Like smoking and carousing, unwholesome practices can reduce one’s lifespan.
University of Melbourne student Clement Wong, in a 2012 Economics Student Society of Australia newsletter article titled “Planned Obsolescence: The Light Bulb Conspiracy,” noted that Philips Lighting (Somerset, NJ; Amsterdam) had recently released an LED light bulb with an advertised life span of 20 years – the Philips 10W, 20-year LED lightbulb.
The company said the bulb was a positive response to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act that simultaneously banned 100W incandescent bulbs and provided a timetable for eliminating incandescent bulbs altogether. The law required the phasing out of general service incandescent light bulbs in favor of such lower-wattage, energy-saving bulbs as compact fluorescent (CFL) and Edison-style LED bulbs.
Clement also noted an earlier lightbulb lifespan change by highlighting the 1924 Phoebus Cartel, a now-obsolete conglomeration of lightbulb manufacturers that, he said, pressured all lightbulb makers to replace their long-life bulbs with ones that lasted only 1,000 hours, which more than doubled the replacement cycle and thereby increased the makers’ revenues. Clement said, “Light bulbs were deliberately made more fragile, and competitors were closely monitored (and, if necessary, fined) to ensure strict adherence to product degradation.” He said the Phoebus Cartel eventually dissolved (due to increased external competition and the disruptions of World War II), but it had successfully demonstrated that stifling innovation and product quality was a means of sustaining consistent consumption and profits.
Markus Krajewski, in a September 2014 “IEEE Spectrum” website article, “The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy,” described the Phoebus Cartel’s action: “The cartel’s grip on the lightbulb market lasted only into the 1930’s. Its far more enduring legacy was to engineer a shorter lifespan for the incandescent lightbulb.” By early 1925, Krajewski said, the lightbulb was methodized to last 1,000 hours, which was a conspicuous reduction from the previous lifespan of 1,500 to 2,000 hours. Interestingly, he described the Phoebus Cartel not as a quirky anecdote, but as a “cautionary tale about the strange and unexpected pitfalls that can arise when a new technology vanquishes an old one.”
Measuring LED life
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