How Does a Light Bulb Work? October 16 2013, 0 Comments

Many of us may wonder, but are be a bit shy to ask: How does a light bulb work? It is typical for our generation to enjoy all sorts of modern conveniences without knowing how they actually work their magic. Understanding how a light bulb works involves some technical phrases, but it's nothing to worry about. So let's get ready and do some Light Bulb 101.



The basics:

Thankfully, understanding how a light bulb works isn't too hard. The bulb has a very basic structure, which is why it hasn't changed much since it's invention. At the base are two metal contacts, both of which connect to the ends of an electrical circuit. These contacts are attached to two wires, which are attached to a very thin metal filament. This filament is a coiled wire held up by a glass mount in the middle of the bulb. The bulb itself is usually filled with a non-reactive gas, so the light quality is better and the bulb more durable.

So what happens when you screw in your light bulb? Let's reach back to our high school physics class about electricity. The screw makes contact with the main electrical circuit, establishing an electric current. The electricity encounters a high resistance as it passes through the filament because of the metal it's made from. The energy used up by the electricity forcing it's way through the filament is expended as heat and then, ultimately, light.



Various Light Bulb Types

The structure of the light bulb hasn't changed much, but the materials have. This is why there are various light bulb types. We'll mention three common ones that each have their pros and cons.

The classic type is the incandescent light bulb, consisting of a glass enclosure with a tungsten filament. These bulbs are widely used because they're inexpensive, compatible with light control devices and work well on various currents. Unfortunately, they also waste a lot of energy through heat. Alternative bulbs such as compact fluorescent lights have been developed.They use less electric power and last longer. The downside of this bulb is that it contains mercury, which is bad for the environment. They usually also take a few seconds to 'warm up'. In recent years, the LED light bulb has risen as one of the most eco-friendly and durable light bulb types. These use light-emitting diodes to produce light and contain no harmful or toxic substances. It also uses solid-state technology, which means they're more resistant to shocks. Their biggest downside currently is that they're more expensive. Other disadvantages are a less authentic look and incompatibility with light control devices, although these problems have been mostly overcome. For example, these LED bulbs retain much of the charm of vintage incandescent bulbs.



Light Bulb Fittings

There are two main types of light bulbs / fittings in Australia. The most commonly used one is the bayonet-style (B22). However, especially with the influx of LED lights, there is a good chance you can come across the screw-in style (E27) in the light bulb aisle too. This type was originally produced to serve the European market, but more recently has also made its way to Australian homes.




Some tips for buying light bulbs

When DIY isn't your thing, standing in front of all those light bulbs in the shop can be pretty confusing. So we'll part from you with these final tips.

- Think about what kind of light you want for your home. Even if you've already decided on a style such as vintage, there are still various light bulb types for that category. Have a look at the pros and cons above and see which one suits your needs best.

- Have a look at which light bulb fittings you have in your home: B22, E27 or perhaps a more uncommon fitting. You'll need to get the right one when you're in the store.

- Don't get confused by Watts, Lumens or Voltage. Watts is about the energy a bulb uses, Lumens is how much light it gives offand voltage is about the electrical 'pressure' of the electrical network. Most bulbs will do just fine on the main network of 240V, and this includes bulbs of various Watts and Lumens. How much watts you need depends on the fixture you have at home, so have a look at that if you're not sure. It usually mentions a max wattage on the inside. With LED light bulbs, it often has "equals [number] watts" on the package to compare it to incandescent bulbs. And if you're still unsure, you can always ask the store employee!


It's good to know how a light bulb works when buying it. But it's also important that it works well in your interior design. Which bulbs do you use in your home?



(image 1 Western Australian Academy Of Performing Arts, image 2 Remodelista, image 3 thedesignfiles, image 4 cushandnooks, image 5 Fat Shack Vintage)