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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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By Soulkeeper on 2/27/2012 11:46:25 AM , Rating: 2
The cheap spiral 13W bulbs burn out on me as often as cheap CCFL 60W bulbs. I've burnt out atleast 5 of them over the last few years. This new stuff looks interesting.

RE: nice
By fic2 on 2/27/2012 12:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
Either I am lucky on mine or you are unlucky. I have some that are going on 10 years. These are the generics from Home Depot.

RE: nice
By Ringold on 2/27/2012 12:23:51 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what causes such variable lifespans? Like the OP, mine last 1-2 years of occasional use.

RE: nice
By SublimeSimplicity on 2/27/2012 1:02:44 PM , Rating: 2
Look at that list of "Stress testing". Could be any of those. For CFLs it's almost always the transformer that goes bad, not the bulb itself.

RE: nice
By JediJeb on 2/27/2012 1:39:37 PM , Rating: 3
One of the big killers of the CCFL bulbs is power cycling(turning it on and off). I blow them pretty quickly in places like the bathroom, but the one outside the back door that I leave on 24/7 has yet to die.

RE: nice
By Ringold on 2/27/2012 2:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
That'd make sense to me, the only place I don't burn through them quick is in a fixture next to my sliding glass door that, like you, I leave on just about 24-7, so it looks like I'm home.

The other places I use them tend to burn through my cash quicker in replacement costs then whatever they save me in electricity.

RE: nice
By fic2 on 2/27/2012 4:24:46 PM , Rating: 2
I've wondered that, too. I think either my bathroom or closet are the oldest CFLs I have. Both are used "incorrectly" - both in an enclosed fixture and upside down. I use the bathroom light way more than the closet and a lot of its use is pretty quick in/out (on/off) as you would probably expect with a bathroom. I am not sure but I think they are both 100w equivalent bulbs which might be why they have lasted.

RE: nice
By fic2 on 2/27/2012 6:50:39 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, also I live in Denver which is a very dry climate. I have no idea if this has anything to do with the lifespan of CFLs though. Just thought I would mention one environmental factor.

RE: nice
By mindless1 on 3/3/2012 12:42:36 PM , Rating: 2
A dry climate would have only positive effects, though actually only an extremely humid environment would be an issue, far more-so the temperature is a factor.

RE: nice
By kmmatney on 2/27/2012 4:15:55 PM , Rating: 2
CFLs have been hit-or-miss with me. I 96 light fixtures in total in my house (13 of them now converted to LED). When I first moved in, they were all incandescent, and there was a bulb burning out, somewhere, every few days. Then I gradually converted to CFL, and a bulbs only goes out every 1-2 months. Most CFLs have lasted about 4-5 years, although some burn out in 1-2 years, and some are still going after 7 years. I started writing dates on them a while back. The older ones are noticeably dimmer than they used to be, such that I get a lot more light when I replace them with an LED with theoretically lower brightness.

While I'd hesitate to buy a $50 standard lighgt bulb replacement, certain LED lights like the Cree CR-6 are $40 and come with a built-im trim kit, and are worth the cost.

RE: nice
By Sidian on 2/28/2012 2:04:52 AM , Rating: 2
Heat dissipation also affects CLFs. I had installed 2 of the brightest, and largest, CFLs that put out 1800 lumens. One received regular blasts of cool A/C air being next to the vent while the other didn't. The one w/o A/C tended to burn out about every six months while the cooled bulb lasted close to 2 years.

Also, due to the construction of the glass spirals, they can easily suffer from hairline cracks; particularly the larger CFLs. This also leads to short life, and the heat/cool cycling eventually opens up the sealed tube.

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