Next-generation light bulb shines at CES

January 13, 2012 by Glenn Chapman
Switch bulbs use 80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last for about 25,000 hours
A block of ice with Consumer Electronics Show logo is seen ahead of the opening of the event on January 8, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A California startup out to change the world shined at the CES on Thursday with a light bulb, new-generation LED, blending beauty and efficiency with love for the Earth.

A California startup out to change the world shined at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday with a light bulb blending beauty and efficiency with love for the Earth.

Switch Lighting executives Tracy Bilbrough and Brett Sharenow glowed as they showed off new-generation LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs that they believe will transform the more than $30-billion global market.

"It is exciting to be the little David taking on the Goliath's of the world," Switch chief Bilbrough told AFP.

"You pick this because it doesn't have mercury; you can dim it; it loves cold weather; there is no ultra-violet so they don't draw any bugs outdoors, and it fits in any fixture an incandescent bulb goes in."

Switch bulbs being are being tested in two US hotels and will begin shipping later this month as a smart option to incandescent or CFL models.

are power-sucking classics being phased out in countries around the world, replaced by energy-efficient CFL versions containing that make them hazardous to toss in the rubbish.

"LEDs are really the next thing in lighting," said Switch chief strategy officer Sharenow.

The Silicon Valley company's bulb is touted as Earth-friendly from "cradle to cradle" and lasts about seven times longer than CFLs while providing the kind of light people like from incandescent.

Switch bulbs have an artistic look akin to a snow glove perched on a silver pedestal. They can also survive a three-foot drop to a hardwood floor.

A ring of metal prongs, each with a computer chip on it to emit light, is immersed in liquid that fills each bulb. The liquid cools the chips while acting as a lens to magnify light.

"It is food-grade; actually used in making beer, pasta and women's cosmetics," Sharenow said of the liquid, the ingredients of which were secret.

"We actually get more light out of the LEDs with liquid in the glass dome than if there was air in there."

Switch bulbs use 80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last for about 25,000 hours no matter often you switch them on or off, he added.

The life spans of CFL bulbs shrinks as they are flicked on or off and they buzz or burn out if dimmed.

Switch bulbs, which are being launched in 65- and 75-watt models, are priced at $35 each but the price was expected to drop under $20 by the end of the year.

Even at a price of $35, businesses recover the cost in six months while homeowners hit that mark in two years, according to Sharenow.

LED bulb efficiency is on par with CFL, which cost about three dollars each versus 50 cents for incandescent. Bilbrough expected LED bulbs to quickly get more efficient that CFL.

Switch is first targeting businesses that see cost-savings in energy-efficient bulbs that last them more than a decade. Bilbrough estimated that Switch bulbs would last about 25 years or longer in home use.

"If you put that in your baby's room when they come home from the hospital, they will still be studying under it when they are in college," Bilbrough said with a nod toward one of the bulbs.

"These things will last longer than your phone, iPad, car or sofa."

When people are done with Switch bulbs, the company wants them back so they can recycle or reuse the parts giving them new lives in a practice referred to in the industry as "cradle to cradle."

"We want to reuse every part we can so nothing goes back to the biosphere of the Earth," Sharenow said.

Switch in coming months will release a 100-watt bulb and models tailored for Europe.

"Everyone is looking for ways to avoid building power plants," Bilbrough said, noting that about 20 percent of the world's electric power goes to lighting.

"The one thing with no negative environmental impact is to use less," he continued.

Explore further: U.S. urges using compact fluorescent bulbs

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3.8 / 5 (4) Jan 13, 2012
who changes $17 worth of light bulbs a year in a house ..??

look if your bulbs are burning out buy a higher VOLTAGE bulb you are probably getting a lot of spikes in current from you electricity provider.

