General Electric, the first company to mass-produce incandescent light bulbs, unveiled a socket-ready LED light bulb that will be on store shelves this year. The new bulb will have the equivalent light output of a 40 watt incandescent bulb, but only use 9 watts of energy. While compact florescent bulbs are approaching this level of efficiency, they contain poisonous mercury. This problem with compact florescent lighting has created a household safety concern and has been linked to mercury poisoning in thousands of Chinese workers at CFL factories. Not only will GE’s new LED bulb eliminate the use of these hazardous materials, but the color of light emitted by these bulbs can be tailored to copy the “warm” light of an incandescent bulb.
This could be a big break for GE, who has received criticism for how the manufacturing and disposal of these CFL bulbs affects human health. Consumers who prefer the color of incandescent bulbs to the comparatively harsh light of compact florescent may find these LED lights as the ideal option as regulators ban traditional bulbs.
The sticking point of GE’s new LED bulb will be price, as the 40 watt bulb will be about $40 — that’s about 6 times more than an equivalent CFL and about 57 times the cost of a high quality incandescent bulb. These cost concerns could be alleviated by GE’s claims that the bulb will last three times longer than a CFL, but price cuts due to advances in manufacturing technology and capacity could have a larger role in LED lighting’s success.
Energy regulations in the United States will gradually push incandescent lights out of the marketplace. It is expected that by 2014 the US government will only use incandescent bulbs in applications where the energy wasted on heating the bulb is beneficial, like in traffic lights and streetlamps that are prone to icing in winter weather. DOE figures postulate that as much as 16% of America’s electricity consumption is wasted on inefficient lighting