Replacing a light bulb used to be so simple an entire genre of jokes revolved around how many people it takes to replace them. In the 21st century, however, a plethora of lightbulb options has emerged on the scene---many motivated by the push for energy efficiency. One of these technologies, the halogen light bulb, is known for lasting longer than standard bulbs. Understanding how long these bulbs last requires understanding how they differ from conventional light bulbs.
Light bulbs, as we generally think of them, haven't changed all that much since Edison; in fact, they've been the same long enough to become a cultural icon and universal as the symbol for an idea. The standard bulb consists of electricity flowing through a thin strand of tungsten wire, all encased in a glass bulb-shaped container. The glass, typically full of argon, ensures the air inside the bulb does not contain oxygen, which would cause the wire to burn out almost instantly. The wire does burn out eventually, however, slowly ashing during the bulb's lifespan until the wire ultimately breaks.
Halogen bulbs differ from conventional light bulbs in that the wire is contained in a much smaller casing---on average, peanut sized. The gas inside this smaller shell is halogen. This gas, instead of allowing the burned-off tungsten to ash, combines with the burnt-off tungsten before returning it to the wire---a chemical method of self-replenishing the wire.
Because of this self-replenishing characteristic, halogen bulbs typically last longer than their standard counterpart. While a standard light bulb lasts 750 to 1,250 hours, a halogen bulb lasts 2,000 to 2,500 hours. That's a substantial difference in lifespan, but is it worth the cost?
A standard light bulb typically costs around 50 cents; a halogen bulb can cost four dollars. A direct comparison would suggest the halogen bulb is eight times more expensive than the standard bulb, but the lifespan of the bulb needs to be taken into account: the halogen bulb lasts more than twice as long, doubling the effective cost the of the standard bulb. Even after taking this into account, however, the halogen bulb still costs twice as much, meaning the decision to purchase a halogen bulb should be based on more than just a cost comparison.
An ecological benefit is obvious: if you use halogen bulbs exclusively you'll throw away half as many burnt bulbs. Halogen bulbs are also known to burn in a manner similar to the sun, exposing vibrant colors---it's for this reason halogen bulbs are used frequently in plays and at art shows. The light reduces eye strain when used for reading. Finally, their long lifespan makes them ideal for lights in hard-to-reach places you'd rather not change frequently.
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