There's no doubt that that the venerable incandescent light bulb is on the way out. Legislation and energy concerns are discouraging or eliminating its use.
Certainly, the energy efficiency (lumens output per watts input) of such bulbs is far lower than "electronic" alternatives such as standard fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and the up-and-coming LED-based area illumination.
Yet, there's both an esthetic backlash and maybe a practical one to consider. A recent article in The New York Times talked about a trend in eateries and other chi-chi places towards exposed-filament bulbs, "Vintage Light Bulbs Are Hot, but Ignite a Debate". Like most such trend-focused articles, this one was short on data and facts (let's call it "anecdata"), and long on speculation–and even hedged its bets by saying that maybe the trend has already peaked.
I'll put the esthetic arguments aside, since that is largely a matter of personal taste and hard to quantify. But the argument against incandescents has some technical weaknesses:
In many situations, the so-called waste heat of the incandescent is not actually wasted, but serves to help keep a cool area warm. It's a form of electrically sourced heat.
What about the use of incandescent bulbs in extremely hot or cool consumer applications, such as freezers, ovens, and dryers? You can get a temperature-ruggedized incandescent bulb for just a little more than a standard bulb, but I don't see electronic blubs (neither fluorescents nor LED) being viable for those situations coming soon.
The disposal and recycling of incandescents is pretty straightforward; that's not so for electronic bulbs.
Electronic bulbs are non-resistive loads, and thus have power factor correction (PFC) issues that must be addressed. And they are difficult to dim, compared to the standard TRIAC-based dimmer used for incandescents.
Finally, electronic bulbs–especially fluorescents–require a lot of resources to manufacture, and have a long and complex bill of materials (BOM): ICs, passive components, PCB, packaging, and more. It's easy but misleading to ignore that reality or pretend it is not a factor to consider in total environmental cost.
I am not saying that the electronic bulbs are a bad idea, only that they are not a solution in every application, When we decree that a new technology is the only way to go, we are saying one priority is so overwhelmingly important that we can ignore the other factors that go into making a design and selection decision. And that's a bad road to go down, whether in a PCB design or a consumer-product situation. After all, sometimes that road to you-know-what is paved with good intentions, and unintended consequences.♦
" electronic bulbs?especially fluorescents?require a lot of resources to manufacture"
The incandescent equivalent of 1 CFL is 5 to 10 incandescents, depending on whether they are 1000 or 2000hr life.
This is a lot of resources to manufacture, and glass has significant energy cost .
You also have to go change them,go purchase them and go dispose/recycle them etc.
The extra Hg ,radioactive thorium etc that rains down all over the country from burning 4x more fuel can't be cleaned up at all.
Our children have to go fight foreign wars over oil and we subsidize foreign oil dictators.
Electronic bulbs last a lot longer, which is a significant benefit for lamps that are hard to access.
There are trillions of standard lamp sockets worldwide; when electronic bulbs reach a sweet spot of price and color quality they will start to take over. Dimmability will be nice, and expand the market further. But as Bill says, there will always be niche markets for incandescents, just as there are still niche market for vacuum tubes.
You can add that incandecent bulbs are very usefull loads in testing large power suplies.
They are cheap and deffinitely readily available. I sometimes still use 500,1000,and
2000 watt bulbs. ( found in ancient theater lighting)
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.