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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy (ieee.org)
207 points by mr_golyadkin on Sept 25, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 164 comments

>'There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes were reached.'

To go off on a tangent...

I have a couple of CFLs that have been going since 1997 in my first apartment while most of the CFLs I purchased after my last move in 2009 have burned out.

None of my LEDs have gone. Not the ridiculously expensive ones from a few years ago or the current "almost, but not quite cheap enough for the whole house" ones I've been testing out.

My impression is that there's a sweet spot in relatively early adoption for many technologies when you can get nearly all the eventual performance with much higher reliability. A point where manufacturers are perhaps over-engineering or at least have not yet dialed in their cost-cutting trade-offs.

Of course, whether this is worth anything depends on the context - my 2004 Linksys AP, 1997 bulbs and 1999 DVD player are fine for my purposes, but my tank-like 2009 Motorola Droid - not so much.

Usage patterns are important with CFL's. They are sensitive to many on/off cycles, and last longest when they burn continually. So, it might be interesting to take a moment and consider whether your usage patterns have shifted markedly.

Also, CFL's installed in ceiling fixtures have two problems -- the heat goes up into the circuitry (many CFL packages I've seen said not to install upside down), and anyone stomping around on the floor above will induce vibrations which shorten life.

Oddly, the ones I abuse the most -- leaving them outdoors in enclosures, frequent on/off -- have lastest the longest, and those I've simply put in normal sockets have failed the quickest.

I seem to recall there is an issue with CFL bulbs that has to do with ambient temperature. Recessed sockets get hotter, and shorten CFL life considerably.

The circuitry of CFLs (like the circuitry on LEDs) is where the heat is generated (basically the base of the bulb) and can _really_ kill the lifetime of the bulb if they're up in recessed indoor lighting environments.

Also, whatever the rated voltage for your power, don't assume it will be exact, and different voltage can be very noticeable on bulb lifetime. If bulbs keep popping it may be worth checking the voltage of your electricity supply. Ours is nearly 10% higher than it should be...

Inkjet printers from the 90's are also much more durable and overengineered than anything you'll buy today.

More like, the inkjet printers from the 90's that aren't in landfills yet are very durable.

There were lots of 90s era printers that were just as trashy as the ones made today.

Ah yea, good old Survivorship bias.


My early 90's Canon eventually leaked all over. It was a big mess. My Epsons clogged and prompted me to do futile head cleaning routines that wasted a lot of paper.

My HP was sort of okay, but it turns out that I don't print enough. Any inkjet would clog under my normal use.

My early 90s HP InkJet was a workhorse, as was the NEC laser printer I had (though it had driver issues). My computers stopped coming with a parallel port.

I would say that over-engineered goods are the ones that last just long enough (and not any more) so that most customers don't feel like they were ripped off when they need to replace the product. The products that you are refering to were under-engineered (they were engineered on the safe side).

Yep. As my college professors used to repeat, anyone can build a building that stands up, but only an engineer can build a building that barely stands up.

In my building, administration changed last year all the floor lamps with CFL. From a total of 19 bulbs, 2 burned out.

They stay on all day long. That means 10% of the bulbs burned before reaching 9000 hours. The rest seems to be unaffected.

However, _older_ lamps (made > 15, 20 years ago) used to last much longer than two or three years on all the time. I know this because I took notice of this at the moment.

I have incandescent bulbs that are more than 10 years old, that burn 2-3 hours a day today. Incandescent bulbs I bought in the last years typically lasted less than 1-2 years at a similar burning rate. I saw a change in bulb quality when the local industry died (east Europe) and all you could get were Osram from Poland or Phillips.

In my opinion, the reaches of the cartel are still strong.

In my opinion, people want to pay less and less each year, which leads to using cheaper materials. 15 years ago a CFL cost a very decent amount of money, I am sure that if you adjusted the price for inflation it would cost at least 4x of what they cost now. You can get a 60W-equivalent CFL for £1.50-2, which is ridiculously close to the cost of regular 60W lightbulbs(which cost £0.5-0.8 when bought in bulk).

It's often cheaper for manufacturers of low-cost electronics to minimally test devices before sale, with the expectation that some will die early in their life and be fixed under warranty. Burning in everything you make is expensive, especially if failure rates are fairly low anyway.

Electronics tend to have a bathtub curve of failure, with high failure rates at the beginning of life. It wouldn't surprise me that older CFLs (with much higher market prices) had greater levels of testing/burn in before being shipped, leading to much lower failure rates.

I believe it's typically the heat sinks/packaging etc. that go with the LED bulbs, long before the crystals themselves do (which are the most expensive part, though they can fail too).

I lost an expensive (and weak) GE LED lamp I bought a few years ago. In fairness, they weren't rated for a super long lifetime - or at least they didn't have a very long warranty.

I noticed this as well, especially with CFLs from Phillips.

> 'There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes were reached.'

What's more worrying is that Governments have outlawed traditional light bulbs in favor of LED or CFL ones. If that's not some powerful lobby, I don't know what it is.

In the EU, incandescent bulbs were banned as part of a directive [1] to reduce energy use, as only 10% of the energy put in was converted to light. That sounds like a sensible move to me rather than lobbying.

In the UK, CFL bulbs were also subsidised and/or given out free to households by the energy companies before incandescent bulbs were banned.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/aug/31/lightbulb...

I'm all for decreasing energy consumption, but the last two flats I've rented have come as-built-new with dimmer switches which do not work with newfangled fixtures.

One was a set of many small ceiling fixtures for which only LED lamps could anymore be bought in shops, and those flickered because the switches were dimmers (which themselves would save energy, because most of the time 50% was enough).

The second flat had a $200 electronic dimmer switch, again as installed by the builders, and a halogen fixture with some sort of ballast or whatever you call it these days. This also flickered constantly, and worse, it burned out the dozen tiny $5 halogen bulbs every week. The fixture had to be replaced; the new one takes standard-size halogen bulbs and has no ballast thingy to make them flicker.

It has become quite unpleasant to move into new buildings and find that the electricals are not compatible even as built. And most shops won't sell some of the bits I need to fix it, because the government told them not to...but other less-convenient shops still do sell them.

There are plenty of LED lamps that can be dimmed. They are more expensive than non-dimmable LEDs, but they work fine.

