LEDs turn up the competition in price war against CFLs

The New York Times recently reported that CFL shipments were down by almost 10 percent for the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period last year, while shipments of LEDs were up by more than 150 percent, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

So what does this mean?

The demand for CFLs is dwindling, while the demand for LEDs is rising. For years, the cost differential was the only competitive advantage CFLs enjoyed; but now the playing field is leveling. While there are still applications that are better-suited to CFLs as opposed to LEDs, like areas which require high-intensity lighting, manufacturers like General Electric are shifting their focus towards LEDs.

In the past month or so, we’ve seen two relatively inexpensive LED bulbs come to market, thanks to GE and Philips.

The GE Bright Stik, a cylindrical 60-watt bulb, comes in a three-pack available for $9.97. The light bulb is geared toward businesses that typically use CFLs, like hotels, because its slimmer shape lets it fit into existing fixtures that were designed for CFLs.

Philips’ low-priced LED bulb was introduced to the market at $4.97 apiece, with a two-for-one deal for the first 90 days. The bulb is meant to serve as a utilitarian bulb that does not dim and can be used in places like basements, laundry rooms and anywhere that requires a consistent level of lighting.

Phillips Bulb

This is all positive news for the entire LED industry — sapphire manufacturers included. Prices for LEDs have dropped in part because of government regulations, but also because of increased efficiencies when it comes to LED and sapphire manufacturing.

By developing large diameter wafers, manufacturers have been able to maximize the usable area of a sapphire wafer, which effectively maximizes the number of LED chips produced per wafer. Then, through technologies like Patterned Sapphire Substrates, precise etching and patterning can increase the total light extraction efficiency as much as 30 percent.

With prices dropping, LEDs are now becoming a viable option for people’s lighting needs worldwide. From Africa to Asia to North America, LED lighting is helping to break new grounds. As LEDs continue catch on, the LED Revolution we have been discussing on this blog becomes less hypothetical and more a reality.

Sapphire Industry Watch – June 12

  • World acclaim for Thai students’ invention to help coral reefs – Thai Visa News: Two Thai university students recently received a prestigious honor at a convention in Switzerland for their invention of a computer-controlled LED lighting system capable of stimulating and quickening the growth of coral in threatened reefs.  By using different shades and light frequencies to simulate the natural surroundings of sunlight and moonlight, the system’s LED bulbs enable coral to reach growth maturity weeks, and even months, faster than normal.
  • Dyson’s LED lamp promises to burn brightly for 37 years – Gizmag: Jake Dyson, son of Dyson company founder James Dyson, recently announced the company has developed an LED lamp capable of lasting 37 years. By applying technology similar to “heat-pipe technology” used in satellites called Csys, the LEDs are properly cooled, greatly extending the bulb’s lifespan.
  • Anaheim has one colorful roof – The Orange County Register: An LED lighting system has been installed on the dome roof of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). Designed to glow colorfully for sporting events, holidays and special occasions, the California city even has a policy in place for deciding the mood lighting of any particular night’s design.
  • Five-buck bulbs: The LED revolution is on – Business Spectator: Lighting companies have ignited a revolution by reducing the cost of LEDs to an affordable $5 or less, down $20 from when they were first introduced a few years ago. Thanks to this significant drop in price, consumers will save billions of dollars annually and reduce millions of tons of fossil fuel pollution.

Sapphire Industry Watch – February 20

  • Glasshouse LEDs save greenhouse gasses – Electronics Weekly: As artificial lighting is increasingly used to extend the growing day and growing season inside greenhouses, UK plant researchers are looking into using LED lights to grow plants with less energy. While it is not necessarily the effectiveness of LEDs that is the advantage to growing plans indoors, the ability to save power by only delivering wavelengths useful to plants is highly effective for managing the growth process.
  • LED revolution unfolds in Guntur – The Hindu: Since the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP) was launched in October, residents and businesses in the Anantpur, Guntur, Srikakulam and West Godavari districts have begun making the switch from incandescent light bulbs over to LEDs as part of a nationwide effort to conserve energy and money. In a span of just three months, DELP has already covered more than 80 percent of consumers in the district.
  • Rubicon’s Q4 Revenue Up 11 Percent on Q3 – Compound Semiconductor: Last week, Rubicon Technology reported financial results for its fourth quarter, which ended on December 31, 2014. The company reporter Q4 revenue of $8.9 million, an 11 percent increase from the previous quarter. Demand for the company’s two-inch sapphire cores increased considerably in the period.
  • LED lights to save $50K annually for Bridge Authority – Poughkeepsie Journal: The New York State Bridge Authority has announced a new project to improve lighting around the Mid-Hudson Bridge through the installation of LED lights. The project, which will generate more than $53,000 in annual savings, calls for the installation of 174 LED lights. The project will cost $57,069 and include 120 street lights, 22 high mast lights and 32 tower lights.

