Also of note, CREE Lighting has introduced a ’60W equivalent’ LED bulb that is dimmable and is claimed to have a regular bulb shape:
“This is the first no-compromise replacement for a 60-watt incandescent bulb.”
that has a nice picture of the bulb.
But all Engineering designs have compromises, the only question is “do they matter?”… The incandescent has easy choices in shape and size, works with any kind of variable power to dim it (DC, AC, pulses of any frequency or shape), and has a 100 CRI (yet to be matched with phosphors bulbs…), and is astoundingly cheap to make; but at the cost of efficiency.
The Dim Bulbs in DC have decided it’s not up to YOU to decide what matters (efficiency or CRI or shape or dimmers or initial costs or) so have issued The Bulb Prohibition. Which means that if you’ve not squirrled away a lifetime supply (as I have) of what you want, you get to deal with whatever is being sold.
And, frankly, for about 3/4 of my fixtures I have chosen CFL or LED bulbs, so I’m still ‘in the market’ for them. And that means I do care about WHICH bulbs are good and which are complete trash.
The Peoples Republic Of California Speaks
Here, in California, we have PG&E as our electricity provider and The Peoples Republic Of California has decided to take rate payer money and use it to subsidize CFL bulbs. So there are many very cheap and very crappy ones available (and I’ve bought my fair share… then again, at 50 CENTS a bulb, you can just chuck them in the trash if they are crummy ;-)
Recently I loaded up on a batch of Lights of America bulbs from Walmart at 97 CENTS each (in sizes from 100W, 75W and 60W ‘equivalents’) figuring that once the Bulb Ban is in place, the utilities will be lobbying for a removal of the subsidy as “it isn’t needed”… (guess who I suspect is behind the Bulb Ban?…) They are nice ‘curly bulbs’ of no particular distinction that work well and with normal 2700 K color temp and OK CRI.
Yesterday I was at our local grocery store (Lucky) and found they had a “ULA” or “U Light America” brand on sale for dirt cheap (notice the PG&E subsidy sticker in the pictures). It was $1.28 for the ‘4 pack’ (that’s 32 CENTS each) and $1 for the for 2 pack of 100W equiv ‘dimmables’. What the heck. Even though I’ve pretty much bought ahead my bulbs for the next decade or three… If they are trash, I can just trash them… (Beginning to see the problems you end up with when doing socially designed subsidies? The Law Of Unintended Consequences…)
The good news? It’s a great product.
The bad news? It’s not perfect.
First the good: They’ve finally got a real lightbulb shape (A-19) that will fit in one particular wall lamp I’ve got. It has a very close fitting shade and the wire hoop that holds it up pretty much follows a bulb contour. It’s my major ‘test case’ for all “just like regular” claims. If it ain’t regular, it don’t fit… This one fits.
(I note in passing that the CREE bulb would not fit due to the cooling fins… that, guys, is a ‘compromise’…)
OK, I tested these. Color is a nice near identical to incandescent 2700 K. CRI is good too (though I don’t know exactly what it is and did not do my “Apple, eggs, and ham” test as I’m out of apples and ham). It even fits in The Wall Lamp From Hell… Nice. Very nice.
I have an old ’50s style flat “flying saucer” pull down fixture over the dining table. VERY flat. Just enough room (barely) for a regular bulb. And if the weight is too high it will ‘self deploy’ to the table top. And if the weight is not the same all around, it get’s a ’tilt’ to it. I put one of these in next to 2 regular bulbs. No self deployment. It sits MOSTLY level (so the bulb is only a little heavier) and the cover fits back on (i.e. it’s the same size). My guess is that I can put three in without ‘self deployment’ issues ;-) When turned on, the lamp strikes fast (no long pause) and warms quickly to full brightness. It looks almost indistinguishable from the IC bulbs next to it in color and esthetics. Nice, very nice.
The presence of a plactic bulb shaped cover means it’s a tiny bit less efficient, but you can put it in without fear of twisting the glass off (many curly bulbs say to only turn via the base, fine if you can have your hand next to the bulb INSIDE the fixture…) and it means that if the glass tube breaks, the mercury will be more contained inside the lamp. Guess what’s going into the dinning room fixtures?…
Yes, it still has a bit of ‘warm up lag’ but for a lot of uses, I count that a feature. Yes, it will still have a limited number of ‘cycles’ so you don’t want to put one in the fridge… but this bulb solves a couple of nagging problems that the usual ‘curly bulb’ has. Oh, and it works in my lamp with the ‘clip to the bulb’ shade too… (Though an older more bulbous CFL type also works there… the ‘biggy’ here is that very narrow base that works in the ‘tight lamp shade support’ wall lamp).