The LED "bulbs" I had were dimmable, socket type MR8. The thing is, they still flickered. I think it was something about the dimmer switch itself being unhappy--the flickering was not constant, but it was impossible to stop completely, even at 100% brightness on the dial. My point is, these things have given rise to all sorts of weird incompatibilities that we didn't have before, and I am tired of it. Anything like "Well there are bulbs that will work but you just have to order them from this one guy" is not really a solution--we're talking about lights in a house, not the International Space Station. :) The government has forced us into using technology which is not ready for true mainstream use (as opposed to geek use).

Mine (bought at elkjop) makes a lot of noise, otherwise ok. Where did you get yours?

Amazon. I have about 4-5 different brands because I bought several different ones to test colour tone (most "warm white" leds are too cold white for me to want them in my living room).

This is the one I've liked best:


Not as bright as they claim it to be, though. I have 4 of them in the living room, and there's no way it's equivalent to 4 x 50W halogen bulbs.

Factor in the energy cost of making CFL/LED bulbs (including the additional electronics and mining the required material and all the shipping it requires) and the energy costs of dealing with the toxic waste they contains, and now this doesn't seem as much like a sensible move.

When you compare retail prices and actual lifetime you notice that the new bulbs are significantly more expensive than the now banned traditional ones while having overrated life expectancies and now you understand that the manufacturers are getting more money and faster, suddenly this overpriced incompetence has a feel of greenwashing followed by an aftertaste of lobbying

Factor in the energy cost of making CFL/LED bulbs (including the additional electronics and mining the required material and all the shipping it requires) and the energy costs of dealing with the toxic waste they contains, and now this doesn't seem as much like a sensible move.

I know of no study that agrees with your conclusion. Among others, Umweltbundesamt (German government), BUND (German NGO, parts of Friends of the Earth), Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science) have come out in favour of CFL bulbs.

I can't believe we're still having this discussion in 2014. To add to cygx's point, a quick break even sum:

A 60W equivalent costs around $1.50, and using ~12W of energy. Even if we use the lowest electricity cost for the US ($0.08/kWh), and assume the incandescent bulb was free:

cost of bulb / power difference * cost per Wh = break even time

1.50 / (60-12) * (0.08 / 1000) = 390 hours

So you only need to use a bulb for 390h to recover the total purchase cost. You can argue all you want about lifetimes, equivalence etc, but these are not marginal figures, especially when you factor in that real EU electricity prices tend to be 2-5x the figures I used-- with German or Danish electricity you'll have pay back times well under 100h.

Those like you and ekianjo make a good case for regulation. The EU banned incandescents, the world did not implode.

Do you have any evidence to back up your assertion that CFLs and LEDs are more harmful to manufacture and recycle than incandescents?

This. I'm glad there are still sensible people out there on HN.

In EU you can very easily walk into any shop and still happily buy incandescent bulbs without any problems - 150W, 100W, 60W -despite the ban. Manufacturers very quickly caught on the fact that while incandescent bulbs for home use were banned, "specialist" bulbs were not and cannot be banned for a variety of reasons. So if I go into my nearest supermarket, I can buy a 100W incandescent bulb that is designed for "traffic lights use only, not for home use". Of course no one cares that everyone uses it at home, but it's perfectly legal to sell.

> In the EU, incandescent bulbs were banned as part of a directive [1] to reduce energy use, as only 10% of the energy put in was converted to light. That sounds like a sensible move to me rather than lobbying.

If it makes economical sense, let consumers judge for themselves. The cost at purchase of LEDs / CFLs is way higher than traditional light bulbs. Everyone should be able to have access to cheap lights.

As long as we haven't figured out and implemented a way to align economical and ecological sense, your suggestion is a non-starter.

Haha. We are not going to consume LESS energy in the future, unless you want to live in poor conditions. The working assumption is how do we create more, cheaper and in a cleaner way. There's a bunch of papers out there on how energy consumption and level of life are closely related.

Maybe you should have read what I wrote. I certainly do not advocate conserving energy no matter the cost.

I'm saying that at the present there is no economic incentive for consumers to save electricity large enough to make them switch to less energy intensive means of lighting.

We certainly won't maximize our standard of living by senselessly wasting energy. When there are two ways to light a room, yielding the same amount of light, but one uses much less energy, it is the superior one.

The tricky question is how to make it the economically sensible one for the consumer, as well.

When there are two ways to light a room, yielding the same amount of light, but one uses much less energy, it is the superior one.

Not necessarily. What about manufacturing costs? If manufacturing a CFL/LED is more labour or capital intensive then it's production uses resources that could have been used to produce other goods. If that's the case then a ban on incandescent light bulbs has a hidden cost.

You shouldn't look only at the visible effects but also at those invisible. A great essay That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen [1] by Frederic Bastiat comes to my mind. It explores this kind of situations.

[1] http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html

Do you have any evidence that supports the possibility of LED beings more labour or capital intensive, or is this a hypothetical, "well maybe it could be worse" in an effort to confirm your existing opinion?

I've seen numerous citations to the effect that we are consuming less energy these days on a per-capita basis.

Not seeing a whole lot of citations coming back from your side of the table.

Then why are we banning inefficient engines and impose huge tax on ones with large emissions? A car without a DPF costs less to buy and maintain than a one with it, yet no one makes the argument that "everyone should have access to cheap cars"?

Personally I would buy the car that has the most reliable and most powerful engine - even if it was a 6.0L V8 - but huge taxes on such thing are stopping me from buying it.

I think that the problem of pollution, and other externalities, can be best handled by Pigovian taxes, not by explicit bans or heavy-handed regulation.

That only 10% of the energy used by a lightbulb is converted to light does not mean that the bulb is wasting energy.

Incandescent light bulbs are cheap. The cost of the electricity over the lifespan of the bulb is much greater than the cost of the bulb. If the cartel was reducing bulb lifespan by making it run hotter thus producing more lumens per watt, then it was actually saving the consumers money by allowing the consumer to select a lower watt bulb. In fact, even today most standard incandescent light bulbs are rated for 1,000 hours or less.

This (that lifespan and efficiency are inevitably a tradeoff in incandescent bulbs) is my understanding as well.

You can get "rough service" or "extended life" incandescent bulbs that claim 5,000 hour lifetimes, but they are very obviously dim and orange compared with the standard bulbs.

