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Energy-efficient LED bulbs to light U.S. homes

Pharox6W Would you pay $39.95 for a light bulb?

Didn’t think so. But what if it used 90% less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb, cut greenhouse gas emissions and saved you an estimated $280 over its 25-year lifespan?

That’s the challenge facing Dutch start-up Lemnis Lighting today as it begins selling the American version of what apparently is the world’s first dimmable LED bulb compatible with home light fixtures.

LEDs -- light-emitting diodes -- are semiconductors that glow and are the great light hope for slashing carbon emissions from lighting, which consumes about 19% of energy production worldwide.

Lemnis says its Pharox60 LED lasts six times as long as an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb. But unlike CFLs, LEDS don’t contain toxic mercury.

Most often found in electronics equipment or in commercial lighting, LEDs tend to cast a cold light. Lemnis founder Warner Philips said the start-up spent considerable effort to engineer its 6-watt bulb to give off the warm white glow of a 60-watt incandescent.

“What we’ve been working on is to combine the ability to get a warm white light from an LED along with the energy savings,” said Philips, a great-grandson of the founder of the Philips lighting and electronics conglomerate.

“The final challenge is, how do you get people to understand that $40 for a light bulb is not expensive?” he added. “From Day One, they start to save money. The energy savings over the bulb’s lifetime vastly exceeds its cost.”

Philips said one solution would be for utilities to finance the cost of swapping a home’s incandescent bulbs for LEDs and add a fee to customers’ monthly bills. The utilities would profit if lower electricity demand allows them to avoid the expense of building power plants, he said.

And that $39.95 price? That’s a special offer -- the bulb retails for $49.95 -- good until Dec. 31. But Philips said he hopes sales will allow the price to remain at $39.95.

Lemnis, whose U.S. headquarters is in San Francisco, has sold 2.5 million LED bulbs in Europe and aims to sell 10 million worldwide by the end of 2010.

As production ramps up, Philips expects the price of the bulbs to fall. And the company has found one heavyweight early adopter: Google distributed 25,000 of Lemnis’ 5-watt LED bulbs to its employees on Earth Day this year.

-- Todd Woody

 
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