Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.



A New Ultra-Cheap LED Light Looks And Acts Like An Incandescent Bulb

Cree’s new light costs just $10, will last for years and lower your electricity bill, and is basically indistinguishable from your old, energy sucking bulbs.

Until recently, options for non-incandescent light bulbs were fairly limited. There were the cheap and effective but harshly lit CFL bulbs, the expensive but high-quality LED bulbs, and the cheaper but lower-quality LEDs. When Philips released its 60-watt replacement state-of-the-art LED bulb last year, it came with a price tag of $60 (discounts are available, and a version is now on sale for $14.97).

Cree, a company that has been in the LED lighting business for 25 years is doing Philips one better: This week, it announced the release of a series of LED bulbs that look like incandescents, light up rooms like incandescents—and cost as little as $10.

"The idea was, we have this great technology but for some reason consumers aren’t trying it today—whether it’s too expensive, they don’t like the look, or whatever," explains Chuck Swoboda, CEO of Cree. "We have the first LED bulb that really looks like an [incandescent] lightbulb, and we’ve designed it in a way that it works like a lightbulb. Those two things combined with the price we think can get consumers to really try LED lighting."

Cree is releasing three bulbs: a warm white 40-watt replacement that costs $10, a warm white 60-watt replacements that costs $13, and a day light 60-watt replacement that costs $14. According to the company, the bulbs have a 25,000-hour lifetime (25 times longer than most incandescents) and energy savings of 84% compared to traditional bulbs.

The bulbs use the newest generation of high-power LEDs combined with traditional lightbulb parts. The glass dome over the top, for example, is something you would see in an incandescent bulb. It even comes from the same supply chain—something that helps lower costs. But that dome presented a problem initially. LEDs have to be shatter resistant because of regulations, so Cree had to develop a coating over their bulbs to keep them from breaking when dropped. "There were lots of technical challenges," says Swoboda.

Another big challenge: Making the new bulbs resemble incandescent lights and not the alien-looking LEDs out on the market today. "We put the light right in the center of the bulb, and allows us to make the light come out like in a traditional incandescent lightbulb," explains Swoboda. Cree sent me a pair of bulbs to try out—I can attest that they do really resemble incandescent bulbs, both in the way they look and the light they emit. I didn’t try too hard to drop one, though, so I can’t speak to that shatter-resistant coating.

Cree has long been a player in the LED market, but this its first foray into consumer lighting. Says Swoboda: "Because of our position in LEDs, we have an inherent advantage. We’re vertically integrated, and we have the ability to adjust variables at the same time better than if we were using a traditional supply chain."

If you’re really cheap, Lemnis Lighting unveiled a set of LEDs in mid-February that cost $4.95 and $6.95. But the bulbs give off just 200 lumens and 350 lumens, respectively. That’s not bright enough for many uses. Cree’s 60-watt warm white replacement has a brightness of 800 lumens, in comparison.

But Swoboda admits that quality LEDs will continue to drop in price, even below the $10 barrier. I would expect that once we cross over this price point, we’ll see another wave of innovation around this category," he says.

Cree’s bulbs are available online now at Home Depot's website and go on sale in all of the chain’s stores by March 21st.

Add New Comment


  • Anders Hoveland

    "Looks And Acts Like An Incandescent" ?? LOL
    The BULB itself looks like an incandescent, the light it gives off does not.
    Sure, the light is kind of yellowish, but like all LEDs, it's just not the same.
    There's nothing like the nice warm glow of a REAL incandescent.

    I find LED light a little harsh, and have more difficulty concentrating reading under it. Not only that, but this particular Cree bulb has 120Hz flicker, not consciously perceptible to some, but annoying to others. Apparently, it's a lot easier to make these new "energy efficient" bulbs look nice than to get them to give off nice quality light.

  • Ohioaner

    I'st off, normal incandescent lamps have a 60htz flicker rate. European 50htz rate. The reason the US chose 60 was due to it not being recognized by most folks. If 120 bothers you TV must drive you nuts.
    2'nd is that sun light must make it impossible for you to read. LED's produce any tshade of light you want including that closest to the sun.
    It is time to sell your incandescent stock and step upto the future.
    How did you feel about the yellow of sulfur street lamps or the blue of today's mercury vapor or the yellow green on fluorescent?
    The human eye/brain is a remarkable thing and can easily adjust.

  • Fevrier Honnete

    Every one of the CFL and LED bulbs I've seen cause me very uncomfortable eye pain and strain. I'm just hoping I die before I'm forced to adopt them as my only choice for lighting. Sigh.

  • Robert

    And do these companies have anything against making a bulb bright enough (100w equivlent) so that you can actually read a book or see the person sitting next to you?

  • Luke

    They are not oppossed to the idea Bob.
    Managing the heat generated by the chips to produce 1250 lumens is more difficult.
    This is a revolutionary product that consumers should adopt quickly.
    It will pay for itself in one year.

  • Francis

    You probably mean "dimmers" not timers, and the answer is YES they work with both dimmers and timer switches.

  • Jmccleary

    Didn't 100 watt incandescent bulbs cost something on the order of 69 CENTS? Now only 10 bucks- wow what a bargain.

  • Harley1

    Why are there always dishonest and/or stupid people who make the argument that these light bulbs don't save money. Cortexiphant, your math is wrong. You "forgot" that there is more than 1 day in a month. A 60 watt light bulb used 5 hours a day uses 600 watts a day, 18 Kwatts a month, which costs $1.40 a month to run a month.

  • cortexiphan1

    "...research before you make a fool of yourself." Bladed Dragon --- Three points:

    1) You are assuming that they actually do last 25x as long...and I'm not even sure what that means. ..some users may be more sensitive to the reduce output and want a replacement well before the 25x estimate is up.

    2) Replacing a single bulb 25 times...really?  I challenge you to find someone that can honestly say they've replaced any bulb in their house 25x.  Given that people change houses on average every 7-8 years --- it won't happen...and good luck actually recouping the initial cost at a $10 price point.

    3) Electrical savings...give me a break.  Sure it would be tangible if you have about 200 bulbs on 24 hours a day but be real...Let's use real math...a single 60w bulb on for 5 hrs/day @0.08c/kwh will use about $0.03 cents a month.

    I like the fact they use less electricity, generate less heat, and last longer...but anyone thinking they will "save" delusional.

  • BladedDragon

     and if the "25x longer life than incandescent bulbs" holds true that's $10 vs the $17 you would have to spend buying 25 incandescent bulbs at .69 each, not to mention the electrical savings because of LED's low power draw, so yeah...research before you make a fool of yourself

  • Flodadolf

     $79 for six of the 60W-equivilent daylight bulbs, or $13.97 bought individually.

    The 40W-equivilent warm white bulbs are $9.97 each.

  • Macniven23

    Um.. Ikea has had similar looking LED bulbs for awhile now.   200, 400, and 600 lumens.  $10 - $13.