Hot on the heels of Philips Lighting’s  victory in the L Prize  60W category, our industry is abuzz about another LED replacement bulb. Lighting Science Group  announced last week that it would be introducing a 60W equivalent omnidirectional LED A19 bulb  to the market that will retail under $15 — roughly less than half the price of most viable contenders currently in that space.
Part of the company’s Definity  line, the bulb will be produced jointly with Indian electronics manufacturer Dixon Technologies  and rolled out first to that country at the end of this year. Using just 8.5W and producing a lumen equivalent to a 60W incandescent, the bulb aims to provide an affordable way to offset India’s less-than-reliable power grid, especially with a peak load electricity deficit expected to increase more than 15 percent in the near term.
Lighting Science Group plans to introduce the bulb worldwide in the first quarter next year, including a U.S. launch. Price is understandably the biggest factor in broad stateside consumer acceptance of LED lighting technology, so this is a significant development. In an interview coming up in our September issue, Jean Paul Freyssinier of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  even tells us that the public at large cares far more about how much LED bulbs cost than how long they last, and would tolerate a significant tradeoff to get them priced right.
The good news is, with this new Definity bulb, there’s no such tradeoff. While the useful lifetime won’t be nailed down until Lighting Facts testing is completed (anticipated by January 2012), Lighting Science Group is confident it will last between 25,000 and 35,000 hours. The bad news is: The CRI is 70, far below the minimum 80 CRI required  by Energy Star  for its rated CFLs and in another league entirely relative to Philips’ L Prize winner at 90-plus.
The available color temperatures have yet to be determined, as does the ultimate price — how far below $15 will it be? I don’t think many consumers will tolerate a 70 CRI bulb at $14, but they may at $4, depending on the application, of course. What scares me about an inexpensive LED bulb is that it has the potential to convince masses of people that they don’t like LED lighting right out of the gate if it under-delivers in order to hit a price point. We saw it happen with poor-quality CFLs, exacerbated by fluorescent’s existing image problem as an institutional light source. At least Lighting Science Group is reputable, with other products from the same line living up to Energy Star’s stringent performance standards . But having legitimate product in that price range could actually confuse consumers, who are notoriously brand agnostic when it comes to lighting. All the more reason why education — ours and theirs — continues to be key.