shining a light

Let’s face it: despite its warm and oh, so forgiving embrace, the soft light of an incandescent bulb will soon be something of a fond and distant memory. Compact fluorescent bulbs – also called CFLs – not only last up to ten times longer than your standard Edison invention, they also use 75% less energy. To put that in perspective, if every American home replaced just one incandescent light with a CFL, we would collectively save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, pocket an additional $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year – that’s the equivalent of about 800,000 cars. With those statistics in mind it’s no wonder the EU, Russia, and Canada have begun a formal once-and-for-all phase-out of the humble bulb. Unfortunately, the problem people have with most CFLs are not environmental but aesthetic: the tight coil of a standard CFL bulb produces a cold, full spectrum light that’s flat and dull at best – and highly unflattering, too. With the clock ticking down to the bulb’s outright ban in the EU, a group of designers at Hulger in London set about trying to bridge the gap between what will soon become a standardized design with the daily needs of humankind – while keeping aesthetics in mind, too, of course. A Herculean task – just think about what it might take to reinvent any item whose success we take for granted on a daily basis: a screw, the key and lock combo, credit cards – they somehow alighted on the Plumen, at once a low-wattage homage to its immediate predecessors and a boldly futuristic and practical design choice. Lowering the wattage to an unheard of 11, the CFL nevertheless emits a power of 630 lumen – the equivalent of a 55 watt bulb.  Unspooling the tight coil of a regulation fluorescent into a shape reminiscent of a standard issue incandescent allows the light to breathe, if that makes any sense. Rather than lighting out, like the rays of a two-dimensional sun, the Plumen light radiates both in and out, bouncing off an interior faux filament that makes all the difference – and a lampshade altogether unnecessary. It’s the light of the future. Even better, it’s by design.

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