More oh-so-efficient green lighting tech: LED and dimmable CFL

Home Depot is carrying a 40-watt LED replacement bulb that retails for less than $20 per bulb
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Exactly when did lighting technology get so sexy? It has not escaped my notice that GreenTech Pastures readers are REALLY interested in all the latest developments about consumer lighting technology. This week doesn't disappoint: Not only have there been some significant new developments when it comes to taking LED mainstream, there also is some not-quite-as-published stuff going on with CFL technology.

First the LED news ...

Most notably, Royal Philips Electronics has come out with what it calls the first LED replacement for a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb. The 12-watt EnduraLED bulb, described in more detail over on our SmartPlanet sister blog network, is designed to save up to 80 percent of the energy associated with illuminating an incandescent bulb, while lasting up to 25 times longer.

To understand how big of a deal this REALLY is, consider that there are approximately 425 million 60-watt incandescent light bulbs sold annually in the United States. The new Philips LED bulb is rated at about 25,000 hours, which I believe is something that the company will have to market quite loudly. Because the price of these things, although not finalized, is likely to be way, way more than for the bulb you can buy today. The numbers being bandied about for this bulb, as well as ones being worked on by GE, are anywhere from $40 to $60 per bulb. So, Philips is trying to make a big deal out of the fact that each LED bulb could SAVE up to $120 per lamp.

The Philips bulbs are supposed to be out in the fourth quarter.

That's roughly the same timeframe in which GE plans to release its Smart Bulb, an LED bulb designed to replace the 40-watt incandescents that we know and love so well. What you might not be aware of is the fact that a much smaller company, Lighting Science Group based in Satellite Beach, Fla., actually is selling some comparable LED light bulbs now. Its A19 Definity product, which is dimmable, is priced around $20, which is about half what the GE bulb is expected to cost, according to to Lighting Science. The Definity line also includes a whole bunch of other formats, ranging in price from $20 to $55 per bulb.

You can buy the bulbs off their web site, or this link will lead you to distributors.

Update: Lighting Science is producing a special edition of the A19 40-watt replacement bulbs for Home Depot, the first in the retailer's ECOSMART LED brand line. The bulb carries a retail price of $19.97.

OK, so enough about LED. There's another development this week (also announced at the Lightfair conference that has spawned some other news) that could transform the way people view compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). That's because NXP Semiconductors, a company that was founded by Philips and provides chip sets intended for use in improving the energy-efficiency of various lighting technologies, has come up with a way to help improve people's ability to dim CFL bulbs.

Paul Wilson, regional product manager for NXP, says there are two big reasons that the company's new GreenChip technology updates are interesting:

  1. The new chipsets will allow manufacturers to create CFL bulbs that can be dimmed in a manner that is very similar to incandescents. Today, there isn't much flexibility about how much you can dim these bulbs, he notes. The state of the art is 20 percent dimming, which is "not great for mood lighting in the living room or dining room." The NXP technology will allow for much deeper dimming, below 10 percent.
  2. NXP also has come up with a way to help get CFLs lighting more quickly. Right now, there's a delay in how quickly these bulbs come on.

The bulbs will also run at approximately 5 percent better efficiency compared with CFL bulbs that don't run off the NXP chipset.

Wilson estimates that the first products to use the new technology will be out in approximately two to three months.

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