We wrote about Philips’ new, innovative and super energy-efficient LED bulb last year when it was announced as the first winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize competition. (For much more detail on the bulb, check out the link above.) Now, the $60-bulb has been commercially launched — it went on sale in some stores, such as Home Depot, on Earth Day.
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Despite the great long-term savings (see below), a $60 price tag scares a lot of people off. Trying to tackle that issue, Philips is currently discounting the bulb to $50, and it is also looking to partner up with electric utilities to drop the price by as much as $20 or $30 more. So, the cheapest you can buy it online is $50, but in some regions, where utilities partner with Netherlands-based Philips, the price could get as low as $20.
Notably, the DOE L Prize had such tough requirements that this Philips bulb was the only entrant! The prize required that the bulb be sold for $22 in its first year. Philips says it has always had the idea of utility rebates in mind to get down to this amount — not surprising, since I know CFL manufacturers have also gone that route.
Philips LED Compared to 60-Watt Incandescent Light Bulb
If used 4 hours a day, the LED bulb should shave about $8 off an electricity bill. So, compared to a $1 incandescent and depending on the price of the bulb in your area, it could take less than 3 years to nearly 8 years to make up the extra cost, but then you’re essentially making money on it for 12-17 years (assumptions: 4 hours of use a day; you live for another 12-17 years). Of course, this doesn’t take into account the benefit of your bragging rights and the fun of show-and-tell when friends or family see the ‘flashy’ bulb.
LED Compared to CFL
The bulb’s real competition is CFLs, though. While the Philips LED bulb lasts about 3 times longer than a CFL, a CFL only costs about $2-5, which means that it’s a better long-term investment. The benefits of the LED, however, are that it produces a “more natural-looking light” (though, I can’t say I have a problem with the light produced by today’s CFLs) and it doesn’t contain the small amount of mercury that CFLs contain and that make some people avoid them (as if that ever made anyone avoid thermometers… and even though the energy savings prevent even more mercury from being emitted by coal power plants in most places).
A 60-watt CFL uses about 15 watts, wheres this Philips LED uses about 10 watts (a typical incandescent bulb uses 60).
Philips’ Other LED Bulb
While this bulb is getting almost all the attention now, Philips has another LED bulb not quite as efficient that has been on sale since 2010. Reportedly, it has been doing well and LEDs currently account for about 20% of Philips’ U.S. lighting sales. That’s up from about 0% three years ago.
Why did Philips go this route? Ed Crawford, the head of Philips’ U.S. lighting division, says it was because of the L Prize.
While Crawford is certain the technology used in its new LEDs would have been developed anyway, he’s sure it wouldn’t have so quickly. He thinks it sped up the process by about 3-5 years. So, a big thanks to the DOE and to Philips for making this happen — I might just have to get my hands on some of these bulbs soon!