As consumers look to cut down on energy use and the federal government's 2012 ban on incandescent bulbs approaches, sales of compact fluorescent lights have increased. These spiral-shaped lights use much less energy than traditional incandescent lights, which waste most of the energy they draw. CFLs also last seven to 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
But LEDs, promise a next generation of lights that are even more efficient, last longer, are more easily dimmable and, unlike CFLs, don't contain mercury.
Lemnis Lighting Inc. Announced the full-scale release in the U.S. market of a light-emitting diode bulb, its entry in the race to replace 60-watt incandescent lights.
Lemnis’s Pharox light looks like a traditional incandescent light, with a metal piece wrapped around the midsection of the light that acts as a heat-sink, keeping the 6 Watts LEDs cool and ensuring a long life of 35,000 hours. The soft white bulbs are about $40 each.
Lemnis Lighting is owned by Tendris Holding, a business incubator and operator in sustainable technology and services based in Naarden, Netherlands. Both Lemnis and Tendris are run by Warner Philips, the grandson of Royal Philips NV co-founder Anton Philips. Tendris was formed in 2002 with investments from its insiders and friends and family. Philips is a 10% shareholder in Tendris.
Mr. Philips said in an interview that Lemnis is in talks with major U.S. retailers to sell the Pharox product.
Coming up with a quality, affordable 60-watt replacement light has been a challenge for the LED industry, partially for the reason that LEDs are by nature directional sources of light, as opposed to traditional incandescent light bulbs that shine in 360 degrees. Top LED companies have been concentrating mostly on directional light sources for commercial and industrial purposes, which make up the bulk of the lighting market.
But the Department of Energy recently established the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize, known as the L-prize, which is a competition for companies to come up with the best 60-watt replacement light. The DOE said that more than 425 million 60-watt incandescent light bulbs are sold each year in the U.S. alone, representing approximately 50% of the incandescent light bulb market.
So far Amsterdam, Netherlands-based Philips is the only company to submit a product.
The DOE said an LED replacement for this purpose could save 34 terawatt-hours of electricity in one year, enough to power the lights of 17.4 million U.S. households and avoid 5.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually.
New York-based Lighting Science Group Corp. has a 40-watt incandescent LED replacement that the company says draws about 7 watts, lasts 40,000 hours and is dimmable.
Thomas Griffiths, an LED industry expert, said in an interview that he sees these three companies as the main competitors at the moment on the LED replacement light scene. Griffiths said the Pharox light looks like a good product, but only time will tell for sure, and he thinks the $39 sticker price is still too high.
Lemnis offers a three-year warranty on the product and the company estimates that an average utility rate of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, a consumer will achieve a payback within three years.
"I think they're representing where the state of the technology affordably has us right now, but there's still a ways to go before there's a real replacement, and right now Philips is the one to watch because of this announcement," Mr. Griffiths said.
Philips said in a statement that it is confident its product meets the criteria of the L-prize, which calls for a higher level of efficiency, better quality light and more light output than the Lemnis and Lighting Science products.
Although Philips and Lemnis are competitors in this context, Philips acquired an equity stake in Tendris in January.
Mr. Philips said that if Lemnis, with the help of Los Angeles-based partner Digital Light LLC, can reach its goal of selling 10 million lights world-wide within the next 24 months, the price could drop to $30 per bulb.
Griffiths said LED replacement lights need to reach the $15 to $20 range before they'll really be viable.
Tendris' first investment was Oxxio, a supplier of renewable energy, which was sold to Centrica PLC in 2005. That exit gave Tendris at least $39 million more to play around with. The same year, the Dutch National Postcode Lottery also bought a 10% stake in Tendris, giving the company more capital to push its innovations out into the market.
Lemnis, based in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, was founded in 2005 and is on the verge of profitability, Mr. Philips said in an earlier interview.
Mr. Philips said he isn't looking for an exit with Lemnis, but he said long-term partnerships are always a possibility.