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Martin LaMonica

A View from Martin LaMonica

Cree Introduces an LED Bulb Edison Would Love

Cree introduces an LED bulb that mimics the design and shape of traditional incandescent bulb to entice consumers to try LEDs.

  • March 5, 2013

If you’ve had any experience with LED light bulbs, you know they can look pretty odd. Cree today introduced a bulb that mimics the traditional incandescent bulb design in every way–except its inefficiency. 

The bulb is the first consumer bulb from Cree, which primarily supplies LED semiconductors to other lamp makers. There are three products: a 40-watt equivalent and two 60-watt equivalents with different color light. They’re available from Home Depot online now and will be made available in stores this month priced between $9.97 and $13.97.

What’s most notable is that bulbs have the same glass dome as incandescent lights and there isn’t a large metal heat sink. The first wave of general-purpose LED products have heavy metal fins to wick away heat from the LED light sources, which helps ensure life. The Cree bulb uses the same glass as an incandescent but has a rubber coating to prevent shattering.

In an incandescent bulb, a tungsten filament in the center of the glass glows to give off an even, warm light. Cree designed a “filament tower” that places a series of pin-hole-shaped LEDs in the same location as the traditional filament. I installed one yesterday and the effect is a similar light output as a traditional bulb and even light distribution. 

Having a familiar shape is very important to spur more consumers to consider LEDs as a replacement for incandescent bulbs, says Mike Watson, the vice president of corporate marketing. “Consumers actually love that particular (incandescent bulb) product. It’s the shape they’re used to and it gives off a warm glow they expect, but it’s grossly inefficient and has a short lifetime,” he says. Cree’s bulb uses high-power LEDs which means it can work with a smaller heat sink, which appears like a collar around the base of the bulb.

An incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, while most LED bulbs are rated to last 25,000 hours, which can be 15 or 20 years depending on usage. The Cree bulb has a 10-year warranty.

Cree designed the bulb so that its optics mimicked a traditional incandescent light bulb.

A 60-watt equivalent Cree LED bulb that gives off 800 lumens uses 9.5 watts for the warmer-colored light. The color rendering index, a measure of light quality, is at least 80.

Other LED lighting companies are also changing their designs with the hopes of appealing to more consumers. The first LED bulbs from Philips looked a bit like a crown because its yellow-colored phosphors were placed on top of the bulbs. In response to consumer requests, Philips has adopted a lighter-weight heat sink and moved the phosphor in its latest products so it better resembles the classic incandescent bulbs. 

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