No need to hoard light bulbs before Jan. 1 ban

Cree has finally cracked the nut on how to make LEDs that are almost indistinguishable from incandescents.

By Forbes Digital Dec 10, 2013 1:16PM
Credit: via
Caption: Image of Cree bulb

By Christopher Helman, Forbes Staff

Say goodbye to the 60-watt incandescent light bulb. This year, manufacturers started phasing out 100-watt and 75-watt bulbs, and on Jan. 1, it will become illegal to import or manufacture traditional 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs too.

Time to stock up? Not so fast. First, check out Cree's (CREE) energy-sipping new 75-watt replacement bulb (pictured).

I used to be outraged over the federal government’s draconian moves to outlaw traditional light bulbs. For 100 years we’ve lived and thrived under the warm glow of incandescent bulbs. Aside from the fact that 90% of the electricity used by the bulbs is radiated in the form of heat rather than light, these glass orbs are a perfect invention. So perfect that a light bulb symbolizes a good idea. How dare Big Brother force manufacturers to stop making these bulbs! 

For years, the alternatives to incandescent bulbs were terrible. Compact fluorescents flicker, give me headaches and make everyone look like zombies. When they break you practically need to call in a hazmat team for cleanup because of the mercury inside. Never had to do that an old Edison bulb. I have a bucket full of CFLs that work perfectly well, but that I refuse to use. I would toss them in the trash if not for the toxic chemicals inside.

Early LED bulbs weren’t a good replacement either. LED’s are directional light sources (kind of like weak lasers), so LED bulbs didn’t give off the same omnidirectional glow that incandescents do. And early attempts to replicate Edison bulbs with LEDs were crazy expensive and looked like Doctor Who’s robot arch enemies the Daleks.

But that has all changed. Earlier this year I learned how to stop worrying and love the light bulb revolution when I did a Forbes Magazine story on Cree, a leading maker of LED light bulbs. Cree finally cracked the nut on how to make LED bulbs that give off light almost indistinguishable from incandescents. What's more, the shape and look of the Cree bulbs are virtually indistinguishable from those of old-school bulbs -- a huge boon in getting folks to adopt the new technology.

Home Depot (HD) has been selling 60-watt and 40-watt Cree bulbs for about $10. That may seem like a lot for a light bulb, but when you consider that these bulbs use 80% less energy and will keep working literally for decades, the value proposition makes complete sense. I installed a handful of Cree’s soft, warm light bulbs around the house a few months ago, and my wife hasn’t noticed any difference.

Now Cree has reached another milestone with the introduction of a 75-watt replacement bulb. At $24 per bulb, it’s going to take awhile to catch on, but the thing uses just 13.5 watts to produce 1100 lumens of light. And it is cheaper than a competing offering from Phillips, at $30.

If you use the bulb three hours a day, then over a year’s time it will draw about 15 kilowatt hours. At roughly 10 cents per kwh (plug in your own electric cost) that’s about $1.50 in electricity per year. In comparison, an old 75-watt incandescent would use about 82 kwh, costing about $8.20. That savings will pay off your Cree bulb in about three years.

There’s no mercury in these bulbs, and their glass is coated with a protective film that makes them shatter resistant. (Cree says the government required that safety measure -- pointing out that our beloved old Edison bulbs would never be approved for the mass market if invented today.) They turn on instantly with no need to “heat up,” and are dimmable.

Replacing traditional incandescents with such LED bulbs will end up being a win-win-win proposition. We’ll save money on electricity, emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion, and be able to enjoy more, higher-quality light. Over time this will be especially beneficial in the developing world; to think that millions in sub-Saharan Africa still rely on smoky kerosene lanterns for light at night. Where villages have insufficient or intermittant access to electricity, LED bulbs hooked up to rechargeable batteries will provide a reliable light source.

Shares in Cree have been on a roller coaster ride in recent months, but are up nearly 350% in five years, and 79% in the past year.

More on Forbes

Dec 10, 2013 3:13PM
If these bulbs are better and cheaper in the long run there is no need to make incandescent bulbs illegal.  The government has no business in this area.
Dec 10, 2013 2:26PM
Illegal? A light bulb? That's ludicrous. Folks, you're being told what to do and how to do it. Through the police powers of government you are being forced to pay and use an item that you may or may not necessarily want to use or approve of. Land of the free? An oxymoronic statement that couldn't be further from the truth. 
Dec 10, 2013 2:53PM
Bullshi*, every LED item I have bought has failed within 2 years so I dont buy the "will last for decades" crap
Dec 10, 2013 3:15PM
I bought a ceiling fan. Made to use these awful bulbs in it - couldn't see at all. So I bought a lamp to turn on in the bedroom. Not enough light even then, so I bought another lamp. OK - now I see almost as good, but now I use a fan and 2 lamps to do so. So.....where is the savings? Like the low water toilets. Have to flush them 2, 3 times so you use more wate, not less. Typical tree hugging stupid government BS..
Dec 10, 2013 2:43PM
illegal? What's the punishment? A lifetime of Obamacare?
Dec 10, 2013 3:24PM
I vote for not obeying any government regulations.
Dec 10, 2013 3:19PM
Try changing to an led in a beautiful crystal chandelier.  They look like shi- in a decorative fixture.  Why can't we just ban all liberals and remove them from our lives!!  Someone please tell me why a Liberal wants another person or government to control them.  Isn't it a natural instinct to want to remain free?  What kind of person wants to be controlled by another person or government? 
Dec 10, 2013 3:41PM

that's CRAP - they burn out just as fast - some even faster!