You can also get newfangled "high efficiency" incandescent bulbs (a 60W bulb's worth of light for ~40W) that package little halogen lamps inside the traditional bulb shape. (I'm a fan, I think they provide the highest quality light you can get right now.) But residential halogen lamps used to mostly claim 2,000 hour lifespans, and these new high efficiency ones only claim 900.

None of that means the cartel had good intentions, though. Sometimes the right thing happens for the wrong reasons.

The reason I believe that there is a conspiracy is that the technology to get a 10,000 hour incandescent bulb is fairly cheap & easy; you need a temperature compensating thermistor, AKA the Bulb-Miser [1]. I've used one before and they really work. I'm now 100% LED.

[1] http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/2007001...

Oh, the bulb miser. I discovered this one time when I had bathroom lights that "warmed up". They were really dim for the first minute or two. It drove me crazy at times but one day I decided I would replace them, and pulled out the bulb and found this bulb miser thing.

I had no idea what it was, but my buddy did and explained it to me, and I laughed my ass off about it. But then I thought about it, and decided to replace one bulb without the miser inserted, so I would at least be able to see in my bathroom. Left the other 3 (it was a light bulb panel above the mirror) with misers inserted.

Sure as the sun comes up that one bulb would go out every year or so, but the ones with misers never did, in 9 years I was there.

That's interesting, thanks for the link.

One thing I have noticed in my house is that incandescent bulbs last longer if their power is ramped up to turn them on. We have this kind of switch in our main room and the bulbs have lasted longer than 8 years of more than 8 hours a day.

They are rarely on full bright so that could be it too.

Supposedly hot/cold cycles are bad for incandescent, so if you have dimmers and rarely actually switch the bulb off, that might be the source of improvement.

There is also a current surge when the bulb is first turned on, which shortens the lifespan and is also often the final straw that eventually blows the filament.

best way to blow out a lightbulb used to be to flick the switches on and off many times really quickly . Used to accidentally do this as a kid while horsing around.

This is the same reason old CFLs seem to last a lot longer than new ones. The old ones had better temperature ramp up circuitry.

The oldest (mostly) continuously running light bulb was made in my home town. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centennial_Light ... It is featured also in a documentary about "planned obsolescence" quite prominently.

I think it is well known that things that are made well and do cost a little more are available. This reminds me of a guy who shows how to counterfeit his own product - http://kottke.org/14/01/how-to-make-a-fake-bag

Some things however we've all seem to accept, like light bulbs, razor blades, etc, and its a shame. On one hand, having a newer product that may be better more often is good, and having a lower price for a product that lasts even temporary is also good, but it would be nice if there were more choice, and more awareness, of these kinds of issues in our markets.

I wish people would stop posting about that thing. It doesn't even provide enough light to read a book by. If i only ever take microscopical sips from a sealed bottle of water it will also last for years.

Point taken :P What light it does provide is still impressive that it has done it for a hundred years.

Any bulb will do that if you run it on 1/4 of its rated voltage and never turn it off. It will be about as bright as the "Centennial" bulb.

Any bulb?

I'm biased. I like that they run a webcam: http://www.centennialbulb.org/cam.htm

Where'd you get the 1/4 voltage figure and how does that relate to its longevity?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb , under the Light Output and Lifetime subhead.

Lifetime is approximately proportional to the 16th power of the voltage, according to that article. 1/4 was a randomly made up figure (and probably wouldn't even result in a visible glow with many bulbs) but if you could see the light from such a bulb, it would presumably last up to 4 billion times longer than normal. By the same token a 5% reduction in voltage will double the life of the bulb.

So it wouldn't be hard at all to find a voltage somewhere in between that will allow an ordinary incandescent bulb to emit visible, maybe even useful levels of illumination, while lasting 100 years or more.

As others have mentioned, the Centennial bulb doesn't exactly emit useful levels of light. If I'm doing the math right, if you took a 100W/120V incandescent bulb rated for 1000 hours and scaled down the voltage by the 16h root of 876, or 80 volts, its life expectancy would reach 100 years. The bulb would use about half the power be about 1/4 as bright as normal. Its color temperature would obviously be pretty awful, but the Centennial bulb doesn't excel in that department either.

Not quite any bulb. Tungsten filaments evaporate over time, carbon filaments don't. But carbon filaments are much more fragile if subjected to thermal cycling or vibration.

I once owned a Remington electric razor that just died for no reason one day. I decided to take it apart and see if there was anything obviously wrong with it. There was - the electrical contact with the motor was made by a piece of graphite, and it had worn down to nothing. At that moment I decided to switch to another brand on the hope that it did not practice planned obsolescence, and I've been happy ever since.

You've just discovered that Electric motors use brushes on their commutators? Welcome to the 20th century.

Brushes are intended to be replaced, and many manufacturers supply spare brushes in the original packaging.

In the 21st century however the traditional brushes have been replaced by electronic switching.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brushless_DC_electric_motor

I wouldn't consider the practice of using graphite brushes in DC motors as planned obsolescence. It's more like best tool for the job, with a limited lifetime by its very nature.

Undervolt your light bulbs just a little bit (add a piece of iron or steel cable to the copper wire) and they last a lot longer. The plural of anecdote is not data, but I do this with light bulbs in my home, which are mostly CFLs except for the LED in my little lab (haven't bought any in two years) and projector bulbs (lasted four years).

http://robots-everywhere.com/re_wiki/index.php?n=Main.Projec... Obviously, don't use the capacitor for light bulbs connected to AC!

This is really the fundamental problem of Capitalism which we are now regularly butting are heads against. If it were possible, say, to create a light bulb that lasted 1,000 years for a dollar. Who could afford to make such a thing? After the initial flurry of sales, demand would drop off precipitously. And as the world approaches peek population, there would be fewer and fewer sales. And that's just the logistical problem. This story speaks to the further moral dimension in which it is always more profitable to corner a market and force on consumers ever increasing reoccurring cost.

If it were possible, say, to create a light bulb that lasted 1,000 years for a dollar. Who could afford to make such a thing?

Anybody who wants to get rich.

Let's say that you can sell such a light bulb, and that it's so great that everyone in the world buys one, on average. And say you can sell it for a dollar, but you only make a cent of profit on each one. Why, that'd only leave you with. . . $70,000,000 dollars.

