Manufacturers of modern lighting fixtures based on LED technology compete with each other in their promotional materials in terms of lifespan: they say up to 50,000 hours! Can the outdated technology of classic light bulbs compete with them from today’s point of view?
The official record holder in this field is a light bulb Centennial Light. It is located at the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Station in Livermore, California, United States. It has been lit practically continuously since 1901 – i.e. 121 yearsi.e. more than a million hours.
Light bulb record holder
The “Eternal Light Bulb” has achieved such fame that it even has its own Wikipedia page and was featured on the show Believe It or Not. In 1972, it was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-burning light bulb (replacing the light bulb in Fort Worth, Texas). She was featured in the book for the next sixteen editions. Between 1988 and 2006, her record disappeared for no reason, only to return in 2007.
The record entry states that the hand-blown carbon fiber bulb has an output of about 4 watts and is lit 24 hours a day to provide nighttime lighting for fire engines. During the entire time, it was said to have been extinguished only once – when it was removed from one fire station and installed in another.
The light bulb originally had a power of 30 watts, however, after so many years of lighting, its power has noticeably decreased and today corresponds to the already mentioned four watts. The Ohio-based Shelby Electric Company produced it in the 1890s, along with many others, many of which are still around today, serving their purpose more than a century later.
Wandering light bulb
Although the record books state that the bulb was extinguished only once, the available evidence suggests that it hung in at least four places. It was originally installed in 1901 in the hose cart house. It was then moved to a garage in downtown Livermore that was used by the fire and police departments. When the fire department merged, it was moved to a newly constructed building.
In 1976, the firefighters moved to fire station number 6, where they are still based today. Of course also with a light bulb. Because they were worried that it might be damaged when unscrewing it from the socket, they cut off the bulb and a piece of the cable. During the transfer in a specially designed box, accompanied by the entire fire department, the light bulb was without power for only 22 minutes. An electrician was present at the scene and ensured that it was connected to a backup generator.
The book about the longest-lasting light bulb
The unusual longevity was first noticed in 1972 by reporter Mike Dunstan. After weeks of talking to people who had lived in Livermore all their lives, he wrote an article, “Light Bulb May Be World’s Oldest,” which appeared in the Tri-Valley Herald. But the publicity didn’t end there – retired Deputy Fire Chief Tom Bramell wrote a book on the history of the light bulb entitled “Million Hours of Service” which is 108 pages long.
When the light bulb went out
The 100th birthday of the “Eternal Light Bulb” was celebrated in 2001 with a barbecue and live music in honor of the faithful servant. However, twelve years later – on May 20, 2013 – the light bulb went off. The news spread quickly as it was captured by a web camera at the time.
An electrician was called in the next morning to confirm her condition. The most exciting moment was connecting the bulb to the extension cord. When lit up again, it was obvious that the cause of the blackout was somewhere else. In the end, it turned out that the reason for the outage, which lasted approximately 9 hours and 45 minutes, was a faulty power supply.
It is clear that one day the light bulb will definitely go out and with it a piece of history. The fire department intends to maintain the bulb for the rest of its life, but has no further plans for it after that. In the end, she will probably end up in the museum of the show Believe it or not, which showed interest in her.