Now if only it came in a ‘3 way’ as that wall lamp is a 3 way… So for now (winter) it is using an ICan bulb where the heat is a feature and I’m manufacturing a 100 W ‘regular bulb’ when the low wattage filament burns out…).
On to the dimmables:
My God, they actually dim. And on my old dimmers too!
One of them humms at low power (and especially so in one of my fixtures that’s an aluminum cone which seems to magnify the sound). The other only barely audible (though still present – so not for a lamp you will sit near in quiet times…). Also it ‘quenches’ at a modest degree of ‘dim’. I’d guess it’s about 25% of bright? So for 2 rooms where I like to have ‘near a single candle’ very dim, it’s not suited. For the office where I’ve already got computer whirrr and typically don’t have anyone sleeping in it? Just Fine.
So this effectively increases by ‘life of bulb inventory’ by about 33% as it cuts from 3 to 2 the number of ‘dimmable’ sockets that must be ICan bulbs for my purposes. (For now, I’ve put the “Good Bulb” halogen back in the office as the heat is a feature; but this summer, this CFL goes in.) The “hummer” goes into the garage where at full power it won’t hum anyway but even if it did, who cares. And at 50 Cents each on subsidy, I can buy 4 or 6 more and select out the non-hummers. Even if it’s only 1/2 that’s only $1 to $1.50 going to the landfill. So at $1 each for the ‘quiet and dimmable on my dimmers’ it’s a reasonable cost to do the QA myself.
The CREE Bulb
h/t KevinM on the Fizzy Air thread
Looks like a reasonable design. Similar in profile to the Sylvania I’ve got (that is likely a CREE repackage?) and 60W equiv instead of the just a little too dim 40W equiv. Nice, very nice. I’ve found a home for my one LED bulb as an ‘always on’ ambiance side light in the office. At 60W equiv these could go into a table lamp.
I notice it specifically states no active cooling. Kudos! Quiet is Important.
It has a CRI of 90. Anything over about 80 ish is pretty good and by 87 I can’t find much of an issue.
It looks like it will have more omnidirectional lighting (and claims to).
It’s very efficient.
Click the link and look at the picture. See all those cooling fins?
This means it will need free air flow. Forget insulated recessed cans, fixtures that trap hot air with the bulb pointing down. That will just cook the ballast. IFF you can get it into the fixture. That bulb is a might wider than a typical A-19 bulb base. I’ve several fixtures where this guy just won’t go.
This also implies a bit of a light shadow downward when the bulb points up. OK if you sit to the side of your lamp a ways. Not so good for table lamps that want lighting to accent the lamp itself and illuminate the things ON the table next to it….
That, guys, is a ‘compromise’.
Probably an acceptable one for many uses, but not for all. And that is the whole point about Market Based Economics. It avoids distortions caused by things like bans and subsidies. (I’d rather have my $300 of bulbs invested in stocks and bonds than bulbs, but that choice was not open to me…) It allows for best fit of product to use. Yes, it has some inefficiencies as folks learn things. Life is like that. But it also avoids the incredibly gigantic screw ups of One Government Mandate like that MTBE screw-up…
So, my take on things is that this CREE bulb is a nice step forward, but they are up against some very hard physics. Where the CFL can dump waste heat through the hot curly glass and that’s a very heat tolerant material, their waste heat comes from semiconductors and must be dumped away from the light delivering end. That heat dumping issue limits them physically and together those limit the size (100W equivalent barrier). Those two together mean that it will be a long time coming before they have a real A-19 shaped 100W replacer with even light output for lamps that illuminate both up AND down. Then they can work on a 3 way version…
Their chart is uninspiring. Don’t know what the deal is with that plunge at the end and it’s pretty rocky along the way too.
Looks to me like a general “long stocks and TBT – be out of gold, Brazil, and CREE”…
Progress. Very good progress. But not enough yet to “ban the bulb” for regular InCANdescents. If left to the free market, the ICan bulb will someday die out. To resort to subsidy and bans simply means it’s not time yet and you are royally pissing off someone. Probably not a good idea…
For now, for me, it’s back to the grocers to pick up another ‘4 pack and 2 pack’ for all of $2.28 and put them on the shelf for ‘someday’…