Well that's not too bad, but really not great either. It'd certainly let you retire to a tropical island for the rest of your life. But you could do better. If the light bulb is so great, wouldn't everyone be willing to spend more than a dollar on one? After all, those inferior light bulbs cost about twice as much, so if your bulbs are better than others should be willing to pay at least that much. Let's knock the price up to $2, then. That puts the profit per bulb at $1.01. So then you can simultaneously destroy the light bulb industry (fun!) and put a cool 7 billion dollars in your pocket (profit!).

Who would choose not do do such a thing? Certainly most anybody who's motivated by profit (like, say, a capitalist) would jump at the opportunity.

If it took 1 person to make, sell, and distribute those things, then $70 million are enough to retire comfortably. If it takes 100 people, then you could still retire, if you lived somewhere cheap.

More realistically, you might sell a few hundred thousand to the developed world, and then sales fall off a cliff, because it takes a lot of work to distribute outside your home market. Total payoff: Less than 2 months' salary.

That's the concern with the new lights. The industry is built on 1,000-hour bulbs and regular replacements. We currently have a boom as incandescents get replaced by fluorescents and fluorescents get replaced by LEDs (my father hates fluorescent light). Once that is done, who is going to buy bulbs at the rate that the factories can produce them?

This thread has gotten way out of hand with the thought experiments that reveal more about the author than the subject... but I can't resist!

If it took 100 people to make/sell/distribute, and you are the owner of the company, you're probably going to still be rich. Figure 99 employees at $150k fully loaded annually would cost you 15 million dollars, leaving 55 million to retire on.

Of course, if you are an employee, you would only have a job for 1 year.

Even assuming the hypothetical price does not refer to just production costs per bulb, but also initial capital outlays for a manufacturing plant etc., you're still assuming there are no marketing and sales costs, and no distribution costs, and no costs to cover returns (want to claim it lasts a 1,000 years? better be prepared to replace each and every bulb that fails for some reason or face lawsuits).

You'd also need capital to stand up to much larger manufacturers who'd go for an all out assault to find real or imagined flaws with your product (it'll destroy the environment - think of the dying baby seals!).

Some products costs many times their manufacturing cost to sell and distribute.

> After all, those inferior light bulbs cost about twice as much

That may sound like a good thing for you, but it's not a given. You've just created a reason for people to go "hold on, if this bulb lasts so long, why does it cost so little? what's wrong with it?" (at which point the less ethical of your competitors will whisper in their ears: "think of the dying baby seals; we can't prove that's what they make their filament of, but ...")

You'll need to convince people that you're selling them a genuine product, because it sounds too good to be true and a lot of people would assume it is too good to be true. Convincing them would cost a lot of money.

The irony is that you might be better off promising a much shorter timespan (you'd still need a fortune for marketing campaigns) and/or hiking the price up.

But if you're promising a shorter lifespan, why not cut manufacturing costs and achieve a shorter lifespan and increase your profit? It's what your competitors will do.

And of course you'd face clones of your products - patents or no patents there'd be people trying to find workarounds, or just blatantly ignoring any patents and hoping to make a profit before you can stop them (or hope they can make it too expensive for you to pursue)

> Who would choose not do do such a thing? Certainly most anybody who's motivated by profit (like, say, a capitalist) would jump at the opportunity.

The article points out that a cartel of the biggest manufacturers at the time saw things opposite: They saw increasing how long they'd last as a threat to the extent that they went to extreme lengths to prevent it from coming to pass.

I think that's a pretty good indication that "most anybody who's motivated by profit" would not necessarily jump at the opportunity to create a longer life product.

You kind of ignoring that we live in the age of the internet and word-of-mouth can work a lot better than sales/marketing. Returns too, only matter if it actually does fail, which given the premiss it doesnt. No reason why a exponential improvement in lightbulbs would be less popular than anything else people have looked at and said this is way better than that.

No, I'm not ignoring we live in the age of the internet. The age of the internet has not stopped spending on marketing at all, it's just changed where it gets deployed.

Returns matter because it will fail no matter what, given that there will be a non-zero change of failure in every step from manufacture to end user distribution, to failures directly caused by the end user (what do you mean it it's my fault it broke when I tried to screw it into the wrong type of fixture and used lots of force?) to forces of nature (lightning frying everything). End users will try it whether they're right, or whether they they hit the thing with a hammer.

If the premise is "is indestructable", then we are in fairy tale land, well past "a bit far fetched hypothetical land". My expectation was that the premise was more akin to "will last 1000 years absent production failures and when treated/used according to spec".

I've dealt with customers demanding money back on an internet subscription because they didn't realise they needed a computer (this was before smart phones and the like) to use the internet.You will need to deal with returns.

Even if only rebuff attempt at claiming money back.

> No reason why a exponential improvement in lightbulbs would be less popular than anything else people have looked at and said this is way better than that.

Name one single such product that managed to get worldwide penetration with no marketing from anyone.

The point is not that such a bulb would not become popular if it came about, but that the cost of making any physical product a world wide success are high enough that a cheap product that's effectively destroying it's own market is not likely to be a good investment even if the potential final "one time" sales could be fairly large.

Consider that e.g. OSRAM when they spend marketing money is maintaining a market that keeps buying product. Every customer they gain is likely to buy bulbs multiple times, so their marketing cost per acquired customer is likely to be far lower than an unknown entrant who needs to keep selling to new people.

Keep also in mind that even with a promise of a 1000 year lifetime, it will take many years before the product will have proven itself sufficiently that people will have first hand evidence that it even outlasts common LEDs. Trust matters.

If I had a bulb that'd last for 1000 years and cost $1, I'd keep my mouth shut, and market them at about the same price as LEDs, and claim they'd last 20% longer, and back that up with a warranty. I might even artificially limit their lifetime to, say, 2x the lifetime of the LED (or try to cost reduce to get there). Then I'd invest a good percentage of revenue into marketing, hopefully managing to outspend competitors on sales and marketing unit by unit.

Whenever a competitor would improve length, I'd then release a "new model" maintaining the lead. But not immediately, and never with too much of a lead.

I learned the hard way not to undercut / overcommit vs. your competitors with my first business: An ISP. We realised we could sell subscriptions at 25% what the incumbents could. What we did not realise at the time was why the incumbents were so expensive: It was not that they could not promise what we did for the price we did. It was that they did not see the mass market promise, and their margins were great as they were. So what happened was that 4 days after we launched, together with one or two other small ISPs that had also found the same price spot, the biggest ISPs in our market followed suit instantly, and started a price war that totally ravaged the market over the following 5 years. Nobody made any money until the major players had exhausted their war chests and carved up the market between themselves.

