Sunday, January 27, 2013

LEFT INSIDE: A Bright Idea

Below you will see a Commonwealth Edison utility receipt found inside my treasured 1st edition of Raise the Titanic! I bought it for $2 at a library sale in Glen Ellyn, Illinois several years ago.  I had the sense to mark on the item itself when I found the book. Sometimes I remembered to do this, other times I used a Post-It note if the item seemed to me it might have a resale value.

The interesting thing here, apart from comparing the price of electricity in 1980 to what it is now, is the section marked BULB SERVICE. This is a bonus service I'm not sure many utility companies offered in addition to providing electricity. We never had it in Connecticut or Pennsylvania when I lived in those states that I remember. For a fee of less than a dollar per month you could subscribe to the "bulb service" which allowed you to pick up two free light bulbs each month at any ComEd payment center. This was ended sometime in the 1990s, I think. I tried to find out the exact date, but my Internet searches failed me.

When incandescent lights were attacked for using up too much energy and the federal government enacted a law forcing the bulb industry to make the now ubiquitous CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) bulb and LED bulbs, ComED discontinued the bulb service. By 2014 incandescent bulbs will become obsolete. Already the 100 watt and the 75 watt bulb are no longer made.

40 cents a month and you get two free light bulbs. Such a deal!

This customer has a very unusual last name, but I had to blur it out.
He still lives in Illinois, though in a completely different town now

To encourage customers in the transition from the old to the new bulbs ComEd replaced the old "bulb service" with one that allowed people to purchase at a 60% discount CFL bulbs in more than 350 stores throughout northern Illinois. It was the largest such program in the entire Midwest. In Chicago free CFL bulbs were given out to the first 500 customers to take advantage of the program. Overall, one million bulbs were purchased or given out free through this program.

I subscribed to the light bulb service for the first five or six years I lived in Chicago (from 1986-1992) but stopped when I realized that I hardly ever remembered to pick up my bulbs before the month was out. I was living in tiny studio apartments and only used them for my two lamps and ceiling lights in the kitchen. I didn't need many then, though I got my fair share.

Anyone else have a "bulb service" program they remember back in the day?


  1. No bulb service that I know of here in Indiana (at least I don't remember my parents ever mentioning the option--and certainly not once I was out on my own). Our local electric company did offer a sample box of the new bulbs in various wattages to any customer who took the time to send in the coupon requesting them.

  2. John: What a fascinating service. I have never heard of a bulb serivce anywhere in Canada.

  3. Detroit Edison offered that service when we first moved here (1970s) until G. E. came down on them in a suit, I think.