Voltage is different than wattage... wattage is directly proportional to light output -- voltage allows your bulb to absorb those spikes in electricity without blowing... there are two voltage levels in bulbs -- look next time you are in the store or ask someone in that department -- normally the old guy in the corner will know what you are talking about.
3.8 / 5 (4) Jan 13, 2012
"It is food-grade; actually used in making beer, pasta and women's cosmetics," Sharenow said of the liquid, the ingredients of which were secret."

It won't stay secret too long giving out clues like that :P
5 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2012
I worked for Mr. Bilbrough at another company. He's one of the few executives I've ever met that actually had the imagination and could manage the risk required to bring new technology to the market!
3 / 5 (8) Jan 13, 2012
Unfortunately, the issue of phasing out the older light bulb was handled in the same thoughtless manner as replacing the space shuttle. Both were tossed out before a replacement was available and the result has been both dangerous and very embarrassing. So, we have to walk the gauntlet of begging rides to space from the Russians and pollute our homes with mercury until the right product comes along to replace our waste.
5 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2012
who changes $17 worth of light bulbs a year in a house ..??

LED lights are already much cheaper than incandescent bults. See http://www.sfgate...9886.DTL

They cost more up front , but then you can just forget about them while they save you money on electricity. For me, not having to change bulbs is a huge advantage.
2.8 / 5 (13) Jan 13, 2012
What will mindless American Conservatives find to whine about with these bulbs?

"When I turn on the swtich, the light comes on too fast."

"They use too little electricity, it must be satanic."

"They are heavier than regular bulbs and it strains me to lift one."

"If you eat one you have to call a Hasmat Team when you poop."

"The electronic light makes me fart."

1.5 / 5 (8) Jan 13, 2012
ArxMindless doesn't seem bright enough to realize that every florescent tube in every office building in his country contains mercury.

Is your workplace evacuated every time one breaks?


"Both were tossed out before a replacement was available and the result has been both dangerous and very embarrassing." - ArxMindless

5 / 5 (4) Jan 13, 2012
What office, Veni? I have 17 florescent tubes in my home. A little annoying to take them to the hazardous material depot, but it's right across the street from my favorite hardware store, so no problem. Although lighting is a tiny fraction of my electrical bill, I'm installing CFLs inside and LEDs outside as the old bulbs burn out. With a two-story house, changing floodlights is a royal pain.
1.9 / 5 (9) Jan 13, 2012
The total price of ownership determines, whether some technology is really efficient. If some LED consumes 80% less energy than incandescent light bulb but it costs 80% more during its lifetime because of energy required for mining and production of indium, then the total energy saving is still zero and it makes the economy sensitive to import quotas of indium of China.


There are another quality factors in the game: the light of LED is not multispectral and diffusive and LED adapters are source of EM smog.
4.7 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2012
I don't know about others, but I just bought a couple of LED bulbs for the living room, and I find their light even more "weird" than CFL.

For indoor lighting, I'd much prefer halogen lights. They give a natural, sunny day-like light that simply makes me feel good and happy.
1.8 / 5 (4) Jan 14, 2012
"For indoor lighting, I'd much prefer halogen lights." - qwrede

Halogens waste 90% of their energy to heat and are only modestly more efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.

Worthless garbage.
5 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2012
That's the thing, the efficient and green attributes are worthless if the consumer prefers a different product.
4.5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2012
I find that the useful life claims of CF bulbs are wildly overstated therfore the cost is much less competitive than cited in studies. Perhaps if the manufacturers (in China) can get the color/warmth in LED's worked out and come close to useful life predictions they will be a winner.
2.7 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2012
Vendicar, there are very few Mindless American Conservatives, but there are probably many American Conservatives who realize there are advantages and disadvantages to each lighting technology (one characteristic of almost every American Conservative I know is common sense).
4.3 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2012
Let's compare lights:

Pros: cheap unit cost, excellent color rendition, reaches max light output quickly when turned on, can be used as a heat source, good ambient temperature tolerance
Cons: inefficient light source; requires heat tolerant fixture, short lifespan, poor vibration resistance, power cycling tolerance only fair. Highest life-cycle cost

Pros: low operating costs, good color rendition possible, moderate unit cost, good vibration resistance
Cons: short lifespan, poor power cycling tolerance, slow turn-on, contains toxic material, fragile, loses considerable amount of efficiency with age, poor heat or cold tolerance.