What I learned was that 1) you should not assume your lead is as great as you think; assume the competitors either have stuff hidden away or at least have resources to quickly cut your lead; 2) you should not assume your competitors can't cut price, so don't underprice them enough to force them into a price war with you; unless you have deep pockets, you will lose, 3) you should not assume your potential customers will find you just because of price (and if they do,you'll lose them the moment someone underbid you). In general, assume that you upset the status quo at your peril - everyone will gun for you if you reveal your hand and demonstrate a too large of an apparent advantage. In well established market with large incumbents, unless you have massive capital behind you, it's a bit like walking up to a sleeping tiger and giving it a swift kick: not very conducive to your long term survival.

It's better to come in under the radar. If you still want to change the world and destroy your market, do it once you've built up distribution and a war chest.

I found your comment an interesting read, and I want to think about it some more. However this one part struck me as why I wanted to comment earlier, " assume that you upset the status quo at your peril ", this is the exact opposite strategy to "disrupt everything" that comes from silicon valley, so I think there is a bit of a sw/manufacturing ideology gap. I suspect neither side is 100% wrong, more disruption chances could success in manufacturing, some software should take a more conservative stance off the bat, but I think where your speaking from, we don't hear enough about.

The Fairbanks Scales in the 19th century were famously reliable and durable. Sadly, for the Fairbanks, to the point that once one was bought, there was little need to replace it. The Fairbanks brothers (who lived in Vermont, not Alaska!) became fabulously wealthy. But their company is largely forgotten, due to it saturation the scale market within a generation or so....

I bought new bathroom scales about 5 years ago or so. The company I bought it from pretty much only sells scales, and they hilariously keeps trying to send me offers for discounted scales every few months. I've not unsubscribed almost entirely out of amusement: If I was in the market for another scale already, it'd mean theirs were of poor enough quality I wouldn't buy a second one from them.

It's unlikely that 1000 year bulbs would actually be useful for 1000 years. Just as incandescents are being replaced for sake of energy efficiency. And I find it hard to imagine any economic system that could efficiently build 1000 year bulbs. It requires spinning up factories for a short period of high volume, mass production, followed by a long, low volume trailoff. That's a costly and wasteful process under any economic system. Our limited time and money is better spent solving more immediate problems, methinks.

Icandescents are being replaced because they were made illegal. If people really wanted the CFLs that would not have been necessary.

I think the original argument would have stood if the numbers were 20 to 50 years, and anything less than $1/yr or so.

If it were possible, say, to create a light bulb that lasted 1,000 years for a dollar. Who could afford to make such a thing?

I sense that you think manufacturers don't have an incentive to produce quality products like bulbs that can be used for a long time. I think you're making a mistake which I'll try to illustrate with an example.

Suppose light bulbs cost 1 USD each and last 1 year. I invent a new light bulb that is the same except it lasts 2 years. Would you say selling it would be a bad deal for me? Of course if I were to sell it for 1 USD then it certainly would be. But the value of my bulb to consumers is at least 2 USD, because it's equivalent to buying and using two competitors' bulbs! Manufacturing costs aren't relevant - if my bulb is cheaper to produce then it's even better for me.

You shouldn't look at the cost of production because it isn't the only factor. Take a look at e-books, for example. Sometimes they're even more expensive than paperbacks!

> I sense that you think manufacturers don't have an incentive to produce quality products like bulbs that can be used for a long time.

They do, to an extent, if they're not a dominant market player. But the article demonstrates quite clearly that once you reach a certain size, the effect on overall market demand starts to become a concern that relates directly to how much product you'll expect to be able to shift.

> But the value of my bulb to consumers is at least 2 USD, because it's equivalent to buying and using two competitors' bulbs!

It's not, because people (rationally) discount future events: We won't fully believe the claim; we'll assume other things may make it break in the meantime; we may have more immediate uses for the extra dollar. A dollar saved a year from now is not generally worth a dollar today.

It will be worth more than the competing products (all else being equal), but it won't be worth twice just because it lasts twice as long.

It will be worth more than the competing products (all else being equal), but it won't be worth twice just because it lasts twice as long.

Absolutely agree. You rightfully point out broad simplifications that I made, though I think we agree that there's still an incentive for companies to build better products. Even if the price of the new bulb lower than 2 USD, but above 1 USD, the produces has an incentive to sell it - lower sales costs (you need to do it once), lower warehousing costs, etc. On the other hand the new technology can be more expensive than the old and offset these benefits.

Someone like Elon Musk would do it.

Some people are happy to make enough money to generate a comfortable (but not outrageous) salary for all involved for a limited period, if it means making the world a better place. Not everyone wants to screw over their fellow humans to extract as much rent as physically possible for absolutely as long as they can.

Sure, you won't raise much capital from Wall St. to do it, so you'll need a rich backer with philanthropic tendancies. They're a rare breed, but they do exist.

Most competently-constructed buildings and bridges today could last for a thousand years. They still get built, and they take a lot more upfront capital investment than any light bulb.

My guess: Buildings tend to be over-engineered because any failure will kill people. There's just no reason to buy a light bulb that will last longer than your own occupancy of a given place.

> Most competently-constructed buildings and bridges today could last for a thousand years.

That's not even remotely true. Without continual maintenance most of them would collapse in 100 years, maybe 200 on the outside. But that's not really the point. The real estate market is quite a different beast driven primarily by scarcity of space and location desirability.

I think there's a missing "'nt" in the previous comment.

A cartel is a way to constrain trade in an anti-competitive way. It is the opposite of capitalism. This is why antitrust laws and enforcement are so important.

In the zones with frequent natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, ...) the replace rate will be higher.

A number of years ago I engineered a light engine consisting of 1,500 1W LED's very tightly packed. Excellent thermal design was crucial in making such a device work and remain reliable for years. We ran hundreds of FEA thermal simulations spanning months before arriving at a set of good thermal management solutions. This also extended to the electronics. It was very important to ensure that the tightly packed electronics did not suffer premature failure due to exposure to high temperatures or thermal cycling. The design had over 40 microprocessors driving the array using an innovative and highly efficient (98% if I remember correctly) technology. This was a very interesting project.

I learned that thermal issues can be real killers when it comes to high power LED designs. While I have not analyzed any consumer lighting designs I would not be surprised if thermal issues, either steady-state or cyclic, are at the core of some of the failures over time.

