Consumers warm to LED bulbs as prices fall

15. dubna 2013 v 9:16 |  LED downlight
If consumers are willing to spend $5 for a cup of coffee, how about paying $25 for a light bulb? An LED version of the 60-watt bulb just broke $13.

"They're getting to a point where more people are willing to splurge," he said.

Thanks to subsidies from utilities, improved quality and lower manufacturing costs, sales are expected to rise significantly this year, Connors said.

Part of the shift is by default. Since last year, incandescent bulbs are being phased out.

The 75-watt and 100-watt bulbs are no longer being manufactured, and the 40- and 60-watters will be eliminated next year.

Although retailers can still sell the bulbs if they have supplies, most retailers are now stocking halogens, compact fluorescents and LEDs, with only a few incandescent choices.

Although some might say LEDs are selling for lack of a better option, Connors thinks demand for LED will double this year for a different reason: the availability of cheaper, better bulbs.

Early adopters who were initially disappointed can now find mercury-free bulbs that do what incandescents do well: reach maximum brightness immediately and have the capability to be used with dimmers, motion detectors and enclosed fixtures.

Although today's prices are a big plunge from $70 for a bulb in 2009, they still seem exorbitant for people used to paying 50 cents for an incandescent. But a 60-watt LED bulb that costs $13 pays for itself in about two years.

Assuming use of three hours a day, an incandescent burns about $7 in electricity per year, an LED $1 per year, said Mike Watson, vice president of marketing at Cree Inc., an LED manufacturer in North Carolina.

People used to choosing by wattage alone now have to look at lumens for brightness and kelvins for color. Consumers have to read labels now, said Kim Sherman, senior product portfolio manager at Xcel Energy.

The lack of consistency in size or shape makes it difficult for consumers to easily pick out the bulb they want. Besides 400 or 800 lumens and 2,700 or 4,000 kelvins, they have to read the label for a bulb's ability to be dimmed or used in an enclosed fixture.

Consumers who want to replicate the features from an incandescent or halogen with an LED bulb often need assistance, Connors said. Dimmability is a big issue.

Most high-quality LEDs will dim without problems, but some bulbs work best with certain brands of dimmers. "The consumer's best bet is to keep the packaging and the receipt, test it and return it if it doesn't meet expectations," Connors said.

Even an LED's size and shape can cause problems. Many of the original recessed LED spotlights and floodlights didn't fit existing openings. Cree changed the shape of its new A19 bulb to the classic incandescent.

Some are avoiding LEDs because of bad experiences with compact fluorescents, or CFLs. Manufacturers got it right this time, Connors said. LED bulbs are rugged compared with incandescents and CFLs.
 

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