume it's just shoddy manufacturing, but I've never seen bulbs that fail so fast. I just recently changed them to LEDs. The light is good, they're nice and cool and hopefully they'll last a lot longer.
 

DaveMisch

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
12/05/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

We have found that the floral designers have a hard time with colors under CFL lights. They are nothing like daylight. We have found LED bulbs to give good color rendition.

Alexander Steam Show has a glass ribbon machine on display. Google glass ribbon machine. these made incandesent light bulbs which are no more.

Check out our web site www.alexandersteamshow.com

Our Rally Sep 7 - 10, 2017

Dave Mischler
 

Graycenphil

Registered
Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

That's quite a machine. Is your operational, and do you actually run it? That would be something to see.

Could you make me a few bulbs, but put in heavy duty filaments so they last 100 years?
 

Pat Barrett

Subscriber
Age
71
Last Subscription Date
01/02/2020
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

What eats on me, is: now you can't find a 100 watt bulb. 75's and others but not a plain old 100 watt bulb, that last about 3 months to a year.
 

uglyblue66

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
11/07/2018
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

When the concept of planned obsolescence was first conceived there should have immediately been a constitutional amendment made to outlaw the practice. Service jobs like tv repairman and so forth would still be in place for folks that weren't trying to be doctors and lawyers.
Look for rough service bulbs for the 100 watt. When you protect the well house with a filament bulb you have to dig to find them.
 
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

Kind of on topic.......

I built a Listeroid diesel generator some years back and wired to the house for standby, emergency power. When I first tried it, my incandescent bulbs suffered from "Lister flicker"....power pulses from the single cylinder engine cased the bulbs to blink just enough to be annoying.

I replaced many of them with good quality LED's recently and, to my delight, the flicker disappeared. I bought more LED's, but these were a cheaper brand and actually flickered MORE than the incandescents! They look like something out of a 1960's rock concert.

Lesson learned: Buy only the good quality LED's and steer away from the cheaper stuff.

I have one 300 watt clear incandescent left and my son is trying to talk me out of it..........:O
 

Power

Registered
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

What eats on me, is: now you can't find a 100 watt bulb. 75's and others but not a plain old 100 watt bulb, that last about 3 months to a year.
Here hardware stores still sell 100, 200, 300 watt, but you pay for them= $1.99 for 100, $2.99 for 200, $4.99 for 300.
They are selling GE, made in China.
Seem to last ok. I had one blow as soon as I turned it on, brought it back the same day I bought it, they gave me a replacement.
 

DaveMisch

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
12/05/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

The glass ribbon machine is on a new concrete pad, but has not been assembled yet. A roof over it is also in the future. This industrial relic seemed like a good fit for our mission statement. Shortly after we committed to it the local natural gas supplier offered us a snow engine. They gave one to Cool Springs 20years ago and they were able to disassemble it and move it with volunteer labor.
National Fuel is now much more concerned about Liability. Only a certified contractor can take it apart and load it on trucks. This free gift will cost us about 35,000.00 and that is just to get it on our grounds. Foundation and building are additional expenses. This snow engine comes out of western PA. We will have the only Snow Engine in NY State. It was built right in Buffalo and pumped natural gas for over 100 years. Please check out our web site.

www.alexandersteamshow.com

Dave Mischler Rally Sep 7 - 10, 2017
 

Jim McIntyre

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

When the concept of planned obsolescence was first conceived there should have immediately been a constitutional amendment made to outlaw the practice...
Why not give that some thought? - I'd like to read the case you make for it...
 

Graycenphil

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Last Subscription Date
02/16/2012
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

Oddly enough, in the movie they talk about just the opposite. There was talk about a movement to require planned obsolesence. Some were suggesting a law requiring everything have an expiration date, and it would have to be returned to a government agency for disposal. The idea was to keep the factories busy.
 

uglyblue66

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
11/07/2018
Re: Light Bulb Conspiracy and planned obsolesence

Why not give that some thought? - I'd like to read the case you make for it...
Well that would take time,but for starters why is it morally right to sell something to someone knowing full well they will not get their moneys worth from it?

Why make a tire that will rot before it wears out? That unexpected blowout could get people killed.
Why sell paint that does not protect the item it is applied to for any length of time?

Just having to "Make a case for it" it would seem some folks agree it is ok to financially r-pe the American people and maintain the division of wealth and poverty. It makes it seem as if it is ok for people to do without because the item they bought failed shortly after the "warranty" expired.

All that along with the fact our landfills are now large enough mountains to make ski trails from should clue some folks in on the fact the chunk away society is not good for the environment.

The roots of the downfall of the middle class can be found in those ideas.
A tv repairman could take a course he bought thru a magazine ,build a small shop in his back yard and support his family.
But instead folks want the tv's made so they fail in 2 years and not be repairable.thus shifting jobs to china and doing away with his. Most middle class folks in the 50's and 60's were not college grads. It was still to costly for other than bright folks or the wealthy to attend.

As for "keeping the factorys busy" . as a example,Gm can build trucks in 2018, full size sedans in 2019,compacts in 2020. Repeat process.
For the moment that will give you some fodder to chew on.:)
 
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