Pros: lowest life-cycle operating cost, long life, high power-cycling tolerance, instant-on, excellent cold tolerance
Cons: high unit cost, fair to poor color rendition, poor heat tolerance, highly directional.

The LED is a great choice for passageway and storeroom lighting, but needs more development to be used in "living space.
2.7 / 5 (7) Jan 15, 2012
"one characteristic of almost every American Conservative I know is common sense"= MNice

You must not be talking to the 80% of them who believe in angels.

Would you mind telling us where those Iraqui WMD were again?

I have never encountered a Conservative who wasn't a chronic, congenital liar.
1.7 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2012
I've saved hundreds of dollars over and above my initial investment in LED's, within the first year of installation. The heat given off is so much less that I am able to turn my air-conditioning down considerably in the summer.

My only reservation was the stark white color. I'm used to it now. It is possible to scrim the lights for color. Also, the quality of the dimming capabilities is dependent on the quality of the power supply; Surges can cause them to hiss a bit requiring me to fiddle with the dimmer to silence them. I suspect that surges may shorten the life-span as in incandescents, but I may be wrong. I have this one exterior light that used to burn out monthly, and has not since I installed an LED. YEAH!

P.S. Vendicar Decarian is an emotionally depraved bigot. Everybody knows what he does with that brown thumb of his.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2012
Ebay is full of regular-socket LED bulbs from China, many claim to emit light of 2000-3000K, meaning warm white, and a bulb that spends 7W and emits roughly as much light as a 50W incandescent bulb costs about $5.

I ordered one a couple of weeks ago and I'm waiting for it to arrive. I am curious to see just how warm and luminous its light will truly be.

I am a little sceptical about the bombastic claims of immense longevity of LED bulbs. I have no doubt they last longer than the other types, but... entire 25 years? This was tested... when?
I think a lot of the calculations of exactly how much money LEDs can save you over time due to their longevity, are pure guesswork.

I also worry that if these calculations are based on high quality LEDs, who's to say that's what we're going to get in the shops? Does a 25 year life span of a bulb that consists of 120 diodes mean that in 25 years all the diodes will still be functional, or would maybe only half of them still be working?
5 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2012

I think $35 per bulb is overpriced anyway, but new gadgets always are, so hopefully this price will drop over the next few years when these bulbs become more common in the Western markets.

This is why I intend to wait a little longer before equipping my whole house with LEDs. If I can order a LED bulb from China for $5 NOW, and they sell the exact same one, imported from China, for $35 in the US and Europe, we're just paying for the hype. Unless of course, the $5 bulb I ordered from China turns out to be made of paper. :))

We shall see.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2012
The difference in energy consumption between LED and CF is not large enough to justify switching just for the purpose of doing so. I would switch as each CF bulb goes.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2012
What will mindless American Conservatives find to whine about with these bulbs?

I'm not aware that any conservatives objects to new products like these. What's objectionable is being FORCED by government to buy a particular kind of bulb, rather than being free to choose what one believes is best for their needs.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2012
"What's objectionable is being FORCED by government to buy a particular kind of bulb.." - ForFree

Well then.. Since American conservatives aren't being "forced" to purchase any light bulbs then they have nothing to complain about.

So on that basis, their childish whining is even more insipid.
not rated yet Jan 24, 2012
"the light of LED is not multispectral and diffusive and LED adapters are source of EM smog"
Correct. Despite these people's delusions that "LEDs are really the next thing in lighting", actually the most promising energy-efficient and non-toxic technology at the moment is Electron-Stimulated Luminescence, currently developed by VU1 Corp., not least of all because of those bulbs' superior spectral output (i.e. natural-looking light color).

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