Crees LED bulb looks like an incandescent and lights like one for

first_imgToday Cree, the North Carolina-based LED manufacturer, is making a move that will have major implications for the LED lighting industry. The company, which is known for its high-quality LEDs and its lighting fixtures, has announced a line of LED bulbs, marking the first time it will offer the A-style replacement bulb that lights most homes. This will put Cree in competition against giants like Philips and GE, as well as directly up against companies that buy Cree LEDs, like Best Buy.While Cree offering bulbs is big news for LED insiders, today’s announcement is notable for consumers as well. This is because Cree will be extremely competitive with its pricing. The line of Cree LED bulbs (that’s actually the name) will include three models: a warm white 60W-equivalent at $12.97, a daylight 60W-equivalent at $13.97, and a warm white 40W-equivalent at $9.97. In other words, Cree isn’t only coming out with a line of bulbs they are also breaking the $10 mark, something which competitors are not going to be able to ignore. All three of the bulbs will be available from HomeDepot.com today and in Home Depots by the end of the month.If it’s not clear yet, Cree is striking at the heart of the consumer LED lighting segment. The company is doing this with a three-pronged approach…The first point of attack is price. Breaking the $15 and $10 marks is big but, importantly, Cree is doing it with a quality lamp. Buyers have been able to pick up a 40W-equivalent Ecosmart LEDs at Home Depot for $9.97 for some time now, but it’s not a great bulb.The second point of attack is confidence. Consumers may not know the Cree name, but the company will soon have Energy Star compliance for each model making for a meaningful seal of approval. Moreover, each bulb is backed by a 10-year warranty. 3-5 years is typical in the 25,000-hour-lifetime market, so Cree is putting some weight behind their claims.Finally, the Cree LED bulb looks like an incandescent bulb. LED lighting may be getting more popular, but consumers still care how a bulb looks when it’s off. And when the average buyer needs to replace an incandescent they want something that’s as close as possible to that design. Cree recognized this and delivered LEDs encased in frosted glass with a true bulb shape.The mainstay bulb in the series will be the $13 warm white (2700K) 60W-replacement. This $14 bulb will produce 800 lumens at 9.5W (84.2 lumens-per-watt). Cree is going for an incandescent-like experience so they opted for 2700K instead of 3000K, which has efficiency benefits but offers a cooler tone. Like the other two bulbs in the series, this model is dimmable, has a CRI of 80, and is rated for 25,000 hours of use.The $14 60W-equivalent model runs at 5000K and produces 800 lumens at 9.0W (88.9 lpw). The $10 40W-equivalent bulb will produce 450 lumens at 6W (75 lpw) with a color temperature of 2700K.On the hardware front, the Cree LED bulb has what appears to be a very conventional design. The interesting thing is that the design is conventional for an incandescent, which is hard to pull off with LEDs. The exterior is a glass dome and is the first sign that something unique is going on. The majority of LED bulbs, aside from Switch’s, use plastic because it’s cheap and durable. Cree opted instead for glass, but they coated the glass with a tacky rubber in order to make it shatter-resistant. The glass and bulb shape give the Cree bulb a true omnidirectional light pattern, though it seems like dust and grime could build up on the sticky rubber material.I haven’t opened up the Cree bulbs I’m testing, but the available art of the interior shows another homage to the incandescent. Cree calls this their “LED Filament Tower”. The design features pairs of XP-E LEDs in a ring around a central tower, inside of which is the driver circuitry. This design is modeled after an incandescent’s filament, but also is reminiscent of the out-dated “corncob” style LED bulbs. Corncob bulbs were somewhat popular but provided poor light quality, so have since been replaced with better technology. Cree modified this design and replaced the long columns of cheap LEDs with 10 pairs of high-voltage ones. Cooling the LEDs and fitting a driver inside the tower, all while keeping costs down, must have been a challenge for the engineering team.I’ve only used the 60W-equivalent 2700K Cree bulb for a few hours, so it’s too early to deliver a verdict, but so far all the news is good. The bulb is lightweight, starts up quickly, is responsible about power (my meter put it at 8W), and it runs at a cozy, incandescent-like 2700K. The light pattern seems right on target for an omnidirectional design. The bulb, which is able to run in an enclosure and in any orientation — just like an incandescent — remains cool to the touch (very much unlike an incandescent).With this series of LED bulbs Cree wants to make a convincing case to buyers who are tempted to switch from their incandescents and CFLs. Mike Watson, Cree’s VP of Marketing, told me the company will avoid niche markets and produce bulbs that move the world towards 100% LED adoption. While that’s certainly an optimistic goal, this release is a step in that direction. It remains to be seen if the $10 point is the barrier to rapid adoption that LED light manufacturers are now claiming it is — just a year ago most would have put the mark at $15 — but the availability of high-quality, affordable LED bulbs is one thing that is sure to boost LED sales.Cree’s LED bulbs will be available through Home Depot online on March 5th and in all US Home Depot stores on March 21st.last_img

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