NEW YORK - How much would you pay for an amazing, state-of-the-art light bulb? Shoppers will be asking themselves that very question at Home Depot and other outlets starting Sunday - Earth Day - when the bulb that won a $10 million government contest goes on sale.
The bulb is the most energy-efficient yet, lasts about 20 years, and is supposed to give off a pleasing, natural-looking light. But what separates it from the pack most is the price: $60.
That price reflects the cost of the components, and is the price commercial customers will pay. But the manufacturer, Netherlands-based Philips, is discounting it right away to $50 for consumers, and working on deals with electric utilities to discount by as much as $20 to $30 more.
This means the bulb will cost anywhere from $20 to $60.
Congress launched the L Prize in 2007, with the goal of creating a bulb to replace the standard, energy-wasting incandescent 60-watt bulb. The requirements were rigorous, and Philips was the only entrant. Its bulb was declared the winner last year, after a year and a half of testing.
Utilities already offer rebates on energy-saving products such as compact-fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. In return for efforts to curb energy use, regulators allow utilities to raise rates. The discounts are invisible to consumers - utilities pay stores directly.
For $25 or $35, the bulb looks like a good investment compared to an incandescent bulb. It uses only 10 watts of power, meaning it saves about $8 per year in electricity if it is used four hours a day. It’s expected to last at least 30,000 hours, or 30 times longer than an incandescent. At four hours per day, that is 20 years.
But the Philips bulb is not only up against $1 incandescent bulbs. CFLs are nearly as energy efficient. They use about 15 watts for 60 watts worth of light. They’re much cheaper too, typically costing around $5.
The Philips bulb has some advantages over a CFL: It lasts three times longer and gives off a more natural-looking light. It also does not contain the toxic mercury vapor that is inside CFLs.