Note that this cartel would have been impossible without patent protection.

In fact, this seems to be a purported feature of the patent system, not a bug -- to give inventors monopolistic control of a market for several decades.

Such a cartel would still be possible even without patent protection (the article doesn't go into enough detail on whether patents where still only available through GE after WWI). Cartels are always possible when you have massive economies of scale. The (mass) production of light bulbs in this case is sufficiently difficult and expensive, so that any cartel could easily thwart new competitors - even without patent protection. The expertise in the production of light bulbs doesn't lie within the schematics of the light bulbs themselves - it lies within the exact production process, the selection of the suppliers, refinement of materials, etc. Those are enough hurdles to make an entry into this market very difficult and the establishment of a cartel so easy.

In my eyes this article is a very good argument against a pure laissez-faire economy.

Corporate cartels are incredibly unstable though, because it is always in a single company's best interests to defect. They tend to last much less time than a patent, and are obviously not legally enforceable.

Note that without patent protection, there would be little incentive for these companies' research labs to continue to improve their bulbs, because doing so would not give any competitive advantage, while it would cost money in research and development.


> It was rendered superfluous when in 1906 two European companies introduced a superior lightbulb whose filament was made from tungsten paste. That bulb was itself eclipsed in 1911 by General Electric’s metal-filament bulb, which used pure drawn tungsten wire, and in 1913 by GE’s gas-filled tungsten bulb.

It's better to have a technology available and have a choice to pay slightly more or to stay with the prior technology, as opposed to not having a technology available at all. That's why we have patents.

People invent and invest in the absence of patents. That justification is getting rather tired.

> People invent and invest in the absence of patents

I don't think that this is established. Patents have existed since the 1400's and areas that have patent systems have general out-innovated areas without them. This could be the result of many other factors, but patents do clearly provide an incentive to innovate. I think a better argument is that the added costs of dealing with patent trolls outweighs the incentive of a temporary monopoly.


Logically, it can also have the opposite effect. If you have all the rights for a product, you have no incentive to improve it, until the patents are about to expire.

My favorite example is the Roomba. Cool new vacuum cleaner invented, ridiculously broad/abstract patents filed... result, near zero progress for 20 years.

Patents don't give you rights to a product. Only a certain implementation of one.

Your competitors will patent improved versions if you don't. They might also invent a product using a new implementation leaving you with no market.

And in practice, it doesn't work that way. Companies acquire patents on each minor upgrade to their technology.

Your competitors won't exist if your basic patents are broad enough to deny them access to the market.

I was thinking more along the lines of competitors who are in the same space as you (let's say, light bulb manufactures) -- you patent a new type of bulb, your competitors could patent a bunch of improvements on it to deny you future market on improved versions.

Patents have existed since the 1400's and areas that have patent systems have general out-innovated areas without them.

Has the direction of causality been established here? Maybe areas with more innovation sprout wannabe monopolists who manage to lobby their governments to create patent protections.

> Has the direction of causality been established here?

Immediately after the sentence you quote is the answer to your question: "This could be the result of many other factors"

The other factor you suggest is certainly plausible.

"I'm tired of hearing your argument" is not a valid counter to an argument.

New lighting technologies like CFL and LED are sold by comparing to incandescent - e.g. "Burns 10x longer than a regular lightbulb!" I wonder how many of those analyses would look if its life wasn't artificially limited in this manner.

It sounds like the "artificial limitations" described in the article were just a tradeoff -- better quality of light, and more efficiency, at the cost of lifetime of the bulbs and a higher production cost.

I'm not sure that this article really gives any evidence to support the so-called "lightbulb conspiracy" even though the tone of the article seems to imply that planned obsolescence was involved.

The article claims production costs dropped.

Also, the article claims the limitations were explicitly on number of hours. If they cared about better quality of light, they could have had a similar effect by demanding brightness and efficiency, and let manufacturers produce longer lasting bulbs if they managed to achieve that as well.

In terms of evidence, it does not present much, though it references a number of other material, but the article author certainly claims to have seen it. It does however provide this quote from Anton Phillips:

“This, you will agree with me, is a very dangerous practice and is having a most detrimental influence on the total turnover of the Phoebus Parties…. After the very strenuous efforts we made to emerge from a period of long life lamps, it is of the greatest importance that we do not sink back into the same mire by paying no attention to voltages and supplying lamps that will have a very prolonged life.”

This was in the 1920s. Modern incandescent bulbs aren't sabotaged.

Citation needed.

Most incandescent bulbs are literally banned in the United States. So it is kinda pointless talking about a product that is no longer on the market.

Been watching fox news again? There is no ban on incandescent light bulbs in the USA and never has there been one nor one proposed. What we do have is a standard of minimum light output per watt, enacted in 2007. This has caused the disappearance of dirt-cheap 60W bulbs which were replaced with 43W bulbs producing the same light.

Nope, never been watched Fox News in my life. Just an annoyed customer that when I go to the store I can't find what I would like. And yeah, the proper way to ban something is to set minimum standards of performance that the thing could never meet. That's like Republicans saying "we aren't banning abortion" while creating a series of legislation that makes it extremely hard to impossible to be able to perform abortion.

Either way I said "most."

The proper way to ban something is to set minimum standards of performance that the thing could never meet.

A great example of why the public delegates regulatory powers to government, flawed though that regulation can be. The interests of consumers and producers are often not aligned, and it is easier for producers to organize than for consumers. Incumbency creates high barriers to market entry in many fields.

Adam Smith recognized this when writing The Wealth of Nations, commenting 'People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.'

Isn't the article saying the opposite? The cartel fell apart pretty much on its own without government intervention. A combination of being undercut by low-cost Japanese producers and the outbreak of war between the countries hosting the cartel members.

As described, the cartel sounds more like a "conspiracy" to help customers by providing a better standard of lightbulb (in terms of brightness and efficiency) rather than to hurt them.

The reduction in the lifespan seems like a side effect of this rather than the goal, even though I feel like the tone of the article is tending towards pushing that as the goal. They were undercut on cost and quality, though, not on lifetime, which seems like if it were achievable, would be a wonderful way to build a business.

The cartel fell apart pretty much on its own without government intervention.

But the cartel didn't fall apart 'on its own' due to magic self-regulating properties of the free market. It took WW2 to do it.

