$50 Lightbulb Unveiled

Even people who like the concept of light energy bulbs have a few common complaints: they are too slow to light up, they are a pain in the butt to throw away when broken, and they don’t provide a natural light. LED lights could answer all those problems — but at a cost.

It’s the week of Lightfair International, a trade fair that from a geek perspective probably isn’t quite as much fun as CES or the like. But the big theme this week appears to be LED bulbs which, as the name suggests, are simply a bunch of light-emitting diodes inside a single bulb.

The technology means that, just as with a computer screen, the full brightness comes on immediately (or at least quick enough to be unnoticeable.) There’s no mercury, which means that it’s much safer to dispose of the bulbs. And the color tone of the light is much closer to an old-style lightbulb than the more familiar compact fluorescent bulbs.

There are downsides though: the LED bulbs need a special circuit because the diodes run on direct rather than alternating current, and the diodes need to be kept cool while running.

That’s reflected in the costs: the star attraction this week is SYLVANIA’s ULTRA A19, a prototype which will be the first LED bulb capable of producing the same light as a traditional 100 watt bulb. The 100 watt mark is significant as traditional incandescent 100 watt bulbs must be withdrawn from sale in January under US environmental legislation.

Meanwhile Phillips has unveiled a forthcoming range that goes up to 75 watt equivalent. 60 watt equivalents are already on sale for around $40.

In the long-run, the bulbs should be good value: the manufacturers of the A19 say it uses just 14 watts (ie a potential 86% cut in electricity consumption) and will last 25 times as long as a traditional bulb. Still, that may be a hard sell to a sceptical public wary of handing over a picture of Ulysses Grant in return for a single bulb.


4 Responses to $50 Lightbulb Unveiled

  1.  I am wary of the 25 times longer claim, too… The fluorescent bulbs out there claim 5 year life spans, and I rarely get 6 months to a year out of them… I have had a regular bulb last 3 years once and that was a left on all the time light. I will miss the trad. incandescent bulbs. I used them to keep tanks warm for lizards and to help warm air in rooms for other types of animals. Very sad that the Gov't. did not let the people vote on the issue. No voice.

    • I'm glad they didn't… just like politics, most of the people voting on that sort of thing are the pain-in-the-ass old farts that do nothing more than keep an eye out for the next thing to vote on that they don't agree with at face value. So one of their old-fart buddies says "ooohhh they're taking more of our FREEDOMS away!", they'd run to the polls, flood the polls with misinformed BS votes, tell their buddies to vote "no", they flood it some more, and then leave those of us that should be voting on it to have no voice at all. And since we aren't allowed to use any kind of smoothing algorithm to remove those bogus voters, they get the victory. Sadly, it happens all the damn time, behind the scenes, without anyone ever knowing. And that's why important decisions like these aren't left up to the people: because when you ask those people that are listening, you get nothing but noise.

      I have the same life-span experience as you with CFLs, they tend to die after 6 months to 1 year, depending on the quality (better quality = longer life). But I still string up and bludgeon anyone I EVER see using an incandescent bulb. The environmental effect that a single incandescent bulb has is so devastating by comparison to a short-lived CFL, the bludgeoning could only barely scratch the surface of making up for it. You say you use them to warm tanks? That's nice… welcome to 0.000001% of the people that use incandescent bulbs efficiently (and even still, probably not that much). You can just as well find them on Amazon or eBay if need be. Being as though such a minuscule percentage of people actually use them properly (instead of heating their house with the bulbs then using the A/C to cool it back off, like 99.99999% of the users of these bulbs), they deserve to be shuffled off to a dark corner of the internet, out of public harm.

      Now do you understand why they couldn't leave this up to the public?