Posting in Energy
Could the days of $40 LED bulbs be over? Lemnis Lighting, a Dutch startup, has unveiled a line of LED bulbs aimed squarely at a price-sensitive general public.
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.
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Try this: go to eBay, search for e27 110v warm, click on the Buy It Now tab at the top, and sort by price. You'll find a gazillion LEDs kicking out 300-400 lumens for under $5. The 4 watt spots (4X1watt leds) are freaking amazing. I have two lighting up my entire back yard where two 16 watt cfl spots used to live. 300 lumen 3 watt bulbs are $3.99. Bright whites (5000k) are great for kitchen and bathroom. Warms (3000k) look like incandescent readers. Don't bother with the shower head type. They're lame. Stick with the SMDs and the ~100 lumens per watt rated lamps.
In today's aging baby boomers, tens of millions of people are hitting 50-60-70 years of age, and unfortunately, today's 60 watt lights just don't do it for us! In my youth, a 60 watt incandescent bulb was fine for reading or doing whatever...now I find that a 100watt or higher is necessary! It is difficult to find a 100 watt equivalent CFE bulb...and as far as I know, there aren't any 100 watt equivalent LED bulbs...Until then, I'll just stockpile 100 watt and 150 watt incandescent bulbs...I've already collected over 200...that should last me until someone comes up with something better!
MR Dekker is quoted as saying that most of the cost is in the bulb components, excluding the LED, and that those components are more likely to fail. This makes perfect sense when you think about what is being done to make LEDs work in the same fixtures as incandescent bulbs. The problem is that LEDs are low powered DC light sources and CFL and incandescent bulbs need higher voltage AC. Converting an LED to work in a standard light fixture requires a power conversion circuit and an LED driver circuit as well as a fan to cool off the bulb. An LED fixture could still be used to plug into the standard AC in homes but it would separate the power conversion from the LED itself. An LED fixture should have an incompatible bulb socket so that the LED is not interchangeable with an incandescent bulb. It is silly to make a low powered DC device to be backwardly compatible with a higher powered AC device. It is like demanding that cars use wagon wheels instead of tires. The other complaint with LEDs is that the color is too white and harsh; this can be changed by adding a color filter to the LED or changing the LED die to produce a warmer light. Again, this is being backwardly compatible with incandescent bulbs because those produce a warm light that we have associated with home lighting for several generations.
For those of you still learning how to evaluate LED (and CFL) light bulbs compared to the traditional incandescent light bulb, I hope you find the following useful: Light (lumen) output is an important criteria to be sure you save energy AND have an equivalent amount of light. For instance: 100W incandescent bulbs produced ~1,300 lumens 60W incandescent bulbs produce ~900 lumens (check out equivalent 10W L Prize-winning LED bulb by Philips) 40W incandescent bulbs produce ~500 lumens Lower cost is important for LEDs. However, the 200-lumen output of the bulb touted in this article is equivalent to ~25W incandescent. You may have a 25W bulb in your refrigerator; more than likely you have 60W+ throughout your home if you have not already switched to CFL...I did. Color quality is an important factor as well; be sure to evaluate color rendering index (>80 should be acceptable) AND color temperature (2700K - 3000K is equivalent to incandescent) of the LED (or CFL) bulb you are considering so you will be happy with how you and your home appear. For more information, check out http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/lightbulbs/index.shtm
For years, I've argued that what we need is a household low-voltage standard, where every home would have a high quality regulated power supply to power low voltage devices like personal electronics. Initially, the aim was to eliminate the dozens of "wall warts" that have invaded my home. But the same standard would solve the LED lighting problem as well. LED lights would be much cheaper and even more efficient if they didn't all need to step down 120 volts to something they can actually use.
Larger power supplies could be fit inside the fixture and would be cheaper and more reliable than ones designed around the confines of a bulb. With LED's the bulbs should last as long as the fixture and could be designed to take advantage of the technologies benefits. The colour argument escapes me because the sun gives of white light therefore a LED should be more natural even if it's less familiar than the heat derived incandescent light.
Thanks, DRogers-ICF! This is what we need to make an informed decision for our comfort lighting. Many happy returns.