For some anecdotal post-war evidence, note that light bulbs in eastern Germany came with twice the lifetime of western models.

In Germany, there also circulates a story about representatives from Osram and Narva (an eastern manufacturer) meeting at Hannover fair, the latter presenting a light bulb with a lifetime of 5000h. The stories goes that the Osram representatives accused the Narva representatives of being imbeciles for cutting into their own profits...

An then there is Dieter Binninger[1] who not only build the weirdest clock of Berlin[2] (still working) but also developed a Langlebensdauerglühlampe with a guaranteed life time of 150.000 hours.

[1] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Binninger [german]

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mengenlehreuhr

As described, the cartel sounds more like a "conspiracy" to help customers by providing a better standard of lightbulb (in terms of brightness and efficiency) rather than to hurt them.

Despite the existence of fines for factories producing longer-life bulbs, quotas, and remarks such as 'This, you will agree with me, is a very dangerous practice and is having a most detrimental influence on the total turnover of the Phoebus Parties…. After the very strenuous efforts we made to emerge from a period of long life lamps, it is of the greatest importance that we do not sink back into the same mire by paying no attention to voltages and supplying lamps that will have a very prolonged life' from people like Anton Philips?

It seems to me that modern corporations have simply accepted antitrust busting as a regular part of business. A new technology is developed and becomes widespread, they get together and price-fix it, they cruise on gigantic profits for a decade or more, then they get busted and, of course, only get a tiny slap on the wrist. They did this with RAM, they did it with LCD panels, and right now they're doing it with NAND chips.

Putting legal issues aside, this is a perfectly rational approach to doing business. You do not need evil governments for cartelization to happen: It's a natural occurrence in constrained markets with established players.

There are two flaws in your argument:

1) As someone previously pointed out the cartel was only possible because of a government created monopoly through the patent system.

2) You imply that while producers do not have the interests of consumers in mind, that the government somehow does.

'the cartel was only possible because of a government created monopoly'? Absurd on its face, as the cartel participants were not all licensees of the same patent.

Who said anything about a single patent?

It's implicit in your singular use of the term monopoly, implying a lack of competition. A patent gives you the exclusive right to manufacture something for a period, but it doesn't protect against competition from people with patents of their own serving the same market. Issuance of patents does not lead inevitably to the existence of cartels as you are suggesting.

You misunderstand. The cartel held a monopoly. The cartel comprised of multiple companies with multiple patents. However you want to phrase the end result, the cartel could only keep out competition under the legal threat the patents provided. Eventually competition was able to come in and break up the cartel, but without the legal monopoly provided through the patents, the cartel would have never lasted as long.

Basic business strategy. Barriers to entry increase the incentive for market participants to cooperate.

The "cartel", if it really was that, fell apart in a few years. Compare that to government failures like the 17th amendment that has eroded states' rights for almost a century, the high-carb low-fat diets they pushed that caused an epidemic of obesity that they still haven't copped to, the Vietnam war that killed a million people, and I could go on all day.

We all know that government and corporations fail. The problem is the way that they fail and the methods for addressing failure. Corporations go out of business, making way for competitors. Governments only change through a painfully slow election cycle process that heavily favors incumbents (in the US). Even then, much of the government like the Bureaucracy and Judges are there for life, yielding very little redress for their incompetence.

The "cartel", if it really was that, fell apart in a few years.

Personally, I'd consider 15+ years a pretty good run. And yes, it really was a cartel.

I wonder about the downvote: The Pheobus cartel is quite literally a textbook case.

An interesting side note: The US government got involved in 1942 (leading to the conviction in 1953 I already linked to) because the cartel tried to provide Wolfram to its German members.

Also note that there's speculation that the International Electrical Association (suppusedly disbanded in 1989) was essentially Phoebus 2.0

"if it really was that" What definition of the word 'cartel' are you using where the group of bulb manufacturers secretly conspiring to keep bulb prices up for their profit doesn't fit perfectly?

"Compare that to government failures like the 17th amendment" Senators being democratically elected seem to be the least of our problems, in general it's been a great blessing to the country, since the body elected to serve it cares more about the national interest, than provincial ones.

> Senators being democratically elected seem to be the least of our problems, in general it's been a great blessing to the country, since the body elected to serve it cares more about the national interest, than provincial ones.

How does being elected directly by the people of a particular state make Senators more concerned about "national issues" and less about "provincial ones" than the prior process?

It's hard to say why it happened, though I'd guess it was in part that the selection of Senators by state legislatures made them more beholden to those bodies than the people of the state or the country. Since state legislatures of the time were notoriously corrupt, they regularly sold off Senatorial seats and used their Senators as puppets for their agenda. State Legislatures of the time were also vastly overrepresented by rural districts, which may have played into Senators having more indifference to national interests over provincial ones.

I highly recommend NLee the Engineer's reviews on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/AOEAD7DPLZE53?filter=re... (you can also get it as RSS)

Heavily covered are various light bulbs and rechargeable batteries. That includes checking power against manufacturer claims, noise, dimmability, power factor etc.

The ridiculous lightbulb practices of today are even more offensive.

You cannot purchase a 100 watt bulb anymore, because the government says so. You can buy a 250 watt outdoor bulb, or a variety of CFL and LED bulbs with a bunch of additional things to worry about (light color, directionality of the light, warranties, shape, etc)

Consumers manage to make rational decisions about car purchases (15mpg SUVs aren't as popular in the era of $4/gallon gasoline), but we must be protected about the incandescent bulb.

"You cannot purchase a 100 watt bulb anymore, because the government says so."

You can purchase them here: http://www.amazon.com/GE-41036-100A-Light-bulbs/dp/B000U7Q7P...

They are no longer manufactured and cannot be imported. You can only purchase them from jobbers -- retailers don't carry them.

Also, the per-bulb price is like 300-400% higher than it was two years ago.

Interesting, today I learned they did ban manufacturing of them. Can't say I mourn the loss of them, given their costs to society and the environment. If an irrational consumer choice harms everyone then regulation seems appropriate.

Hardly an irrational consumer choice. I miss them so much. At first I though CFLs were a really good idea (less energy used, yaaaay) but after using them i realize they can't compare to incandescent bulbs. The brightness and light quality just suck compared to incandescent bulbs. And yes, I've tried every light bulb under the sun. My bedroom is so dark. I even added an extra lamp to my living room and it is still darker than when I was using incandescent.

