Dutch startup Lemnis Lighting unveiled this week its no-frills non-dimmable consumer LED bulb -- the type of product launch that typically doesn't deserve a lot of attention. What makes the 200 lumens Pharox BLU bulb noteworthy is it's $4.95 price tag.
At a Cleantech Forum in Amsterdam last May, Lemnis Lighting CTO Martjin Dekker said components within the bulb and not the LED (lighting emitting diode) itself were largely responsible for the high cost. He also said the components were more likely to fail. Those prices -- many around the $40 range -- were simply too high for mass adoption, he said at the time. He was optimistic prices in Europe would decline in the second half of 2011 and spread to other geographic markets in 2012.
A recent U.S. Department of Energy forecast predicts LEDs will represent 76 percent of the general illumination market by 2030. Lemnis makes a far more aggressive prediction, forecasting 80 percent market penetration by 2020 (a decade earlier) due to price drops and innovations in LED technology. Government policies in the United States, Europe and China that mandate the phase out of inefficient light bulbs will provide a boost to the industry as well.
It appears, Lemnis has cracked the high-cost riddle either through breakthroughs within its technology, manufacturing or both. Whether this line of bulbs, which includes a 300 lumens version for $6.95, meets consumers' needs remains to be seen. The bulbs have their limitations. The versions available right now don't give off a lot of light (less than a 40-watt incandescent), don't work with dimmer and only have a one-year warranty.
The price point may be enough to attract consumers, who can only buy the line of LED bulbs through the company's website. Lemnis claims under a conservative scenario of using its 200 lumens LED for an average of three hours a day at $0.13 kilowatt per hour, the payback is just over two years. The company notes that most of its buyers replace bulbs they use five to six hours a day and shave off top tier pricing at around $0.30 kWh. Under that scenario, buyers would realize a six-month pay back time.