Is New Government Subsidized Green Light Bulb worth the High Sticker Price

Philips New LED Light Bulb Wins $10 Million DOE L-Prize, But Who Loses?

By Mark J. Donovan

The Department of Energy recently announced that Philips won the coveted $10 Million L-Prize for creating an affordable Green light bulb that is built in the United States. Affordable, however, turns out to mean a light bulb with a $50 price tag, and built in the United States means final assembly occurs in the U.S., but the actual components are built overseas.

Philips new “affordable” ultra green light bulb is LED based. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LED technology has been around for decades.

You may be familiar with them as they are the cute little red and green little lights that are used on all sorts of home electronics and computers.

Manufactures have already been selling LED light bulbs for a number of years into residential applications, however the new Philips Green LED light bulb is designed to be a 10 Watt bulb that produces the same lumens of light as a traditional 60 Watt incandescent bulb. Competitive LED bulbs currently consume 12.5 watts of power to produce the equivalent light as a 60 Watt incandescent bulb. The price, however, on these slightly higher power LED bulbs is around $25, or basically half of the new ultra “Green” light bulbs. This translates into paying 100% more for the new ultra green light bulb that provides only 20% more in energy savings.

To be completely upfront I am not jumping for joy for this new ultra green bulb. I have a couple of reasons for my dubious opinion of it. First, at $50 a bulb it’s simply way too expensive, even if it lasts the 10 years they claim it will. The average homeowner today can barely pay to fill up his or her car’s gas tank, let alone start replacing $1 incandescent light bulbs with $50 ones. Yes, they claim the price will come down, but we’ve been hearing the same thing for the compact florescent light bulb for years. They still cost several dollars apiece.

Also, let’s get real, how many people really expect the bulb to last 10 years. Either from bulb breakage, or simply replacing the light fixture, the chances are high you won’t use or have the light bulb for 10 years to recover your investment in it.

Philips 10W LED Bulb

Second, the government and Philips are claiming this new LED green bulb will last 30,000 hours, or approximately 30 times the life of the standard 60 Watt incandescent bulb. However, they also briefly mention that the brightness will “wane” as the bulb ages. I can’t help but wonder if the waning is similar to the phenomenon with the highly touted compact fluorescent light bulbs, where with every time the bulb is cycled on and off it takes longer and longer for it to get to full brightness. I’ve personally observed this phenomenon after about a year of use with the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. After about a year it takes nearly 10 minutes for the CFL bulb to glow from a dim lighted hue to “full” brightness when it is first turned on.

Admittedly LED lighting technology has some benefits. It truly produces more lumens per watt than incandescent and fluorescent light bulb technology. It also operates much cooler, and is less susceptible to temperature, humidity, and shock. But this said, at $50 a piece, the Philips 10W LED light bulb is simply a technology that isn’t ready for wide spread adoption. The price will need to drop by a factor of 10X before consumers start going out on a limb and testing the light bulb in their home and in real world applications.

Consumers should be forewarned, however. The traditional 75 watt incandescent bulb will no longer be allowed to be sold in the United States next year, and the ubiquitous 60 watt incandescent bulb goes away the following year.

Unless the Federal government quickly changes the law associated with this mandate, you’ll have no choice but to either use the mercury filled CFL bulbs or these new very high priced LED light bulbs within the next 2 years. You may want to begin stock piling your favorite incandescent bulbs and/or writing to your congressman.

For help on building a new custom home, see’s New Home Construction Bid Sheet. The New Home Construction Bid Sheet provides you with the knowledge on how to plan a custom home building project, and what to look for when hiring contractors for your new home construction. It also includes a detailed cost breakdown table and spreadsheet for estimating your own new home construction building costs.

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