How much cheaper will LED light bulbs get by 2020?

If we hope to see $11 per bulb prices by the end of the decade, Lux Research says innovation must center on thermal management, dimming and secondary optics.

ECOSMART bulbs from Lighting Science Group are among the most cost-effective current alternatives to incandescent bulbs.

Despite the lifetime energy and maintenance savings potential of LED lightbulbs, mainstream adoption for the technology has been slow to develop -- mainly because many bulbs still cost at least $20 each and often double that, considerably more expensive than the alternative.

Pricetags for 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs should be cut almost in half to $11.06 by 2020, suggests a new report by Lux Research. But only if LED manufacturers work on reducing costs for these four areas:

  • Central packaging (which account for about 19 percent of a bulb's costs)
  • Thermal management (the biggest area after overall system design, but not until 2017)
  • Secondary optics for controlling where a light is focused and how the beam is shaped (5 percent)
  • Dimmable drivers (which offer a chance for 1 percent improvement in pricing)

"We find that today's balance of system technology solutions fall short of the dramatic cost reductions needed to mirror the LED package and existing alternate technology solutions are ineffective and uneconomical, presenting opportunities for technology innovation," said Pallavi Madakasira, analyst for Lux research and author of the report, "Cheaper, Brighter, Cooler: The Need for Cost Reduction Past the Package." 

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