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With prices expected to drop another 50 percent in two to three years and quality rising, experts think there will be a big shift to LED in the residential market within 18 to 24 months. Consumers will be the beneficiaries of the race to meet and beat the $10 price barrier.
Best Buy may be in the lead for now, but Home Depot will soon be able to undercut Best Buy’s prices with two versions of a 60-watt LED equivalent from Cree Inc. The hardware giant has been selling two versions for $13 and $14 without a subsidy since March. After the bulbs receive Energy Star approval, which is pending, they will be eligible for utility subsidies, pushing them below the $10 benchmark that Best Buy has set.
Regardless of price, the sheer number of bulbs to be replaced has manufacturers and retailers beaming. North American residents have about 4 billion incandescent light bulbs in their homes, said Mike Watson, vice president of marketing at Cree Inc. Still, LEDs aren’t expected to capture the majority of the lighting market until 2020, Brodrick said.
Part of the delay can be attributed to consumers who stocked up on 75- and 100-watt incandescents after the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required manufacturers to quit making them. The 40- and 60-watt incandescents, while still on store shelves, will be phased out by the end of 2014.
Eventually, the LED industry hopes to dazzle consumers with quality and features instead of low prices and energy savings. Instead of choosing between warm or cool light, LEDs will offer consumers the ability to choose their hue on a controller. Research at the California Lighting Center has shown that consumers tend to prefer redder hues at sunrise, blue in midday to match the overhead sun, and red again at sunset, said Brodrick.
LED also will allow us to put lights on walls, surfaces and edges, Siminovitch said. “We could have panels, partitions and walls creating soft, low-glare light.”
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633