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  (Source: Philips)
Bulb will debut at $50; nobody said "perfection" was cheap

Nearly four years have passed since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the "L Prize", a $20M USD reward to the first company who successfully produced a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb meeting a special set of criteria in terms of energy efficiency and lighting performance.  The prize took money from allocations made by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, signed into law by former President George W. Bush.

I. Koninklijke Philips Wins the L Prize

The years have passed and at last there is a winner.  The prize has been awarded to a design from Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (AMS:PHIA), an Amsterdam, Netherlands-based global electronics company.

The winning design is dubbed the "Philips Award Winning LED Bulb".  Its specs easily meet the L Prize criteria:
Philips L Prize

A video on the testing process is seen below:

The Philips bulb survived all the tests, emerging with flying colors.  It did particularly well in longevity testing, showing almost no performance degradation after predicted at 25,000 hours (1041 days, or almost 3 years of continuous operation).

II. For $50 is the L Prize Bulb Worth It?

The bulb trims over 2.5W off Philip's previous generation LED bulb designs, a power savings of roughly 20 percent.  Unfortunately those savings come at a cost -- where as Philip's previous generation models are retailing for around $33 USD, the new bulb retails for $49.95 USD, nearly 50% more expensive.  The bulb is assembled in the U.S. from components manufactured in Shenzhen, China with LED chips made in San Jose, Calif.

L Prize award
Philips Professional Luminaires CEO Zia Eftekhar (left) and Philips Lighting North America CEO Ed Crawford accept the L-Prize award from Dr. Arun Majumdar, a senior DOE official.
[Image Source: DOE/Koninklijke Philips]

The pricey bulb has a 29 percent wall-plug efficiency ratio -- compared to the 60W incandescent lamp’s 12% and a CFL’s 19% wall-plug efficiency.  The new design delivers 90 lm/W (an efficiency measure) –compared to an average 60W incandescent with about 13 lm/W or a CFL with about 53 lm/W.

Detailed information about its color and luminosity performance is available here [PDF], direct from Philips.

The bulb carries a distinct yellowish hue when powered off, but Philips assures that the "remote phosphor" (yellow) disappears when the bulb is powered on.  The emitted light is white with a slightly yellowish hue (as with the standard off-the-shelf incandescent bulbs).

Philips L Prize Bulb
The L-Prize winning bulb design [Image Source: Koninklijke Philips]

Philips is offering a 3-year warranty on the bulb.  And it rates it at 30,000+ hours of life.

Given a $0.10 USD per kWH cost of electricity -- a "middle of the road" scenario in the U.S. [source] -- the bulb would save approximately $150 USD over its lifetime ($0.10 USD/kWh * 3e4 h * 0.050 kW) versus an incandescent design.  However, the additional 2.5 watts of power savings over previous generation models only represents approximately $7.50 USD more in savings.

Aside from the cost savings, the LED lights also offer smoother dimming than incandescent bulbs, with less impact on longevity.  And unlike compact fluorescent lighbulbs (CFLs), a rival energy efficient design, they lack toxic compounds like mercury.

Thus the bulb may be sought after by LED lighting enthusiasts, but will likely be overlooked by businesses, which would tend to prefer cheaper, more mature LED designs.  However, the technology should eventually fall into line with current generation models price-wise, offering the best of both worlds.

We're still a long way from the promises of some LED researchers -- a 60-year light bulb that costs $2.85 USD -- but the industry is starting to get to the point where LED lighting makes sense for businesses and consumers from a financial perspective.

You can order the bulb from various sources, such as Light Bulb Emporium.  It should ship in March.

For its win, Philips receives $10M USD, and free promotion from the DOE.  The DOE still has more money to give to other L-Prize winners.

Be careful when browsing sites or shops looking for this bulb as there's many different models out here.  Note this is the <10 W Endura series model.  This should not be confused with the last-gen 12.5W Endura series model (linked above) or the (last-gen) 8W Ambient Light series.

Note 2:
While the bulb design was an international effort based on the multi-national Koninklijke Philips company, the award winning design was submitted by Philips Lighting North America, who will be producing and marketing the bulb in the U.S.

Sources: DOE, Philips, Light Bulb Emporium [order]

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RE: I would buy this over CCFL any time.
By chmilz on 2/27/2012 11:17:12 AM , Rating: 5
I'd consider these as they drop in price. CCFL, while cheap, seem to be less reliable than good 'ol incandescent bulbs, but are full of nasty stuff that makes me cringe when I have to throw them out.

By GulWestfale on 2/27/2012 11:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
i've been thinking of switching s well, and while i'm not going to buy 50 dollar light bulbs anytime soon, i hope that these philips' bulbs will help to lower the cost and improve the performance of other, 'lesser' LED bulbs.

oh, and at the top of the article it says the prize was 20 million, why did philips on get half of that?

By fic2 on 2/27/2012 12:07:58 PM , Rating: 3
You should recycle them. The very few times that I have had one burn out I put it in a ziplock bag and take it to home depot which has a recycling box.

BTW, they aren't "full of" - the amount of mercury in an average CFL is about the size of a period (.).

RE: I would buy this over CCFL any time.
By Schrag4 on 2/27/2012 12:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'd consider these as they drop in price. CCFL, while cheap, seem to be less reliable than good 'ol incandescent bulbs, but are full of nasty stuff that makes me cringe when I have to throw them out.

I, too, am considering switching to LEDs, but I don't understand why you cringe at that "nasty stuff". Where do you think the mercury in CFLs came from? It's not like we imported it from a different planet. Not only that, but many areas have a place you can drop off old CFLs if you're really that worried about it (and if you're really REALLY worried about it, you can send them somewhere).

RE: I would buy this over CCFL any time.
By AnnihilatorX on 2/27/2012 12:25:31 PM , Rating: 2
Mercury is either mined or from recycled material. That's irrelevant though, mineral mercury is not harmful, but the metallic form is.

The problem is, not everyone does bother to recycle, and some do end up in landfills and ultimately ground water.

Even if everyone recycles, CCFL is still not as good as LEDs for handling. If you drop one, it's still a health hazard. There's absolutely no advantage to them apart from efficiency and cost. The latter is only due to economy of scale. Once LEDs fill the shelves, they will become dirt cheap.

By mindless1 on 3/3/2012 12:18:45 PM , Rating: 2
Answer this: Do you eat fish? The average person who uses CFL bulbs ingests more mercury from fish than they come in contact with from CFL bulbs. Personally I've never come in contact with any mercury from CFLs. None.

There are lots of things in your home and life which are potentially "toxic", you merely have to act accordingly. Don't rub fertilizer all over your body. Don't put drain cleaner in your soup. Don't lick the circuit boards from old electronic equipment.

To put down something because it's not compatible with the human body is irrelevant when it's not meant to be worn or eaten. PS - don't rub your hands all over broken shards of CFL glass either, since you seen to think this is likely enough to mention.

By VahnTitrio on 2/27/2012 1:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
There should be bulbs at the $20 price point that aren't quite as efficient. I think most are about 800 lumens for about 12 watts of power. Also if the bulb meets energy star there should be a mail in rebate.

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