Philips was the only entry in the Department of Energy's L Prize for designing a super-efficient light bulb, so I guess it's not really surprising that the company managed to win. But, Philips did manage to meet the DoE's stringent efficient criteria with its new bulb, and the result of their efforts is officially going to be on sale as of this Sunday.
The DoE was looking for a replacement for the 60-watt incandescent bulb, but it wasn't interested in something that was marginally better: to win the L Prize, Philips had to deliver something that produced more than 90 lumens per watt, ran on less than 10 watts, lasted longer than 25,000 hours, produced natural looking light, and cost $22 or less.
To its credit, Philips managed to make most of these things happen. Its new L Prize Pro bulb puts out 93 lumens per watt while using only 9.7 watts, it should last 30,000 hours (20 years of four hours per day of use), and the light is natural and warm. The one thing that Philips didn't quite get right is the price, which currently stands at a rather ambitious $60 per bulb.
It's certainly true that on average, a bulb like this will save you about $8 worth of electricity per year over an incandescent, meaning that the bulb will pay for itself in savings in just eight short years and the rest of its lifespan is gravy. We're not really wired to think about things in the long term, though, and most people are probably going to find the $60 entry price hard to justify.
Philips says that its plan all along has been to have utility companies subsidize the up-front cost of the bulbs by $20 or $30, and Philips itself has decided to knock $10 off the price right away for consumers. But even at $30 or $40 each , the L Prize Pro is still kinda hefty, and the 20 year lifespan isn't nearly as impressive if you consider how much cheaper and more efficient this kind of technology could get in the next few decades: if you're still depending on those long-term savings when laser light bulbs come out, you're going to be out of luck.
Meanwhile, if you're one of those rabid duck-squeezing environmintl types with pockets deeper than your love of Mother Earth, you'll be able to pick up the Philips L Prize Pro in stores and online as of this weekend.