Cree, a manufacturer and supplier of high-quality LEDs, has launched its own line of LED light bulbs that will compete directly with Philips, GE, and generic bulbs from the likes of Best Buy. The cheapest of Cree’s LED bulbs costs less than $ 10, and they’re all backed by a (rather uncustomary) 10-year warranty. Perhaps most importantly, though, Cree’s LED bulbs are shaped just like an incandescent bulb, and emit a light pattern and color temperature that is also very reminiscent of incandescent bulbs.
There are three bulbs in Cree’s new lineup: a warm white 60W-equivalent bulb that costs $ 13; a daylight 60W-equivalent bulb that costs $ 14; and a warm white 40W-equivalent that costs $ 10. The $ 13 warm white (2700K) bulb produces 800 lumens at 9.5 watts (84.2 lumens-per-watt); the $ 14 daylight (5000K) bulb produces 800 lumens at 9 watts (88.9 lpw); and the $ 10 ($ 9.97) warm white bulb produces 450 lumens at 6 watts (75 lpw). All three bulbs are dimmable, rated for 25,000 hours of use, and a CRI (color rendering index) of 80. In short, these are solid LED bulbs that would work well in most settings. (See: How a Philips light bulb uses blue LEDs to produce white light.)
Vital statistics aside, the most important feature of the Cree bulb is that it looks like an incandescent bulb — both visually, and the light that it produces. As you can see in the image below, the arrangement of the LEDs is clearly modeled after an incandescent bulb’s filament. Cree calls this particular design a “LED filament tower,” featuring 10 pairs of high-voltage XP-E LEDs. (See: Cree releases landmark 200 lumen-per-watt LED.) Inside the tower is the driver circuity, along with the necessary cooling. Coupled with the glass case (which is coated with rubber to make it shatter-resistant), the Cree bulbs produce an omnidirectional light pattern very similar to normal bulb. According to our sister site Geek.com, the 60W-equivalent warm white bulb looks and feels a lot like a 60-watt incandescent — though, unlike incandescents, they remain cool to the touch.
In essence, Cree is basically trying to remove any obstacles — physical or mental — that might prevent buyers from switching to LED bulbs. If a Cree bulb looks the same, is roughly the same size, lasts 20 times as long, and yet uses 84% less energy… why should anyone buy a normal, incandescent bulb? There’s no getting around the fact that most non-conventional bulbs don’t fit in existing fixtures, or simply look weird. This isn’t so much of an issue when they’re turned on, but a huge factor for bulbs that are off, or simply for buyers who opt for a bulb that looks familiar.
Cree’s LED bulbs are available from the Home Depot website today, and in US Home Depot stores from March 21. Will a $ 10 price point — and savings of $ 139 over the product’s lifetime, according to Cree — be enough to spur mainstream adoption of LED bulbs?