The traditional incandescent light bulb has been the market staple for more than a century. Unfortunately, this light source uses 10% of its energy output for light and wastes the other 90% as heat. The the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized that energy efficient alternatives needed to be made readily available and become the new standard for Americans. On August 3, 2011, DOE officially announced Philips Electronics North America as the first winner of the L Prize competition with an LED replacement for the 60-watt incandescent bulb.
In 2007, the DOE established the Bright Light Tomorrow Lighting Prize competition. The L Prize was the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to challenge lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, ultra-efficient solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb with energy-saving lighting alternatives.
Said Steven Chu, Energy Secretary:
“The L Prize challenges the best and brightest minds in the U.S. lighting industry to make the technological leaps forward that can greatly reduce the money we spend to light our homes and businesses each year. Not only does the L Prize challenge innovative companies like Philips to make LED technology even more energy efficient, it also spurs the lighting industry to make LEDs affordable for American families.”
The Philips product was tested in a rigorous evaluation process that included quality, performance, manufacturing, lifetime and stress testing and successfully met the technical specifications of the competition as well as the general requirements established in the 2007 energy legislation. The result: A 60-watt LED equivalent light bulb with a lifetime of more than 25,000 hours – nearly 25 times greater than the 1000 to 3000 hours expected for a typical incandescent bulb.
The goal of the competition is to substantially accelerate America’s shift from inefficient, dated lighting products to innovative, high-performance products that can save American consumers and business owners money.
The 60-watt incandescent light bulb is one of the most widely used types of light bulbs by consumers, representing approximately 50% of the domestic incandescent light bulb market. If every 60-watt incandescent bulb in the U.S. was replaced with Philips’ winning LED alternative, the nation would save about $3.9 billion per year. In addition to cost savings, the switch to LED would power the lights of nearly 18 million U.S. households, greatly reduce our nation’s energy use by saving about 34 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, and avoid the emission of 5.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually.
Zia Eftekhar, CEO of Philips Lighting North America, on the news and the L Prize competition, said:
“We looked at the L Prize challenge as an opportunity to innovate and develop an energy efficient alternative to a product that has remained largely unchanged for over a century. The fact that we are the first and only company capable of submitting a product and completing 18 months of rigorous testing not only underscores our commitment to innovation and quality, it highlights our ability to bring meaningful leading technologies into the mainstream.”
The L Prize has driven innovation and market adoption for the future of energy efficient lighting. It will enable Philips to invest in the manufacturing and marketing of the lamp in the U.S. and also look for new ways to optimize production and reduce costs through investments in research and development of LED lamps. This will help increase adoption of energy-saving LED lighting by overcoming one of the major barriers to LED adoption — price. In turn, it will give consumers options that can meet Energy Star guidelines while saving money. To date, 31 utilities and energy efficiency program partners stand ready to promote and develop markets for the winning product. The L Prize-winning 60-watt equivalent LED bulb from Phillips could arrive in stores as soon as early 2012.
Elizabeth Smyth is a writer for Precision Paragon, an energy efficient commercial lighting manufacturer and a leading source for lighting retrofit solutions.