Five bucks will buy all the incandescent bulbs I can go through in one socket over 20 years and leave me change. That means this ridiculous novelty would have to save me $55 on electrickery – that’s an awful lot of 60W/hrs (about 10,000 of them) – as well as the opportunity cost of my $50 up front.
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 tag: $60.
That’s the price that reflects the cost of the components, especially the top-notch chips, or diodes, that give off the light, and that’s the price commercial customers will pay. But the manufacturer, the Netherlands-based Philips, is discounting it right away to $50 for consumers, and working on deals with electric utilities to discount it even further, by as much as $20 to $30.
This means the bulb will cost anywhere from $20 to $60, depending on where it’s found. Online, consumers will be paying $50 for each bulb, because utilities don’t subsidize online sales.
Congress launched the L Prize contest 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. The contest stipulated that the winning bulb be sold for $22 in its first year on the market.
In that context, the $60 price tag has raised some eyebrows. Ed Crawford, the head of Philips’ U.S. lighting division, said it was always part of the plan to have utility rebates bring the price down to that range.
Utilities already offer rebates on energy-saving products like compact-fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. In return for efforts to curb energy use, regulators allow utilities to raise their rates. The discounts are invisible to consumers — the utilities pay the stores directly.