Perhaps you recall that, a few years ago, the Department of Energy put together a competition called the L Prize. This was designed to promote LED lighting by giving a big cash prize, and some great PR, to the lighting manufacturer that was first able to produce a bulb capable of meeting certain stringent criteria. In August 2011, lighting giant Philips won part of the L Prize and received a cool $10 million for their trouble. What they produced was an “A” bulb, which fits in a standard household socket, yet is light-years ahead of the incandescents that it’ll be replacing. That bulb is finally available for sale and one can be yours for the low, low price of $60.
The L Prize winning bulb (yes, it’s an self-congratulatory name, but it’s better than the 10A19/LPRIZE-PRO/2700-900 DIM) might be initially expensive, but it has some outstanding specifications that will make it cheap over the long term. Consuming just 10W, it’s able to produce 940 lumens, making it a good deal brighter than your average 60W, and it should last for 27.4 years if you use it three hours a day. The warranty alone is good for 36 months or 15,330 hours, whichever comes first. It’s a 2700K bulb, which means it’s a “warm white” shade, not like those ugly blue-tinted CFLs you bought a few years ago.
If you’ve purchase lighting recently you might have noticed the Philips AmbientLED 12.5-Watt A19, which looks a whole lot like the L Prize winner, but is available for $24. The L Prize bulb is immediately recognizable because of the three neon yellow sections (the remote phosphor) on its top, but past that the two look a whole lot alike. What’s sort of difference does the extra $36 get you? The AmbientLED consumes 12.5W and produced 800 lumens, meaning that the more expensive bulb is over 33% more efficient in terms of lumens-per-watt. Of course the AmbientLED is a perfectly fine bulb so you might think of this as paying more for the performance model, the way you would with a luxury sedan.
Sooner or later some rebates will kick in and this $60 bulb will be in the sub-$30 range, plus its efficiency gains will trickle down to the more affordable models. Until then, it’s a nice bulb and a (relatively) cheap thrill if you are into lighting or the energy market.
And when I write that it’s a cheap thrill, I’m speaking from experience — I actually purchased one and have been using it. I wasn’t able to do much scientific testing but I did find it to be noticeably brighter than a normal 60W-equivalent bulb. I measured the power consumption to be about 8W, so either my testing tool is off or that 10W number is just reference point that none of the bulbs will go over. I’ve just started using it though, so I won’t fully know the color temperature (it seemed a bit cool) or power consumption until the bulb has had some time to break in, which normally is considered have happened by the 1000 hour mark.