Progress is fast in the LED lighting industry. Less than two years ago Philips Lighting was awarded the US Department of Energy’s $10M L Prize for its LED 60W-replacement bulb. And today the DOE announced that the bulb has shown no falloff in light output after 25,000 hours of continuous luminous maintenance testing. (The L Prize contest requirements were for only 70 percent of the original light output after 25,000 hours.) From the DOE announcement: “At 25,000 hours of testing, the actual lumen maintenance was 100%, and chromaticity remains less than .002, which serves as an indicator for the long term potential for a well-designed and constructed product, and validates the methods being used for predicting performance.”
However, you can no longer purchase the L Prize bulb from Philips (although I see you can purchase one from Amazon for a whopping $60.)
A Philips spokesperson told me: “Originally developed in 2009, the L Prize was ahead of its time, but current lighting technologies are starting to eclipse the L Prize, and we want to move to the other bulbs that look like the rest of the product line.
“You will notice our first generation 60 watt LED with the yellow cap is also being phased out in favor the current iteration that looks like Hue [Philips' wirelessly controlled RGB bulbs.] We’re moving to a Hue form factor that has a similar aesthetic across all lines.
Again, this is due to the fact the technology/product has evolved and we want to have consistency across the product line.”
Philips began phasing out the bulb as far back as March of this year. The customer service response to inquires was, “Thank you for contacting Philips Lighting Customer Care. Our Philips 10-Watt (60W) LED A19 Soft White (2700K) Light Bulb (L Prize Award Winner) is being updated to a Philips 11-Watt (60W) A19 Soft White (2700K) Dimmable LED. The CRI is 81, a Rated average life of 25,000-Hours with 800 Lumens.”
The L Prize bulb used 10W to deliver 940lm, also at 2700K, but at a CRI of 92 – a really nice, high-quality light output but one which Philips apparently will no longer be offering in replacement light bulbs.
Also in March, Cree entered the replacement bulb market with its 9.5W 800lm bulb for $14 which has proved to be a very popular, largely because of its price point. Its dimming, while quite functional, is not as flicker-free as the original L prize bulb, nor is its light pattern as hemispherically uniform; Its CRI is a respectable 80. But its popularity seems to validate the Cree model that consumers see light as a commodity and don’t want to have to pay over $20 for a light bulb.
Two different models for exploring and expanding the LED replacement bulb market: Philips, which is an experienced company in the end-lighting business, has been trying out what kinds of bulbs can command a high-profit margin (e. g. the Hue bulbs come in a $200 eval kit that includes three controllable RGB bulbs and a wireless router.). Cree, a neophyte in the replacement bulb business, has shown its willingness to jump into a very low-profit commodity market with the expectation of jump-starting a consumer market for its LED components. There’s probably room for both strategies.