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LED prices drop as competition heats up

LED prices drop as competition heats up

Price check in aisle one. LED prices are dropping significantly in the lightbulb aisle at Home Depot as Cree launches LEDs that cost $10 to $14, half the price of some. They’ll be alongside Philips’ new $15 LED and the top-rated LED from Consumer Reports’ tests, a Home Depot EcoSmart bulb. It’s around $14, down from $26 just months ago.

“Cree’s goal is to drive 100 percent LED adoption,” says David Elien, vice president of marketing and business development. “Our primary focus is getting LEDs to be brighter and cheaper. The fundamental problem is getting my mom not to cringe when she sees the price.” Most LEDs we tested cost $25 to $60 without rebates last fall. Manufacturers and industry experts expect that once the price of a 60-watt replacement is under $10, sales will surge.

In nine months the 60-watt incandescent, the most common bulb, and the 40-watt bulb fade away. They can no longer be made or imported, but stores can sell existing stock. “That change gives consumers an impetus to look at LEDs. They can still look at CFLs but they might not like the color, the slow start up, or mercury so manufacturers see this as an opportunity,” says Dr. John Curran, a solid-state lighting technical consultant to manufacturers and the federal government.

Our lighting experts will put the Cree LEDs through preliminary tests and we’ll report back very soon. Until then Cree says that the three dimmable LEDs replace 60- and 40-watt bulbs and last 25,000 hours. One 60-watt replacement uses only 9.5 watts and is supposed to instantly give off a bright, warm light. At $13 our experts say it takes about 1.8 years to pay for itself, based on the national average electricity rate. The other 60-watt replacement, $14, gives off a much cooler light. Replacing a 40-watt bulb is a $10 LED. All come with a 10-year limited warranty and are available now at Home Depot’s website and in stores in several weeks.

These bulbs are not Energy Star qualified yet and usually that matters if you’re looking for utility rebates. “We’re going through the Energy Star qualification process now,” says Elien, adding that in the meantime Cree is working with utility companies to offer rebates without waiting for the Energy Star. The ultimate goal is that someday LEDs will cost as much, or as little, as CFLs. Until then see our Ratings of dozens of LEDs, CFLs, and halogen bulbs, and note the test results, including brightness and warm-up times, and use the payback time to help you choose the best bulb for your socket.

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