A year ago, Warner Philips, the co-founder of Lemnis Lighting, told Greentech Media that consumers will be able to buy an LED light bulb for less than $10 in 18 to 24 months.
He was right.
Lemnis is now offering an LED bulb for $4.95. It's a basic model: 200 lumens (which is about a 25-watt equivalent), non-dimmable, and provided with just a one-year warranty. Philips notes that less than 13 percent of U.S. light bulbs are on dimmable sockets. And only 0.2 percent of homes have LED lighting, said Philips, citing a DOE report.
But the $4.95 LED bulb is available today, and in the view of the CEO, it will act as a gateway drug to ubiquitous LED lighting. "The reason we've done this is to get people into the game, instead of them waiting for a 60-watt equivalent at a $10 price." (By the way, Warner Philips is the grandson of the founder of Philips Lighting.)
Lemnis builds screw-in LED bulbs that replace the traditional incandescent household bulb. The next step up in lumens at Lemnis is the 350-lumen Pharox bulb with a suggested price of $6.95, also with a one-year warranty. Other Lemnis bulbs put out about the same amount of light as a 60-watt or 40-watt incandescent. Greentech Media did a product evaluation of the Lemnis bulb here.
Lemnis has shipped more than five million of their Pharox bulbs since 2006 and has a pipeline of millions of bulbs to be shipped in the coming years. According to the founder, that makes Lemnis the world's leading supplier of LED bulbs.
Declining prices, energy efficiency regulations, and outright bans on incandescents are creating demand for LED bulbs. But it's the early adopters that have been buying bulbs so far. Once a certain price threshold has been met, we'll really start to see mass market adoption of this cool-to-the-touch, long-life, efficient light source. And Lemnis is betting that $4.95 is that price.
Lemnis claims that the majority of people will buy the LED bulb online, although Philips emphasized the importance of other channels such as government, retailers, and utilities.
A recent U.S. Department of Energy forecast predicts that LEDs will represent 76 percent of the general illumination market by 2030, but Lemnis predicts 80 percent market penetration of LEDs in general illumination by 2020.
Lemnis claims that a typical 40-watt incandescent bulb costs approximately $5.69 per year to use at $0.13 per kilowatt-hour, three hours a day. The equivalent Lemnis 350-lumen bulb costs $0.85 per year in energy use and pays for itself in less than two years.
Warner Philips sees the $4.95 bulb useful in certain applications: lights that hang over a bar or a kitchen island, for example, or in a nightstand lamp. Philips claims that he has eight of the 200-lumen units installed in his home. He also notes that there are 51 light points in the average home.
Philips said that the firm can make money, though "not a lot," at the $4.95 price point on this, their fifth-generation product. One of the reasons they can make money is that Lemnis is selling the 200-lumen bulb directly through its website only, so there is no distributor or retail margin.
This has been a pretty big week for LED lighting. The major industry event, Strategies in Light, has come and gone and there's been some compelling funding announcements (Bridgelux) and some unstealthing (Soraa).
Add to the list an LED bulb price breakthrough from Lemnis Lighting.
Philips said, "2012 will be a big year, but we're only at the beginning of a decade-long transition."