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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The only thing missing at this point is programmable temperature setting. Then a bulb would be truly perfect.

Posted by AngryInCali | Report as abusive

If the new bulbs are better than we don’t need the government to force us to change, because people would do so gladly. But you keep betting your little 5-year plans, Comrade Felix.

Posted by RobSterling | Report as abusive


Posted by RobSterling | Report as abusive

Coming soon is a dimmable ESL light that will provide more choices and even better price. It will be available in August.

Hopefully there will be information soon on how the new products compare in cost, energy consumption, safety of use, lifespan and of course environmentally friendly in use and in the landfill.

To find that every bulb in my home I replaced with a hydro “green” deal have mercury in them, is infuriating. When halogen bulbs first came out all 3 I bought blew up with sparks flying and one started on fire. Talk about from the frying pan to the fire, literally!

Info on the ESL bulb orporation-submits-electron-stimulated-l uminescence%E2%84%A2-a-type-bulb-for-ul- certification-and-will-be-launched-to-us -consumers-in-august-2011-june-24-2011/

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

“If the new bulbs are better than we don’t need the government to force us to change, because people would do so gladly. But you keep betting your little 5-year plans, Comrade Felix”

Why would a lightbulb company bother with the cost and effort of designing a new light bulb when the existing ones sell just fine?

If the govt was truly socialist, they wouldn’t add more light bulb regulation, they would instead make the lightbulbs themselves.

Posted by ReuterReader76 | Report as abusive

First, for those who might be considering whether it might make economic sense to buy the new LED bulbs:

Should You Buy a $40 Light Bulb?

Second, that’s the kind of aesthetic design improvement we’ve been hoping to see!

Ref link:

Posted by politicalcalcs | Report as abusive

This page have UV1 comparing their ESL and its uses to the others in light quality and uses and what I asked for above and because they are available already in other countries, are getting good reviews.  /

Comparison review t-bulbs-beyond-cfl-led-introducing-esl/

Once these awards are given, it will help us see who is in the running to be the new household lightbulb… ctAward.php

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

OOOPS … One more thing to look for before you pay a lot for a light that might flicker or adds heat to your home or doesn’t last or meet its hype… does the product have energystar rating and you do your homework and some testing of your own. l.pr_why_es_com

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

I only have LED night lights, solar garden lights, and soon a Xmas strand but I have really grown to like their color. Yellow is old and does not need emulating.

Posted by MyLord | Report as abusive

An LED might be rated for 20,000 hours, but that is not the mean time between failure; rather, it is a mean time between 70% light output from original specification. There are obvious ways to lengthen that 20,000 hours, knowing that ALL LEDs are dimmable.

They have all sorts of temperature colors, especially for commercial bulbs that cost about 40% more than residential versions. Because of energy codes, commercial projects do not use incandescent bulbs except for the more efficient halogens (like the tungsten bulbs in MR11s and MR16s used for decorative / spots).

I really don’t understand this intransigence towards incandescent bulbs. Reading / listening to people complain about the ban, is like rehashing the arguments about raising CAFE standards on fuel efficiency.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

My problem with these new bulbs is the cost. I used to be able to buy 4 100 watt incandescent for about a buck. Now at ten bucks for one compact fluorescent(CF), LED, whatever, I do not see how I am saving any money. I would love to see a $ for $ KWH cost comparison including purchase price. If its going to take 5 years to break even on the bulb cost plus energy usage, it is pointless. Plus, if you frequently turn lights off and on, the lifespan of these bulbs shortens dramatically. I have yet to see any CF bulb I buy last a year. If they would put date codes on the bulbs, so you could get a replacement for free if it dies prematurely, would be nice. Plus, I love to read and I HATE the color of the CF bulbs. I want to read under a friggin WHITE light, not an off yellow color. Lastly, there is a story about one small town that gave away free CF bulbs to everyone. The net result? energy use actually increased! This happened because people left lights on more since they were more energy efficient.

Posted by Neutrino | Report as abusive

If someone started a black market for incandescent bulbs, they would have no trouble selling them. I am waiting for the day when someone gets arrested for the illegal manufacture and distribution of light bulbs. I want to be on the jury of that trial! Making light bulbs illegal is pure insanity.

Posted by Neutrino | Report as abusive

The best light bulb is one that never needs to be replaced, and we’ve had that technology for 111 years.

The centennial light in Livermore, California, has been on almost continuously for 110+ years…

Posted by ChrisMaresca | Report as abusive

Here in Japan, LED bulbs have been available for a while, and we love them. We (one local, one improper Bostonian) found the bluer versions pretty ugly, but the warmer color bulbs are great. The warmer color bulbs are slightly less efficient than the blue version (these are indirect LED bulbs that drive a phosphor with a single LED, and you have to pay extra for dimmable ones), but still more than 6 times more efficient than incandescant and somewhat better than CFL. I hate the way fluorescnt bulbs fail: the slower and slower to turn on and flickering are horrible, and I hate the incredible amount of waste heat generated by incandescent: LED bulbs are noticeably warm to the touch but perfectly safe to handle even after extended periods of being on. Between the efficiency and the long operating life, I’m perfectly happy paying more than US$60 a bulb. If the price comes down, everyone else will love them too; they really are better.

Posted by David239 | Report as abusive

Addendum from Tokyo: the news this morning reports that sale of LED bulbs (in units, not yen!) has now exceeded incandecent bulbs. Kewl.

Posted by David239 | Report as abusive

I am living in japan and
all of My japanese friends are using LED now.
colored light bulbs

Posted by redwee | Report as abusive

Here is one pretty perfect lifebulb ermmm lightbulb…,2817,238 7213,00.asp

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

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Posted by midoshubra22 | Report as abusive

Nice article. Although the incandescents are going away, you can still get them. LED’s will definitely last a lot longer.

I found a place to get a wide variety of light bulbs at great prices.


Use Coupon code BULBS10

Posted by betterbulbs | Report as abusive