Incandescence is a special case of thermal radiation. Incandescence usually refers specifically to visible light, while thermal radiation refers also to infrared or any other electromagnetic radiation.
For a detailed discussion of the intensity and spectrum (color) of incandescence, see the article: thermal radiation.
An incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe is an electric light which produces light with a filament wire heated to a high temperature by an electric current passing through it, until it glows (see Incandescence). The hot filament is protected from oxidation with a glass bulb that is filled with inert gas (or evacuated). In a halogen lamp, filament evaporation is prevented by a chemical process that redeposits metal vapor onto the filament, extending its life. The light bulb is supplied with electrical current by feed-through terminals or wires embedded in the glass. Most bulbs are used in a socket which provides mechanical support and electrical connections.
Incandescent bulbs are manufactured in a wide range of sizes, light output, and voltage ratings, from 1.5 volts to about 300 volts. They require no external regulating equipment, have low manufacturing costs, and work equally well on either alternating current or direct current. As a result, the incandescent lamp is widely used in household and commercial lighting, for portable lighting such as table lamps, car headlamps, and flashlights, and for decorative and advertising lighting.
Incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than most other types of lighting; most incandescent bulbs convert less than 5% of the energy they use into visible light (with the remaining energy being converted into heat). The luminous efficacy of a typical incandescent bulb is 16 lumens per watt, compared to the 60 lm/W of a compact fluorescent bulb. Some applications of the incandescent bulb deliberately use the heat generated by the filament. Such applications include incubators, brooding boxes for poultry, heat lights for reptile tanks, infrared heating for industrial heating and drying processes, lava lamps, and the Easy-Bake Oven toy. When used for lighting in houses and commercial buildings, the energy lost to heat can significantly increase the energy required by a building's air conditioning system, although during the heating season such heat is not wasted. Incandescent bulbs also have short lifetimes compared with other types of lighting; around 1000 hours for home light bulbs versus 10,000 hours for compact fluorescents.