Philips bulb wins award, accelerates the LED revolution

This Philips 10W LED (left) was the big winner of the 'L Prize'. It was judged the best replacement for a 60W incandescent.

How many prizes does it take to change a light bulb?

So far (given that the prize was $10 million), the answer is, "just one."

In 2009, the US Department of Energy launched an award called the "L-Prize" ("L" for "lighting"), the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to encourage lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb.

Two years later, lighting manufacturer Philips is the first to win the award with a 10W LED replacement for the standard 60W incandescent bulb. The new lamp cuts energy consumption by 83%, more than any other LED lamp on the market today. And BC Hydro played a role in helping get it there.

More than 1,300 lamps tested

To make sure the lamp would truly perform, Philips' submitted its innovative LED to the competition for testing.

More than 1,300 of the Philips LEDs were tested in various applications, from residential to offices to public assembly and retail applications. As a result, the Department of Energy (DOE) says by the time it hits the market, it will be the most tested LED ever produced.

"BC Hydro was the only Canadian partner involved in assessing the technical performance of these lights for the competition," says Irfan Rehmanji, the project lead for BC Hydro. "We installed them in Vancouver's City Hall, even in the mayor's office, as well as in our executive board room. Our findings were comparable to the overall test results."

Rehmanji says the Philips lamp had a number of winning qualities:

  • The quality of light more closely resembles incandescent lighting than almost any other alternative on the market.
  • It has superior dimming capability compared to other LEDs.
  • It has a very long life – after 25,000 hours it still maintains 99% lumen maintenance (a measure of how much light it produces), compared with a lifespan of 750 to 1,000 hours for an incandescent bulb. This means it will last 15-20 years, compared to one year for an incandescent.
  • At only 10 watts it is 25% more efficient than other LED lamps.

An incredible 83 per cent energy savings

Switching from a standard 60W incandescent bulb to the 10W L Prize replacement results in an energy savings of 83 per cent. With the prevalence of inefficient lamps now in use, that adds up to huge potential electricity savings.

Rehmanji says that a recent indoor lighting survey showed that 48 per cent of B.C. businesses use incandescent lamps, and 25 per cent use halogen lamps. In homes, the numbers are 75 per cent and 19 per cent.

It's estimated that replacing every halogen and incandescent light in B.C.'s commercial sector with LED technology could represent up to 200 gigawatt hGWh per year in savings.

"Any way you slice the numbers, the percentages represent large opportunities for electricity savings in B.C.," says Rehmanji. "If every residential customer in B.C. replaced every incandescent light bulb in their home with the L-Prize lamp, we would save enough to power approximately 170,000 homes – from one technology change."

When will this LED be available?

The L Prize lamp competition requires that entries are "suited to mass production for a competitive commercial market."  The good news is that the Philips L Prize lamp has now moved to the manufacture and marketing phase.

Philips expects that commercial quantities of the lamp will start to become available in early 2012, with a likely cost of $50 per lamp. That's pricey, but not when you consider this LED is expected to last 25 to 33 times as long as an incandescent lamp.

The lamps will be marketed to both commercial and consumer users.

Philips is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency to determine the Energy Star status of the lamp. And the DOE and Philips are working with partners to develop uniform rebates and incentives in both consumer and commercial channels.

As an L Prize Partner, BC Hydro will play a role in promoting and developing markets for the prize-winning lamp.

"Now we have seen what an LED can do," says Rehmanji. "This will likely motivate more research and new developments coming into the marketplace."