Tag Archives: light bulb

Update: Lights Out at the Campbell House

Thanks... but no thanks.

Thanks… but no thanks.

You may remember our post from a couple months back when we talked about the ban beginning in January 2014 of the sale of certain types of incandescent light bulbs in the U.S.  For a refresher, click here.  Basically, Campbell House uses a whole lot of light bulbs (just shy of 300) and, for the most part, they’re decorative clear chandelier-style incandescent 40 watt bulbs.  And now that we’re five months into 2014, it’s getting hard to find these on the shelves at the hardware store.  Our hope was that we could stock up on these bulbs and, by the time our stash ran out, the wonderful science-y and tech-y people at the light bulb companies would have come up with a bulb design that doesn’t resemble the unique (ahem, UGLY) compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) that were the only things we could come up with when we last wrote about this topic.

There are quite a few things wrong with CFLs beyond their general unattractiveness: they give off a completely different, less-warm shade of light and, even more importantly, they can give off  a significant amount of UV light, a huge concern for us a museum due to UV’s destructive tendency to fade fabric, images and paint.  We go to great pains to avoid the negative effects of UV here in the house – generally we keep all of our shutters and shades drawn, we limit the use of flash photography, and all of the windows in the house are coated with a special UV-filtering film.  Needless to say, we aren’t very keen on the idea of bringing a bunch of unattractive, UV-emitting bulbs into an environment where we’ve tried to completely eliminate UV’s destructiveness.
Check out what we’re talking about in the slideshow below:

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Luckily, during a recent trip to the hardware store, we found what looks to be a great alternative to both compact fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. LEDs! Though we’d heard about them before, we hadn’t been able to find decorative LED bulbs as easily in stores.  Here’s what makes these snazzy little gadgets so neat:

  • They aren’t ridiculously ugly.
  • They give off a nice warm light, unlike the harsh light of the compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • They give off almost no UV rays.
  • They have plastic bulb casings.  (Incandescents, as you’re probably well aware, are glass.  Which can be a pain to clean up when you accidentally drop one.  CFLs are also encased in glass and have MERCURY in them, which we humans are generally encouraged to avoid.)
A decorative 40 watt-equivalent LED bulb.

A decorative 40 watt-equivalent LED bulb.

Basically, they’re the cat’s meow.  The one big problem?  They’re pretty darn pricey.  The bulb in this picture costs $10.  One bulb.  Ten dollars.  To put that in perspective, where they’re still available you can get a 4 count package of incandescent bulbs for about $3.  To put it in even more perspective, almost 150 of the bulbs at Campbell House are decorative incandescents, meaning replacing all of them with LEDs en masse would run about $1,500.

The flip side to this, of course, is that the LEDs last for an incredibly long time (upwards of 50,000 hours compared to just a 1,000 hour lifetime for incandescents and 8,000 hours for CFL’s) and wouldn’t have to be replaced very often.  On top of that, we also have an ENORMOUS stash of incandescent decorative 40 watt bulbs stashed in our storage room, so it’ll be while before we have to make the switch.  (Many thanks to the people who went out, snapped up and donated some incandescent bulbs after our last blog post!)
Check out the slideshow below to see the LED in action and see if you can guess which is the traditional incandescent bulb and which is LED:

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Lights Out at the Campbell House

2014So, as you may or may not have heard, with the New Year came some new regulations on the types of light bulbs that can be imported  and manufactured in the United States.  As of January 1, 2014, forty and sixty watt incandescent light bulbs are no more, or will be as soon as retailers exhaust the supplies that they still have on their shelves.  There are a few good reasons this is happening.  Perhaps the most obvious is that, well, incandescent light bulbs have been on the scene for a long time.  A looooooong time.  In fact, incandescent light bulbs have been America’s primary source of electric illumination since Thomas Edison first introduced his version to the public… in 1879.  135 years ago.  To put that in some historical perspective, that’s the same year our main man Robert Campbell died.

So obviously it’s probably time for a change.  But there’s one small problem, or at least there is for us.  We use a whole bunch of light bulbs at CHM.  272, to be exact.  (Yes, we counted.)  And of those nearly 300 bulbs, almost 120 of them are currently incandescent.  Along with all of its original furniture and artwork, Campbell House has many of the family’s light fixtures, chandeliers, and wall sconces that, though originally lit with gas, were converted to electricity throughout the first few decades of the 20th Century.  Most of these require small, 40-watt chandelier-style bulbs.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re all for efficiency and modernizing and newer, cleaner sources of light.  But let’s face it.  Fluorescent and LED bulbs are kind of funky looking, both in the light they produce and the overall shape of the bulb.  Here are some photos for perspective:


40-watt incandescent bulb in a Parlor sconce


The same Parlor sconce with a taller, spiraled fluorescent bulb.


Incandescent, pt. 2


aaaaand fluorescent, pt. 2

So, we here at Campbell House have initiated what we call “Operation: Buy All the 40 Watt Incandescent Bulbs We Can Get Our Hands On”.  Our storage room looks a little like the light bulb aisle at Home Depot.  We’re sure house museums all over America are dealing with the changeover, and we aren’t too terribly worried about it.  History has shown that when people are unhappy with something, some brilliant mind is usually able to come up a solution.  So we’re hoping that in the next year or so someone will design a more compact, nicer looking fluorescent or LED bulb to replace our aesthetically-pleasing, energy-wasting incandescents.  But until then, we’re stocking up.


A small portion of our stash of 40 watt incandescent bulbs. It grows daily!

Want to know more?  Click here to check out a recent piece by Don Marsh and St. Louis on the Air on the incandescent light bulb ban and what you need to know.


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