While some consumers may have been sad to see the traditional 100W incandescent bulb go on Jan. 1 after new efficiency regulations said it could no longer be manufactured, Atlantic Electrical Supply Corp. in Richmond, VA, took it one step further by holding a funeral for the now obsolete light source. In addition to drawing people to the showroom, the event also helped educate customers about energy-efficient alternatives.
The showroom’s co-owner Stephen Levet says the idea was born from an off-the-cuff comment and grew from there.
“We were all talking about it in the showroom one day, and someone joked that we should have some sort of a memorial,” Levet says. “And then someone else said it’d be kind of cool to put an obituary in the newspaper.”
After calling the head of obituaries at the local paper – who nicely informed Levet that the paper doesn’t run obituaries for dogs, cats, horses or light bulbs – Levet decided to run it as an advertisement and hold an accompanying memorial service.
Thanks to the brainpower of the showroom’s staff, the idea continued to grow from there. Levet began by borrowing a casket from a local Masons group to fill with light bulbs.
“We took the casket and made a figure of a person out of 100W bulb boxes,” Levet says. “The obituary ran on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, and we had our 100W man laying in state in the lobby.” (Full text of the obituary is included at the end of this article.)
The memorial was held all day on Jan. 4, and the showroom staff wore all black along with buttons with a picture of the 100W bulb that said “The end is here” along with the showroom’s logo. In addition, the first 100 attendees who signed the guestbook next to the casket with their name and e-mail address received a four-pack of 100W incandescent bulbs as well as a two-pack of 72W halogen bulbs.
“We wanted to educate people that they were going to stop making the 100W lamp, but that there was another option besides the CFL, because not many people are familiar with the 72W halogen bulb,” Levet says.
The showroom’s staff was also on hand to talk with attendees about the new legislation and different bulb options, as well as demonstrate the differences with a special display that included a 100W incandescent, a 72W halogen and a CFL. Levet also included information with each of the giveaway bulbs comparing the lumens, life and operation costs of all three options.
Levet was already planning the event when he heard about the last minute amendment in Congress to pull funding for the new regulations.
“When Congress put that rider on the budget bill and people were saying they saved the 100W light bulb, it kind of unnerved me at first, and I thought this whole program had been shot,” Levet says. “But then I called Larry Lauck at the American Lighting Association, as well as GE and other lamp manufacturers, and they said the law’s the law, and we’re not making 100W bulbs anymore. So I rewrote the obit a bit to say that despite last minute efforts to save it, the bulb is still gone.”
On the day of the memorial service, over 150 people came to the event, thanks in part to coverage by local media, including one television station that has since asked Levet to film a four-minute informational segment on light bulbs. Levet also created a video tribute to commemorate the 100W bulb.
“It started out as an off-the-cuff thing, but it turned into a great promotion for us. And on top of it all, we had so much fun doing it,” Levet says. “We wanted to educate our client base, get our name out there, collect e-mail addresses and firm up our position as an expert in the industry, and I think we hit a home run on every one of them,” Levet says.
Full Text of Atlantic Electric Supply's Obituary for the 100W Bulb:
Lamp, Hundred Watt
The light of Hundred Watt burned out on Jan. 1, leaving the world a little darker but with more energy. Hundred Watt was eliminated by an industry in which he was once revered despite last minute congressional efforts to save him.
This venerable member of the Lamp family was always a welcome guest and brightened countless lives for more than a century. Known to his friends as 100A, Mr. Lamp was also referred to as "the filament" by his detractors. He was often compared to Santa Claus in his ability to deliver smiles and light.
Born in 1879 in Menlo Park, NJ, to the late Thomas Alva Edison, Hundred Watt grew from a dim carbon filament to a bright tungsten Lamp. He leaves behind three siblings: Forty Watt, Sixty Watt and Seventy-Five Watt, all of whom suffer from terminal low lumen efficacy syndrome.
Hundred Watt is also survived by his son, Seventy-Two Watt-Halogen, who bears a striking resemblance to his father but is not quite as bright. In addition, Hundred Watt is survived by a nephew, Twenty-Six Watt CFL, whom many find slow to warm up.
A celebration of Hundred Watt's life will be held on Jan. 4 from 9 to 4 at Atlantic Electrical Supply Corp., 2117 Westwood Ave. To honor Hundred Watt's last request, Seventy-Two Watt-Halogen and Hundred Watt Lamps will be given to the first 100 to pay their last respects. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to your favorite charity. R.I.P. Hundred Watt.
Stephen Levet (left) and David Levet hosted a memorial for the 100W bulb at Atlantic Electrical Supply Corp. in Richmond, VA.
The "100W bulb man" in his casket.
Frieda Lapkin, a salesperson at Atlantic Electrical Supply Corp., mourns the passing of the 100W bulb.