Small businesses are trying to resuscitate the incandescent bulb, but can it compete with CFLs?
By 2012, incandescent lightbulbs - or "lamps" to those in the industry - were expected to be phased out because of updated energy laws. The brainchild of Thomas Edison, although serving the country well since the 19th century, isn't as energy efficient as its 1980s successor, the compact fluorescent lightbulb.
Facing industry extinction, incandescent manufacturers have charged ahead with research and testing to bring older lamps up to speed. But even post-innovation, efficiency has only increased by 30 percent, which means they still have far to go to catch up with CFLs' 75 percent efficiency lead.
Try as they might, Ellis Yan, CEO of Technical Consumer Products, doesn't think his competitors will ever catch up. Although his Cleveland, Ohio-based company strictly manufactures CFLs, his lighting industry involvement prior to founding TCP gave him experience with incandescent lamps.
"I think for everybody in the lighting industry there is an opportunity to innovate," Yan said. "You're able to achieve energy efficient lighting at different levels and in different ways. It's absolutely possible that incandescent bulbs can be made more efficient, but will it be enough?"
He considers the question rhetorical, but knows Americans would never rescind their comfort level with that familiar yellow light.
"Incandescent bulbs are the icon associated with the history of this country," he said. "People's consistent behavior is to pick up incandescent bulbs."
But the prejudice Yan said people feel toward CFLs is largely based on misconception. Even though upon their creation, CFLs gave off a slightly garish color, he said great strides have been taken in color correction thanks to the recognition of tri-phosphors.
"When CFLs debuted on the market, their manufacturers only knew how to mix basic red and blue phosphors," he said. "Now, give me ten days, and I can match any color you desire because we use these tri-phosphors."
Instead of spending time on developing newer incandescent lamps, Yan said small business research dollars might be better spent on LEDs.
"Everybody thinks LEDs are the future of lighting," he said. "We agree, but it won't happen today. There needs to be more innovation to bring down the price and increase efficiency."