Diane Cardwell writes a good article in the New York Times about the competitive edge that LED lights are gaining. While this is an article about the US, is the same true elsewhere?
Lower-Cost LEDs Offer Some Competition to Compact Fluorescent Lights
For years, lighting manufacturers have labored to make LED lights mimic the warm feel of incandescent bulbs. But what they offered in features and quality, they could not match in price.
As a result, many consumers and businesses looking for efficiency and lower cost opted for compact fluorescent lights, even if the light quality was often seen as worse.
Now, LED manufacturers say there is little need to make that choice.
On Wednesday, General Electric announced the Bright Stik, a cylindrical 60-watt equivalent available in soft white for $9.97 for a three-pack through Home Depot.
It follows a new LED from Philips, which last month came on the market at $4.97, with a two-for-one deal for the first 90 days. And TCP, a company that makes energy-efficient lighting under its own brand as well as for Home Depot and Walmart, has an LED on the market for $4.88.
For G.E., the new bulbs are a way for cost-conscious consumers to finally move away from the much-criticized compact fluorescents.
“We needed to paint a picture for consumers and retailers of, ‘O.K., what does it mean if C.F.L. doesn’t exist?’ ” said Tom Boyle, G.E. Lighting’s chief innovation manager. “This is our shot at it.”
Lighting executives have been predicting the end of the compact fluorescent for some time. It was the first big alternative to emerge to replace the standard incandescent bulb, which was cheap but inefficient and unable to meet new government standards.
But it dissatisfied many consumers, who complained about the harsh light quality of early models. They could also be slow to warm up and difficult to dim, and they contain trace amounts of mercury.
LEDs have long been more expensive, but those who favor them say they offer better light quality and more flexibility. As prices have steadily dropped — in part because of government regulations making it easier for more LEDs to qualify for generous discounts — consumers have been moving to them.
Compact fluorescents still far outsell LEDs, representing 40 percent of bulb shipments for the most popular consumer models in the first quarter of this year, versus 6 percent for LEDs, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group.
But experts say that demand for compact fluorescents is dwindling, while it is rising for LEDs. Compact fluorescent shipments were down by almost 10 percent for the first quarter compared with the same period last year, while shipments of LEDs were up by more than 150 percent, according to the manufacturers’ association.
“The only thing C.F.L.s had going for them for a number of years is that they were a lot cheaper,” said Jesse Foote, a lighting industry analyst at Navigant, a research and consulting firm.
“The cost difference at this point is not big enough to really justify the rest of the differences,” he said.
Last year, Navigant estimated 355 million compact fluorescents and 11.3 million LEDs were sold for North American homes. The firm had forecast that residential compact fluorescent sales would fall by 4.5 percent a year, to 234 million by 2023, and that LED sales would grow 38.3 percent annually in the same period, to 210 million. But given the recent fast price drops, Mr. Foote said he would expect the change to accelerate.
Although there are still applications for which the compact fluorescent is better suited than the LED — like high-intensity lighting of, say, 150 watts, manufacturers say — major companies like G.E. and Osram Sylvania are shifting their energies to LED innovation.
“Frankly, everybody will get out of C.F.L. over time,” said Linda Pastor, LED product manager at G.E. Lighting, where executives say they will continue to ship compact fluorescents but will no longer invest in their development. “It’s just a question of when.”
Philips continues to invest in and introduce new compact fluorescent products, said Silvie Casanova, a spokeswoman. One is a bulb that dims more like an incandescent, going through warmer tones rather than just lowering light levels.
“You’re still going to see investment and a place for compact fluorescents for quite some time,” she said.
But suddenly there is fierce price competition at the low end of the LED spectrum. The new LED from Philips is a utilitarian bulb that does not dim and is meant for places like basements and laundry rooms, where a consistent level of illumination is perhaps more important than ambience.
TCP’s bulb does dim and qualifies as an energy-saving product under the government Energy Star program, said Lesley Matt, the company’s marketing director, which can bring the price below standard retail.
The G.E. bulb is aimed mainly at businesses that now use compact fluorescents, like hotels. Home Depot began offering the model on its website Wednesday and plans to have it on shelves by midsummer.