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Why one 100-watt bulb is four times as strong as four 25-watt bulbs

The battery mystery is another case of looking at the wrong measure

The higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb. - Image by Rick Geary
The higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb.

Dear Matthew Alice: According to the phone book, a 100-watt bulb will give four times more light than four 25-watt bulbs. How can this be true? — R.O., downtown

Dear Matthew Alice: I'm confused. Why are there so many sizes of batteries — AA, AAA, C, D sizes — when they all only produce 1.5 volts?— Logical Toy Operator, San Diego

I’m sure somewhere in my phone book lies this lightbulb factlet, but I couldn’t find it. Actually, the phone book is now so crammed full of factlets that I got sidetracked dialing up my horoscope, listening to the bunion hot line, and checking the progress, if any, on All My Children. At the rate they’re going, the phone company will someday be the source of all wisdom. Newspapers and textbooks and Matthew Alice will be pass£.

But in the meantime, that shocking news about lightbulbs is actually true. We’re used to thinking of bulbs in terms of watts, which is a measure of power input to the bulb. Light output is measured in lumens. Using GE Soft White bulbs as an example, a 25-watter produces 210 lumens, a 100-watter gives you 1710 lumens. That’s actually more than eight times the lumen output. As a rule of thumb, the higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb — that is, you get more lumens per watt, more light for your SDG&E dollar. There’s less difference in efficiency between a 100-watt bulb and a 200-watt bulb than there is between 25 and 100; when you get below 100, efficiencies drop off swiftly. So there you have one more tip for richer, more bountiful living courtesy of Matthew Alice and the late Ma Bell.

The battery mystery is another case of looking at the wrong measure. The voltage rating on a battery describes what you might think of as something like water pressure, the force of the flow of electricity. The capacity of the battery, the amount of current it can deliver over a span of time, is unrelated. Your car battery is probably a 12-volter, you couldn’t hook up eight 1.5-volt penlight batteries and start your car. They can’t deliver enough amperes of current to do the job. In general, the larger the physical size of the battery, the more amps it can produce. But of course the Matthew Alice Law of Inevitable Frustration dictates that none of the batteries in any given house at any given time will work anyway, so all this doesn’t much matter.

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The higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb. - Image by Rick Geary
The higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb.

Dear Matthew Alice: According to the phone book, a 100-watt bulb will give four times more light than four 25-watt bulbs. How can this be true? — R.O., downtown

Dear Matthew Alice: I'm confused. Why are there so many sizes of batteries — AA, AAA, C, D sizes — when they all only produce 1.5 volts?— Logical Toy Operator, San Diego

I’m sure somewhere in my phone book lies this lightbulb factlet, but I couldn’t find it. Actually, the phone book is now so crammed full of factlets that I got sidetracked dialing up my horoscope, listening to the bunion hot line, and checking the progress, if any, on All My Children. At the rate they’re going, the phone company will someday be the source of all wisdom. Newspapers and textbooks and Matthew Alice will be pass£.

But in the meantime, that shocking news about lightbulbs is actually true. We’re used to thinking of bulbs in terms of watts, which is a measure of power input to the bulb. Light output is measured in lumens. Using GE Soft White bulbs as an example, a 25-watter produces 210 lumens, a 100-watter gives you 1710 lumens. That’s actually more than eight times the lumen output. As a rule of thumb, the higher the wattage, the more efficient the bulb — that is, you get more lumens per watt, more light for your SDG&E dollar. There’s less difference in efficiency between a 100-watt bulb and a 200-watt bulb than there is between 25 and 100; when you get below 100, efficiencies drop off swiftly. So there you have one more tip for richer, more bountiful living courtesy of Matthew Alice and the late Ma Bell.

The battery mystery is another case of looking at the wrong measure. The voltage rating on a battery describes what you might think of as something like water pressure, the force of the flow of electricity. The capacity of the battery, the amount of current it can deliver over a span of time, is unrelated. Your car battery is probably a 12-volter, you couldn’t hook up eight 1.5-volt penlight batteries and start your car. They can’t deliver enough amperes of current to do the job. In general, the larger the physical size of the battery, the more amps it can produce. But of course the Matthew Alice Law of Inevitable Frustration dictates that none of the batteries in any given house at any given time will work anyway, so all this doesn’t much matter.

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