The incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe produces light by heating a filament wire to a high temperature until it glows. The hot filament is protected from oxidation in the air with a glass enclosure that is filled with inert gas or evacuated. In a halogen lamp, filament evaporation is prevented by a chemical process that redeposits metal vapor onto the filament, extending its life.
The light bulb is supplied with electrical current by feed-through terminals or wires embedded in the glass. Most bulbs are used in a socket which provides mechanical support and electrical connections.
Incandescent bulbs are manufactured in a wide range of sizes, light output, and voltage ratings, from 1.5 volts to about 300 volts. They require no external regulating equipment, have low manufacturing costs, and work equally well on either alternating current or direct current. As a result, the incandescent lamp is widely used in household and commercial lighting, for portable lighting such as table lamps, car headlamps, and flashlights, and for decorative and advertising lighting.
Incandescent bulbs are very inefficient, with most varieties converting less than 10% of the energy they use into visible light, with the remaining energy being converted into heat. Some applications of the incandescent bulb deliberately use the heat generated by the filament. Such applications include incubators, brooding boxes for poultry, heat lights for reptile tanks, infrared heating for industrial heating and drying processes, and the Easy-Bake Oven toy. But waste heat can also significantly increase the energy required by a building's air conditioning system.
Incandescent light bulbs are gradually being replaced in many applications by other types of electric lights, such as fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), high-intensity discharge lamps, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These newer technologies improve the ratio of visible light to heat generation. Some jurisdictions, such as the European Union, are in the process of phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient lighting.
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