Sapphire Industry Watch – January 30

  • Public servants to take power to India’s slums in international move – Canberra Times: Pollinate Energy is a social enterprise with a mission to improve the lives of India’s urban poor by providing access to sustainable technologies like solar energy and LED lights. Co-founded in 2012 by a Canberra woman, the organization has already helped more than 25,000 people in Bangalore switch to solar LED lighting in their homes.
  • The First Super Bowl Played Under LEDs will use 75 Percent Less Power– Gizmodo: Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona will be the first Super Bowl played entirely under LED lights. The switch from metal halide fixtures to high-performance LED lights will reduce overall energy consumption by 75 percent.
  • LEDs cast new light on auto design – The Detroit News: As the price of LEDs continues to decline, the technology is becoming standard on many headlamps and taillights of mainstream vehicles. Once found only on luxury vehicles, nearly all of the models showcased at the 2015 North American International Auto Show incorporated LED lighting.
  • Rubicon Technology Will Report Results of Fourth Quarter Operations on February 12, 2015 – MarketWatch: Rubicon Technology will report financial results for the fourth quarter, which ended on December 31, 2014, after the market closes on February 12, 2015. Management will host a conference call at 5:00 p.m. EST on February 12 in conjunction with the earnings release to review the financial results and an audio replay of the call will be available approximately one hour after the conclusion of the call.

Have LED Light Bulb Questions? Infographics & Such to “Enlighten”

Angie's List Infographic - LEDs

Angie’s List Infographic – LEDs

A lot of companies are participating in the new LED light bulb market, also called Solid State Lighting or SSL. These companies can be LED light bulb makers or participate by making some component of the LED light bulb ranging from heat sinks and LED chips to the sapphire growers, polishers and fabricators that make the foundation of the LED, the sapphire chip. All of them have a vested interest in helping consumers understand LED light bulbs and why they are different from CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs. We’ve gathered together some resources to help consumers understand their lighting options.

The US Department of Energy is leading the effort to educate consumers about their new lighting options and have enlisted companies that participate in the LED lighting market to help. The DOE has developed some very good resources on their own web site for the industry, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/. But they’ve also developed resources for consumers to learn more about their lighting choices. Some sample resources for consumers to learn more about LED lighting include a good FAQ here, http://energy.gov/articles/askenergysaver-led-lights.

The Federal Trade Commission requires a new lighting label, Lighting Facts, on all light bulb packages to help consumers understand what they’re buying. Optical and lighting publication Novus Light Today wrote about these new labeling requirements featuring an infographic from light bulb manufacturer Cree.

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic










Many of these companies as well as consumer groups are producing infographics to help the consumer learn more. Here’s a round-up of links to additional resources for learning more about LEDs.

Angie’s List, Infographic: What’s in a light bulb?,


The information in the Angie’s List infographic is great, except for the pricing. LED light bulbs have gone down quite a bit in price with some at retailers in the US coming in at just under $10 and a few others cost less and are even more affordable when combined with rebates and other special offers.

Philips, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://community.lighting.philips.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/102-1201-34-4943/Infographic_LED+Revolution_Philips+2012.png

Light bulb vendor Philips compiled a nice all around look at the energy-saving benefits of LED light bulbs and translates them into benefits for the environment and life.

Lumican, Can LED lighting really save energy and money?, http://lumican.com/portfolio-items/can-led-lighting-really-save-energy-and-money/

Canadian lighting solutions provider Lumican highlights US Department of Energy statistics and compares energy usage and savings of LED, halogen, CFL and traditional light bulbs.

LiveScience, NRDC Guide to Light Bulbs, http://www.livescience.com/42509-goodbye-to-old-lightbulbs.html

The NRDC does a great job at comparing LED light bulbs to CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs and gives a good explanation at the new light bulb packaging required by the US government.

We’ve also covered LEDs vs. CFLs on the Clearlysapphire blog. You can read them, here:

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL? http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=601

Clearlysapphire.com, Confused about Your Home Lighting? – LED, CFL and Incandescent Compared, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=492

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=371

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169