27th January 2014 | IN COLOUR | BY SBID

Back in 1879, Thomas Edison designed the first commercial incandescent light bulb. Since then, the bulb has evolved and taken on a number of different guises, in order to improve its functionality and its aesthetic appeal. However, a shift in consumer taste has led to a nostalgic yearning for all things retro and vintage, which has meant that the Edison bulb has once again come into vogue.

vintage lightbulbs, Employing Vintage Light Bulbs in the Home

Currently, stylish bars and boutique restaurants are turning to the Edison bulb to create a delicate ambience in their place of business. If they can do it, why not you? How can you re-create the same ambience in your home? First, we discuss:

The Disadvantages of Vintage Light Bulbs

It cannot be denied that the Edison bulb’s main rival, the compact fluorescent light (CFL), does have some clear advantages. Firstly, the CFL has a much longer lifespan when compared to its vintage counterpart, lasting on average almost 10 times as long! The maximum life span for an Edison bulb is around 1,200 hours while the CFL can handle up to 10,000 hours.

Furthermore, Edison bulbs are incredibly inefficient, devoting only about 10% of the energy consumed to light production. The rest goes into heat, not only wasting energy but also generating unwanted (and potentially dangerous) heat. In addition, they are also vulnerable to shock and vibration and can be expensive to buy. That being said, vintage bulbs also have marked benefits.

The Advantages of Vintage Light Bulbs

First and foremost, they are visually charming, helping to recreate a bygone age in your home – especially when combined with an antique lamp or fitting. Moreover, they have a clearer colour rendering index (CRI) than CFLs, meaning they show things as they truly are, rather than tainting them with their own impurities.

Unlike CFLs, they do not contain mercury either, meaning that in the event of breakage, there is no threat posed to the furnishings or valuables around them.

Finally, they are also more adept at coping with continuous changes in their operational state – whereas CFLs, on the other hand, do not stand up well to being switched on and off alternately.

How to Incorporate Vintage Light Bulbs in your Home

Despite their drawbacks, vintage light bulbs can be successfully integrated into your home lighting system to combine a practical approach to energy efficiency with a stylised and nostalgic atmosphere. Some points to look out for:

– Avoid as main fixture

The light from vintage bulbs can not only be very wasteful in terms of energy, they can also be uncompromisingly glaring. Therefore, they should not be used in main light fixtures intended to illuminate a whole room regularly, but rather in table or wall lamps used occasionally and sparingly to achieve a particular aesthetic effect.

– Install a dimmer

Because of their proneness to glare, it would be wise to install a dimmer switch on your vintage light fittings so that you can adjust their strength. This will not only save your eyes from their harshness but also cut down on energy costs and prolong their life.

– Go low with the wattage

Similar to the point above, too high a wattage in an exposed bulb can be something of a literal eyesore. Stay low on the wattage to reduce glare and cut energy costs.

Achieving the perfect balance

Using vintage light bulbs in the home can achieve a warming and cosy effect, and when combined with a rustic lamp or fitting can offer a deliciously nostalgic effect. It is important, though, to remember that these bulbs are to be appreciated for their rarity and not their functionality, and used accordingly.

Author: Ian Holbrook, Owner of Premier Lampshades – the home of handmade British lampshades and lampshade repairs services.