In 2008, it was the Holy Grail of residential lighting, according to off-the-gridder Dan Fink. Fink’s parameters were simple; he wanted an LED that retained (or added to) its inherent efficiency while also delivering the kind of light that homeowners identify with incandescent lighting – and all at a price that could easily nudge both incandescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs off the shelves.
The Grail can now be found at your nearest hardware store. Philips LED lamps are selling for an unbelievable $5 after utility rebates in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine and Vermont. (BTW, the correct terminology for LEDs, according to Philips Director of LED Lamps Todd Manegold, is “lamp”, not bulb.)
For markets that don’t offer utility rebates, the company has lowered the price on its value- priced Philips 10.5-watt A19 from $14.97 to $10.97. Another lamp, the Philips 11-watt A19, the popular 60-watt LED equivalent, will go from $24.97 to $16.97 on Home Depot shelves as Philips works with that global home improvement retailer and utilities all over the nation to bring the price down to $10.
Thus, not only have Philips LED lamps achieved affordability, but they have escaped a somewhat tawdry past in which they were lumped with other manufacturer’s LEDs, all of which were purported to contain lead, arsenic and some other potentially dangerous substances.
Now, according to reports, only the low-intensity reds, used in signage and traffic regulation, contain unwanted chemicals. The rest, from Philips’ soft-white LEDs to “true white” or daylight lamps, easily pass (or exceed) government standards and have even obtained Energy Star certification – a claim that isn’t true for all LED manufacturers, or even for the top 10. In fact, some pricey lamps do not achieve noteworthy lifetimes or efficiencies because the method of manufacture doesn’t protect the lighting element from excessive heat, via a heat sink for example, and this can dramatically shorten a lamp’s lifetime.
Philips lamps, represented by the A19, which won best-in-show earlier this year (for its instant-on feature, crisp bright light, and no mercury), are clearly becoming price-competitive while offering both superb quality lighting and electricity savings. More importantly, the A19 offers an 80-percent plus energy savings ratio, or 10 percent greater than the CFL, and a six-year warranty which comes standard. Other Philips LED lamps are equally cost-efficient and productive.
As readers may remember, Philips is the company that won the 2011 L Prize – the $10-million government prize to create the light bulb of the future, an LED which could replace the once-ubiquitous 60-watt incandescent bulb.
“The challenge,” says Manegold, “is to balance lumens versus cost.”
As Manegold explains, the psychology of shopping and value suggest a price of around $10 as being the criterion of affordability in the American consumer’s “clean energy” wallet. For example, if the price is $14.99 and a utility rebate pushes it down to $9.99 – or even better, $5.99 – the consumer is at a point where he or she feels comfortable investing in clean energy technology.
” I think that, at $10, most people are willing to try one lamp,” Manegold notes. “But what I’m focused on, what my business is focused on, is not that you buy one, but that you came back and buy 2, 3, 4, perhaps even 10. Because if you don’t like the first one, you never will come back. For example, while it’s important for our company to hit that all-important price point, people also need to view their purchase as a quality product in order to trigger mass conversion.”
And mass conversion, as Manegold acknowledges, is the name of the game. Silvie Casanova, head of Lighting Communications at Philips, points out additional features that homeowners tend to look for, many of them purely aesthetic.
“LEDs lend themselves to the kind of dim-ability and control that CFLs just can’t achieve. Equally as important, LEDs do not achieve the “catastrophic failure” mode common to incandescents. At the end of its very long life (22 years, based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2 hours per night at 11 cents per kilowatt hour), the LED will gradually lose its brightness.”
This fade-to-black gives homeowners time to anticipate the lamp’s demise and get a replacement. It also provides some peace of mind to individuals who have, too often, had an incandescent bulb blow at the absolutely worst moment in history.
Manufactured to meet or exceed the Energy Star program’s rigid requirements, Philips LEDs cut energy use by 85 percent, last 25 times longer, and save about $134 in electricity costs over their lifespan when compared to incandescents. Moreover, LEDs, though slightly smaller than the Edison incandescent bulb, fit into existing fixtures and work with standard dimmers, which means you, the consumer, can find a simple but lasting solution for that porch light, hall light, nursery light, or wherever accurate and unfailing light is a must.
It isn’t just about selling a product, either. As Manegold stresses, “Phillips has been very cognizant of insuring that the experience the user receives from LEDs is less focused on replicating the exact shape of an incandescent lamp or bulb and almost exclusively focused on making the experience (of buying and using our LEDs) 100 percent recognizable. This means that when you put the lamp behind the shade, you don’t know if it’s an incandescent or an LED, you just know it is the light you expect to have.”
(Correction: per Casanova, the reduced price of the A19is $14.97, not $16.97 as stated).