“Are there many consumers who will say a $50 bulb is affordable? I don’t think so,” said one retailer familiar with the new bulbs. Many retailers said they were reluctant to speak on the record for fear of endangering their relationship with Philips, a major supplier.
Two other manufacturers, General Electric and Lighting Science Group, announced last year that they were developing entrants to the competition. But before they could submit, the prize was awarded and the competition closed. The contest also required that at least some of the manufacturing be done in the United States, where costs can be higher. The Philips bulb will be assembled in Wisconsin, and the chips will be made at a Philips plant in San Jose, the company said.
In many ways, however, the
L Prize may have been irrelevant. According to retailers, consumers are embracing LEDs, which were the focus of the prize, and CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, faster than many in the industry expected. The new bulbs can cut energy costs by more than 75 percent.
CFLs already outsell incandescents in terms of dollars, Paulsen said. And he predicted that the percentage of LED bulbs sold would rise from 5 percent to 35 percent over the next three years. “The adoption wave has already begun,” Paulsen said.
In part, that’s because manufacturers are offering LED bulbs for far less than the L Prize bulb.
For example, at Home Depot, one can find LED bulbs to replace the 60-watt incandescent for much less than $50. Lighting Science Group, under the EcoSmart label, offers another for $23.97. It is assembled in Mexico. And another Philips LED bulb on sale costs $24.97. It was made in China.
“This is a very interesting time in light bulbs, believe it or not,” Paulsen said.