I've paid thru the nose for these so called "5 year bulbs" - that's a load of horse manure.  They burn out in months sometimes!  Who keeps their receipts for small stuff like that?  I should have...but I didn't.  Time and again.


Now?  I have a closet full of the the "regular old light bulbs" - you know...the ones where a FOUR PACK cost maybe $1.50 to buy?  A decent price for a bulb in my opinion! 


They don't come with a date stamp - you can't take em back to the store for replacement - nope...I'm staying with the regular ones - time to go buy a few dozen more of all the kinds I can get.

Dec 10, 2013 3:10PM
Dec 10, 2013 3:30PM
Yeah, like sub-Saharan African people who use kerosene lanterns are going to have the means to run out and buy a $30 light bulb..What to f**k are you thinking? And making a light bulb illegal?What a bunch of BS...
Dec 10, 2013 3:28PM
I love how the person writing this article spins the truth.  Christopher must be another a--kissing liberal trying to push an agenda.  Led bulbs will not last as long as they claim.  CFL's don't last as long as they claim, the light is terrible from them, they must warm up before they come up to full brightness, they are more expensive, and they are ugly!  I also love how libs are so worried about carbon footprints, but not concerned over the mercury footprint these bulbs will leave in landfills and peoples homes!  Do Americans still wish to be free?  If not, move to another country like China, North Korea, or Iran and leave us alone already.  Let's hope Americans develop an attitude again!  Let's see some outrage and passion for this once great country!  Let's tell these liberal sonsabitches to kiss off already!  Remember John Wayne "America, love it or leave it!"
Dec 10, 2013 3:10PM

               Well sounds like a good idea but I have problems concerning the "saving of energy".

I have had these questions from day one but have never asked.In a northern climate it is possible

to use heat about 8 out of 12 months.Since this new light bulb uses 13.5 watts the difference in heat that would be produced by an incadescent light bulb will now have to come from somewhere else for those 3 hours that you talk about.  


                   Electric heating ?, well you have lost all of your savings best case scenario 38 cents saving for the year.


Oil heating you have just increased carbon foot print and polluting a little more.

how much energy (elecricity) is required to produce one of these lights compared to an incadescent


Can you put these new bulb into the garbage when they die or do they have to be disposed of in an

enviromentally proper fashion.

 If yes then how much electricity is used to dispose of them?

Assuming use are heating 8 out of 12 months you only save during the summer 4 out of 12 or 37 cents per year. Break even in 12 years not including the other items i touched on. Recently I bought 4 light bulbs ( halogen and really nice light ) for $8.00 one of my (i've only used 2) bulbs has burnt out.its a good thing i have the receipt. I expect the rest will burn out before the warranty is up.

CFL's kill my eyes and the ones at home take about 30 minutes to become fully bright  ....  WOW.


                    What kind of warranty does a $24 bulb come with ? 

In a 3rd. world country where $24 may be a months salary,who will be paying for these ? us?

Cree bulbs sound good but i will wait for a price drop.






Dec 10, 2013 2:24PM

Ok, lets take advice from someone who can't do math.  The pay off is closer to 3.6 years. Then after that it will only take you ten years to save $82 bucks!!! Whoo hooo.  I can find $82 bucks in the trash.


But, what the heck.  Lets off shore those U.S. jobs all in the sake of avoiding CLIMATE CHANGE (da daaaa dummmm (sound effects))

Dec 10, 2013 3:19PM
but---do they make any 3 way bulbs???   or is anyone going to make them after jan 1?///

i have been stockpiling those things for months.   i read profusely.  four to six novels a week and anything and everything else i can get my hands on.   after dark thirty i need all the light i can get.  i am soarly going to miss the 3 way bulbs.

Dec 10, 2013 3:46PM

That's all fine and good, however, I use light bulbs to keep my green house warm.  Those new bulbs don't put off enough heat to do that.  Instead, I'll be forced to use a heat lamp bulb that will both cost more to purchase and cost more to operate!


Dec 10, 2013 3:26PM

I'm not really too worried about buying LEDs the rest of my life....

When they introduced CFLs, I started buying them on sales...A few years back, have a butt-load of them...Have about 14-18 locations where they are used..Think I paid about .65-.80 cents each?

And have replaced "only one" in 2-3(?) years...bad socket in lamp.

If you want more light...Buy the "bright light" ones.

Wife has hoarded the incandescent bulbs, because she hates CFLs....

So we probably have enough of each to last 15-20 years....And "big brother" is not getting ours...

"From our cold, no, our hot burned dead hands." 

Dec 10, 2013 2:53PM

We will see,

they did not mention where these are made, which is another issue.

I am waiting to use the LEDs, I have heard that CFLs put out a lot of harmful UV rays.

Dec 10, 2013 1:41PM
The CFLs work fine. You just have to leave them on, so they reach their full brightness. No big deal! When they wear out, I'll throw them on my neighbor's lawn!

I'll buy LEDs when the prices get favorable!

Yuk yuk!
Dec 10, 2013 4:40PM

24 bucks for a light bulb ?  This may create a whole new industry in Section 8 housing.


"Hello - 911 ? - somebody broke into my crib and stole all my light bulbs.

Dec 10, 2013 5:26PM
Screw the government!  I am tired of the bastards telling me what I can and cannot do!
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