Your light bulbs will soon officially be a profit center.
Final pricing on the 60-watt equivalent EnduraLED bulb from Philips hasn't been released yet, but Ed Crawford, CEO of Philips Lighting in North America, told us that it will sell in the $60 range. Commercial customers will likely be able to buy the EnduraLED in September or October, while residential consumers will get their hands on it in December.
"This is a turning point in LED," Crawford said in a phone interview from LightFair, the light confab taking place in Las Vegas this week. "It can be used in a dimmer. The color temperature is the same as an incandescent."
An individual EnduraLED, which will last at least 25,000 hours and probably even longer, will save consumers and businesses $120 in electricity costs over its lifetime, he added. As such, the bulb -- which consumes 12 watts of power -- will save people who buy it $60 over its lifetime. The EndureLED's long life (incandescent bulbs last about 1,000 hours and compact fluorescents last 7,500 hours) also means you won't have to buy nearly as many bulbs.
The $60-ish price puts it in range with the prices of other bulbs on or coming to the market. General Electric's 40-watt equivalent will cost around $40 to $50 when it hits shelves later this year or in early 2011. Lemnis Lighting (founded by the great-grandson of Philips Lighting's founder) sells 60-watt/40-watt equivalent bulbs in that range, too. Prices, of course, will go down over time. LEDs are chips, which generally decrease in price rapidly as volumes increase. Some believe $20 LED bulbs could be a reality within the next two or so years.
More importantly, the Philips bulb will likely compare quite well with conventional bulbs. It will emit 806 lumens, which is just above the 800 that incandescent bulbs emit. GE's bulb will emit around 450 lumens, while Panasonic's LED bulbs will fall in the 200 to 500 lumens range.
The 7-watt LED bulb unfurled by Lemnis today? 500 lumens. Lemnis also released a candle-flame-like LED bulb for anyone with Liberace chandeliers, as well as 800-lumen LED downlights, among other products that made their debut at the show.
"800 lumens is absolutely the (60-watt) equivalent," Crawford said. "The Energy Star standard is 800."
Philips, Crawford noted, is still the only company that has submitted a bulb to the L Prize, a contest sponsored by the Department of Energy that seeks to promote energy-efficient lighting.
What makes Philips' bulb different? The company divides the LED arrays inside the bulb into chambers. Those curvy steel things in the picture are where the bulb gets divided. The bulb submitted for the L Prize (which puts out 900 lumens) contains four chambers. The commercial EnduraLED segments the bulb into three chambers. Dividing the LED arrays helps with thermal management -- the light from LEDs does not contain heat like the light from incandescent bulbs, but the back of the chip gets hot. The design of the overall bulb also allows the light to be spread in all directions; the inability to do this has historically been regarded as a shortcoming in past LED bulb designs.
"LEDs are terrific at generating light in one direction," he said. "They are not as strong as delivering light across 360 degrees."
Like other bulb makers, Philips has also tinkered with its phosphors, the chemical powders used in conjunction with LEDs, so that the tone of the light (or temperature) is equivalent to what consumers get with incandescents. The LEDs emit a blue light, but the blue light passes through a yellowish phosphor to produce white light.
Philips moved into the top spot in lighting a few years ago, an acceleration driven in part by acquisitions. The company has spent over $5.4 billion since 2005 on snapping up companies like LED specialist Color Kinetics. Last year, Philips bought two smaller companies as part of its ongoing strategic push to move away from selling bulbs and move toward the sale of complete light fixtures. If LED bulbs can last a decade, after all, the replacement market isn't promising. The conglomerate also put Rudy Provoost, who headed up Philips Electronics, in charge of lighting worldwide. (Side note: Provoost was talking about 3D TVs back in 2006, so he's definitely clued in to the long view.)
Although LED bulbs remain somewhat expensive and rare these days, the LED revolution likely will not be stopped. Lighting consumes 22 percent of the electricity in the U.S., and several nations -- Australia, Canada, the EU, the Philippines, the U.S. -- have passed regulations that will force consumers and businesses to gravitate from incandescent bulbs to more energy-efficient lights like LEDs. Neon signs are already being retrofitted with LEDs, and several cities like Toronto and Anchorage have started to swap out traditional street lights with LEDs. (Plasma lights from companies like Topanga Technologies and Luxim will target street lights, too.)
Commercial buildings and homes will follow suit over the next few years. Besides saving power and reducing the number of times you have to swap bulbs, LEDs also let you add color effects. Osram, another lighting giant, is mixing muted color options into some of its LED fixtures.
Other LightFair news: Redwood Systems launched its very intriguing networking system for lights, and Lumenergi said that its networking system for fluorescents pays for itself in less than two to three years.
Bridgelux, meanwhile, won the award for Most Innovative Product with its snap-in Helieon bulb. See this masterpiece of cinema showcasing the bulb here.