I tried using CFLs, I really did. I really wanted to like them.


You can still buy incandescents. 100 watt bulbs are phased out currently (though still available), but only those. 100 watt bulbs are incredibly wasteful, I never used them due to the fact that they convert most of their energy to heat and I live in a warm area, so they not only wasted power in irradiated heat, but power from climate control. They also are a fire risk (we had a fire in my house when I was a kid from a lamp with a 100 watt bulb falling over).

I have 60 watt incandescents in my local stores (they're not phased out until 2020), though I don't buy them since CFLs work for me. If you just need illumination, you can buy a 35 watt CFL bulb with as much lumen output as a 120 watt incandescent, though I usually get lower wattage ones and spend a little more to get ones with a color temp I like. If you guy them at a hardware store they have a lot more selection and you can choose your color temperature. Assuming you like warm color temps like incandescents, LED bulbs are still a little pricey, but you can get LEDs in the 3000-4000k range that can output more lumens than a 100 watt incandescent at a 10th the power draw. They last long enough to eventually make up their up front cost in energy savings.

Last time I went to the store they weren't there.

And once again "as much lumen output as a 120 watt incandescent" just isn't the case in reality. I've tried every lightbulb at every color temp and nothing works for me. Say that as much as you want but the light output sucks. I spent probably $60 on lightbulbs trying to find one to light my bedroom and the only thing that would help is buying about 2 more lamps. The same lamp worked fine to light my bedroom with an incandescent bulb year ago.

I had done (what I thought at the time was) the good thing and switched over. Now that I am sick of it and I want to go back it is very difficult to find them in the stores and if I bought online I'd pay an arm and a leg.

Since I illuminate an aquarium with plants in it I kind of obsess on various types of lamps, their lumen output, and color temp. I checked my notes - I had a 40 watt CFL as an experiment in lighting a tank (I don't think they make 35 watt ones). The output was not that impressive, and it had a very warm almost pink color to it. After looking into it, it had a hardware problem, so I returned it and got a replacement. The output was mind bogglingly bright, and had the expected color temp. (still too warm for my liking). So perhaps you just got a bad one?

If you want the equivalent lumens, just find a build that outputs 1600 lumens. The lumens from a properly functioning 32 watt CFL are 2112, so they put out more light than a 100 watt incandescent, but if somehow that wasn't bright enough, they make 40, 42 and other higher wattage ones that are even brighter. My local Lowes has a huge range, as does WalMart in their lighting area. Think about lighting in terms of desired lumens and desired color temperature (good bulbs list both on their box - crap ones don't) and you'll be able to find something that works for what you want that's more efficient than incandescents.

Dunno why you don't believe me but I spent plenty of money on CFLs already and plenty of time researching them and i am still not happy. I have a whole cabinet full of lightbulbs as a result. More than I'll probably ever be able to use. I do and did understand lumens and color temp but the actual results suck in practice. Yes I currently have three 32 watt CFLs in three different rooms.

It's not irrational, my eyes get incredibly dry and burn after several days of CFL light. CFLs leak ton of UV [1]. It got to a point where I couldn't use a computer or read a book for longer than about an hour, even with copious use of eye drops. Fortunately I figured out the culprit.

This is one of examples why totalitarian decisions like banning incandescent bulbs are always bad. Banning something only makes sense when it impacts third parties.

LEDs are way too expensive to be economical now.

[1] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a387/

As always, it is a matter of choice: http://www.ownitforlife.com/

We have tons of lightbulbs in our house that are in shitty fixtures with dimmer switches... none of the bulbs are rated for dimmers. Roommates keep buying more bad light-bulbs.

The ones they keep putting on teh porch during the winter die at least twice as often.

TL:DR; People don't understand how these things work.

This was covered recently in the BBC series "The Men Who Made Us Spend"


The first thing I thought of after reading this article was the Centennial Light which has reportedly been continuously burning since 1901.


Was just discussed here recently too https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8353200

I used to buy bulbs from 1 month full refunds store. I kept receipts for bulbs and regularly returned the bad ones that lived shorter than advertised lifespan.

At least didn't cost me extra to pay for crap.

I always wonder about people like you. How do you manage your receipts for all these things? And what about the additional time to go back and return lightbulbs. Does that not more than cover the money you save from the bulb?

Not the original commenter, but:

Not difficult. File folder full of receipts, sorted by "action" date. Cost of gasoline is trivial (~$0.20/mile). Time doesn't cost anything (if you wouldn't otherwise be working).

>And what about the additional time to go back and return lightbulbs. Does that not more than cover the money you save from the bulb?

Err, you just bring them with you the next time you go to the supermarket...

Banning incandescent bulbs is The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy.

Sometimes, there really are people twirling their mustaches and cognac as they conspire against the consumer. See also the great American streetcar fiasco.

GE was involved? You don't say. Every single CFL at my local grocery store is a GE product.

The retina macbook screen being glued to the battery comes to mind.

Um... what?

The display is fused to the glass. The battery is glued to the case.

Still, why is it glued at all?

Jesus Christ, it's glue not a impenetrable force-field.

I don't know why, but I can think of many plausible examples that don't include ridiculous conspiracy theories about a company wanting to take all your money.

Please provide an example why a screw or removable panel would provide less value to the consumer than gluing the thing and making it impossible to replace the battery on your own. I eagerly await your response.

Lighter, thinner.

and serviceable only by apple, hopefully investing the servicing cost into buying a brand new gizmo instead which comes with a brand new battery.

Because everyone complains about those heavy screws!

The European Union has a ban on the production of incandescent lightbulbs as of 9/1/2012. You can still buy them, but they are getting rarer. I'm still not sure if this is a scheme from the energy-saving-bulbs-cartel or just eco-lobbyists at work...

I think the bigger problem with LED bulbs is that they are so much cheaper to manufacture, but the lightbulb companies think they have the right to charge exorbitant prices for them just to maintain their profit margin. If a new product comes around that lasts 10x as long and is 10x cheaper to make, the market is supposed to make sure that you shrink radically in terms of revenue and profit. The belief that they have some divine right to continued levels of high profit is inane.

> I think the bigger problem with LED bulbs is that they are so much cheaper to manufacture

Huh? Cheaper compared to what?

Look at this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I0YiXE-gtk It's amazing to me that LED bulbs are priced so inexpensively, considering how complex they are.

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