For the past few decades, man has been looking for a way to conserve energy without compromising his quality of life. One of the obvious (and increasingly popular) solutions to this competition to save both energy and electrical costs is by using energy efficient light bulbs (also known as Compact fluorescent lamps or lights- CFL for short) instead of incandescent bulbs. Although the CFL has been in existence for more than 30 years, just like the garage door, it’s origins go back way further than that. So who, exactly, invented compact fluorescent light bulbs?
The history of the fluorescent lamp dates back to the 1890s, when its parent bulb was invented by Peter Cooper Hewitt. These light bulbs were used for the photography industry, most commonly in photographic studios.
The next generation of the fluorescent light was born in 1927, when Edmund Germer, Friedrich Meyer and Hans Spanner invented a high pressure vapor lamp, which they patented that year. A practical fluorescent lamp was created and sold in 1938 by George Inman, who had teamed up with the General Electric company. This lamp was patented in 1941. Inman and General Electric worked on creating lamps that were formulated in order to reduce the length of fluorescent light structures. The results: lamps that were U-shaped or circular. Thus the very first fluorescent light bulb was born. The first fluorescent bulb and fixture made their big debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
The three dimensional spiral bulb (also known as a helical CFL) was not officially invented until nearly four decades later. General Electric’s engineer Edward Hammer developed the helical bulb in 1976, as a result of the 1973 oil crisis; however, this invention was shelved, despite the fact that the helical CFL design met all it’s intended goals. Eventually other companies began copying the bulb’s design, although it was another two decades before the helical lamps started being mass produced in China and readily available to the public. Sales have gradually increased over the last two decades.
The first successful screw-in bulb to replace incandescent light bulbs was the Phillips SL model, originally introduced in 1980. The screw-in lamp featured an integral ballast and a folded T4 tube, as well as secure tri-color phosphors and a mercury amalgam. In 1985, the first CFL to feature an electronic ballast was introduced via Osram’s EL model lamp.
As you can see, the compact fluorescent lamp has gradually evolved over the last century, and can’t really be credited to just one creator. It took many years of engineering to invent an energy efficient bulb to replace the typical incandescent bulbs. CFL’s have lifespans which can range from 6 times to 15 times longer as an incandescent bulb, and uses three to four times less power to create the same amount of brightness. CFL’s can be used to replace any incandescent light bulb in your home- in your ceiling light fixtures, in your lamps, in your porch light. You can even use a CFL in the outside lamp outside your garage door. The compact fluorescent lamp can light up just about any area in your home; not a bad feat for a bulb over a hundred years in the making!