Would You Pay $39.99 for an Energy-Efficient Light Bulb?

By Eliza Strickland | October 5, 2009 12:45 pm

LED-light-bulbA $40 price tag for a single light bulb may seem ridiculous to most consumers. But the Dutch company Lemnis Lighting hopes people will listen to all the arguments for their high-tech LED bulb, and consider it a bargain. [W]hat if it used 90% less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb, cut greenhouse gas emissions and saved you about $280 over its 25-year life span? [Los Angeles Times].

LEDs — light-emitting diodes — are semiconductors that glow and are considered one of the great hopes for slashing carbon emissions from lighting, which consumes about 19% of energy production worldwide [Los Angeles Times]. LEDs are already used in commercial lighting and electronic displays, but the cold, invariable glow has not caught on for household fixtures. Lemnis says its Pharox60 bulb, which just came on the market in the United States, is a major improvement, as it casts a warm glow similar to that of a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb and works in any normal light socket. The company also says this bulb is the first that’s compatible with dimmer switches. Finally, unlike curly compact fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs don’t contain toxic mercury and can be recycled.

There’s a growing market for energy efficient light bulbs, especially since traditional incandescents are already being phased out in Europe, and will be banned under new U.S. energy standards that take effect in 2012. Still, the initial price for Lemnis’s bulbs may cause sticker shock. Incandescent bulbs cost less than $1 each (33 cents per bulb at Home Depot) and dimmable compact fluorescent lights are available for less than $5 each…. In the recession, it’s unclear how many buyers will feel the cost is worth it, even with the much longer lifespan and the electricity savings [Earth2Tech].

But according to Lemnis founder Warner Philips, it’s all a matter of perspective. “Compared to the entry price for solar panels, we feel this is a more accessible energy saving investment” [CNET], he says.

Related Content:
80beats: Can Laser Treatment Rejuvenate the Incandescent Bulb?
80beats: Big Advance in OLED Lighting Might Signal Beginning of the End for the Bulbs
DISCOVER: Future Tech shows why the light bulb is becoming as quaint as a vacuum tube

Image: Lemnis Lighting

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Charles Schmidt

    The real question is can most people afford to pay that much with reduced wages, job loss and many other problems now. Yes it is a good idea and would no doubt save in the end but….

  • http://blog.denniswilliamson.us Dennis

    The price should follow a similar curve to that of high-brightness LED flashlights. When they first came out they were in the $40 – $100 range (approximately) and now the cheapest ones are $2 – $5.

  • Haruspex

    I’ve been looking forward to an affordable LED light bulb. Compared to the offerings we’ve had so far, this is excellent news. Give this another 3-5 years and it will be a very viable and attractive option to the masses. For now, I’m ready to get a few.

  • Keri

    Of all the power consumed in my house, a miniscule portion goes to interior lighting. Air conditioner, heater, refrigerator, water heater, clothes washer and dryer, dishwasher, computers, fans, lawn mower, outdoor flood lighting, aquarium, all use more electricity than my interior lighting.

    Compared to all that, the energy savings from a few super-efficient bulbs is virtually undetectable.

    Meanwhile, I *will* notice spending $40 on a light bulb instead of $5 or $1.

    If they do come down in price to a comparable level – under $10 at least – then I’d consider it.

  • Jay

    $40 light bulb for what is the least costly source of energy in my house is way too much. I have no less than 50 light bulbs in my house, and thinking of spending $2000 for light bulbs and getting little savings compared to the other appliances like air conditioners, heaters, washers etc is not economical in any way you look at it. Just like hybrid cars, you spend thousands more for what maybe 15 to 20 miles per gallon more? You may save $1800 in gas a year, but need to have the car for at least 2 to 3 years to recoup the price of the car. Then you need to drive the car another 2 to 3 years to recoup the price of a battery should one need one. I wonder of hybrids have LED bulbs?

  • http://newsy.com Lauren

    No. but I do think solar energy is the way to go.

  • Jeremy

    Instead of exchanging light bulbs, now you are exchanging lamps.

  • Buzz Aldrin

    Back when CFLs came out the retail prices were also skyhigh.

    Then the local power companies and government utility agencies came to subsidize them. The prices then became affordable at ~$9.99 for multiple packs (two’s, then four’s, etc.). Now they are much more affordable even without these initial subsidies.

