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Saving Electricity

Let's say I'm living in a house, and in that house is a bathroom. Nothing amazing about this, but I hope you have an ounce or two of imagination to handle this. Now in this bathroom is a light bulb, which is connected to the grid of the house. Like most light bulbs, you can turn it on when you flip the switch assigned to it. To get a bit more technical, you actually allow electricity to flow through the little spirally things (that sounds really technical) and they glow to make light. I'm not a very advanced electrician, but just correct me if I'm wrong and if you don't know better, just assume I'm right.

Now what if that light bulb busts? Just to clarify: the glass is still intact, but it just doesn't work anymore. You turn on the switch, and when you walk into the bathroom, it's like "what? I can't see anything!"

The big question comes now. I'm hoping some smart people read this, so that they can answer it in the comments below. If the light bulb is busted, but the switch is still on, does it use up electricity?

It appears not to, because it's still dark in said bathroom, but I've heard people complaining about it, and it doesn't make sense. In my opinion (not factually based) the light bulb should still be glowing (lighting up the bathroom) if it was actually using up electricity. The second school of thought goes like this: the light bulb is broken, but the path for electricity is still open, so it doesn't matter if you're using it productively, you're still paying for it.

I would really like some insight on this situation. I really need to take a crap, and I'm not sure whether to leave the switch on or not.



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Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 9 June, 2008
Thanks so much for the timely response everybody!!! I really can use all the feedback that I've gotten. I've probably wasted millions already on my power bill.

Comment by Nathalie van den Berg

Posted on 10 June, 2008
why leave it on if it doesn't work? just turn it off even if you're in there =P

Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 18 June, 2008
That's not the point. I want to know if power is still consumed if the switch is on but the light bulb is broken (and possibly even taken out).

Comment by Tim

Posted on 9 August, 2008
Short answer is no, no energy is being used. The current flow in a resistor is a function of the resistance and the voltage. (I'm simplifying because it's AC, but it's not important) When the resistance goes up, the current goes down. The tungsten used for light bulb filaments is a vastly better conductor than the near-vacuum in a light bulb, so when the filament breaks the current drops to effectively zero. When the bulb is missing completely, very slightly more energy is used because air acts as a somewhat better conductor than vacuum. The actual energy used is in either case too small to measure without specialized instruments. A working bulb uses more power in a few seconds than a burned out or missing one does in months or possibly years. If you'd like to see it for yourself, there are simple devices that measure the power consumption of consumer devices. Search for "kill-a-watt". I haven't tried it, but I would bet that the usage on a burned-out bulb would be unmeasurable by such a device, and it would register zero at all times. In fact, the measurement and display will use more energy than the bulb.

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