The perfect light bulb arrives

By Felix Salmon
July 6, 2011
very excited about dimmable LED bulbs.

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110705_TECH_lightbulb_EX.jpgBack in September 2009, I got very excited about dimmable LED bulbs. They cost $40 apiece, they were only 7W — a 40W equivalent, in terms of brightness — and it wasn’t obvious how dimmable they were. But back then and for a long time afterwards it seemed as though Philips were the only real player in the dimmable-LED-bulbs game.

But now Farhad Manjoo has found something even better, from a startup called Switch Lighting. Its brighter: Switch offers both 60W and 75W equivalents in the warm-white color of incandescents. And they’re only $20 apiece, compared to $45 for something similar from Philips. What’s more, that price is falling: it should come down to $15 next year. For a bulb with a lifespan of 20,000 hours, as Manjoo says, that’s a great deal.

These bulbs are perfect replacements for any incandescents, even ones on dimmer switches:

Switch bulbs work beautifully with any dimmer, and they dim without flicker. The powerful driver enables instant-on lighting, so there’s no lag as the bulb warms up.

I’m now officially not in the slightest bit worried about the fact that old-fashioned incandescents are going to be outlawed by 2014. Better, cheaper replacements are already here — just as you’d expect. Laws like this are a bit like laws governing fuel economy or NOx emissions: you set an ambitious target, the industry says it can’t be done, you stick to it, and then it turns out it’s eminently possible after all.

I just stocked up on a large number of reflectors, which contribute enormously to my massive electricity bill. By the time this bunch of bulbs runs out, I’m confident that dimmable LEDs will be plentiful and cheap — and quite possibly available in reflector format, too. The age of the incandescent bulb is coming to an end, and I for one won’t mourn it.

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