    Compared to CFLs these LED bulbs have >30,000 hours of MTBF and operating usage of around 2 Watts for an equivalent 60W light output instead of ~10 Watts for CFLs*. That’s 1/30th of power savings vice 1/6 of CFLs compared to 60W incandescent bulbs. Plus, it will take you some 15 long-life incandescent bulbs to match the rated life of these LED bulbs. These halogen bulbs are around $7 each for a 2000-hour life.

    I for one think the initial price shock is admittedly steep without any subsidies. With all those positives above, most budget-minded folks like me will still look at CFLs until the prices come down significantly.

    *For those non-techie folks: an incandescent bulb consuming 60 Watts does not equate a 60W light output in lumens. Most of that electrical power is lost from the heat generated and a fraction is turned into visible light. That is why an LED with a 2 Watt consumption can produce an equivalent light output in lumens since LEDs are very efficient at converting the electrical power into visible light. Only a fraction is converted into heat.

  • PP
  • John

    Ok. But if everyone in North America bought just one…

  • John

    Ok, but if everyone in North America bought just one of these bulbs…

  • http://clubneko.net nick

    I’d like to point out that you can buy (non-dimmable) LED spotlight bulbs for no less than 11 bucks at Costco. (They’ve already dropped from the 13 I paid for the original one I bought)

  • Ralph in illinois

    No I will not be buying them for the price in the story. I am very comfortable the price will be falling in the coming months. I am also very comfortable that continued use of CFL light bulbs will fade out, as it should! We need to slow the use of any product we can that has the ability to add any more problem chemicals including mercury into our world! Particularly when we are continuing to see problems with mercury exposure. We are witnessing what appears to be “a death by a thousand cuts”. No one single amount of mercury poorly disposed of is a problem, but multiply the little addition of one bulb by thousands , or even tens , or hundreds of thousands. HERE is where we see the damage amounting to a problem.

  • addicted to bad

    $40????? for one bulb? No way I am spending that much any time soon. Thats a grocery bill for me. Or 1/2 an electric bill. I can’t afford to be idealistic, sorry.

  • Frank

    25 years! I am forty now, I might not have the dexterity to change the thing when it burns out.

    If the light output is soft and natural I’ll buy one to start.

  • Warner

    I’m with Lemnis, the company that introduced the Pharox.
    Based on a $40 purchase price, 4 hours of light a day, and a (highest tier- the kilowatthours you save first) average kWh price of $0.15, you earn back the investment within 3 years / before the end of warranty. The rest of the lifetime (est 35,000 hours) you’re in the money. We’ll be looking to give these to you where you pay back through your energy savings, i.e. no cash out (againb – of course – assuming you use them and save energy / save money). if you get dimmable warm white light and you don;t have cash out, would you consider switching to LED?

  • http://www.hybridlightbulb.com JustSayNoThank2CFLs

    This is something more pratical.
    Hybrid light bulbs.
    Mercury free, and will be as energy efficient as CFLs. Find the first generation versions at Home Depot right now and the second and third generation will be available soon.


    LED’s are still a long way off.

  • taytay il

    im doing a report on energy saving light bulbs and im was trying to figure out if i was for it or against it but i just dont think i can aford 40 dollars for one light bulb thats ridulace i dont know anyone thats my age in collage that can afford that when they are 2oo miles away from there parnets since they are at coolage my parnets only pay for the things i have to have to live like food nand a dorm and a few extras but if i want somthing i usally have to get it myself.

  • http://www.terpllc.com/LED Vicki Terpstra

    Our main business is solar energy systems, but we cannot stomach installing a system to offset electric usage without first addressing energy efficiency first. LED lighting can help to conserve so much energy that it is definitely the first change we recommend to customers. However, we have also been frustrated with the limited options available on the store shelves, and the prices are exhorbitant.

    We’re now dealing directly with manufacturers so we can can offer a variety of product styles at low prices. Check out our site TERPLLC if you want more info.

  • http://kavanhayward.com Kavan Hayward

    Thanks for the great article. It seems that people are finally starting to get it and are doing what needs to be done to lower their carbon footprint. Now if they would just lower the price of things like LED light bulbs and give more insenstives to purchasing and installing wind turbines or solar panels. Then maybe everyone would get involved.


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