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Vu1 readies efficient lightbulb Edison would love

Vu1 has another idea for efficient lighting: Based on cathode ray technology, its UL-certified lightbulbs put out similar light to incandescents but use less energy and don't contain mercury.

The latest challenger in the lighting technology race is LEDs, which are trying to displace familiar incandescents and more efficient compact fluorescents bulbs. But lighting company Vu1 is going a different route.

Vu1 (pronounced "View one") today said that it received UL certification for its first lightbulb which it says matches the light quality of incandescent bulbs but uses a fraction of the energy and costs less than current LEDs.

Its technology, which the company calls electronically stimulated luminescence (ESL), is derived from cathode ray tubes used in televisions, said president and CEO Philip Styles. Electrons are fired at a bulb coated in phosphors which are excited and emit light. The effect is a "natural light," which is the same as a traditional incandescent, Styles said.

Vu1 has alternative efficient lighting technology than CFLs and LEDs. Its first product will be an R30 bulb for spotlights.
Vu1 has an alternative efficient lighting technology to CFLs and LEDs. Its first product will be an R30 bulb for spotlights. Vu1

"It's basically old technology that everybody just gave up on some years ago because it's based on the TV side, not lighting," he said.

Because of the phosphors Vu1 is using, it can better match the light spectrum of incandescent light than competing technologies, Styles said.

Its first product, which Vu1 intends to start making early next year, is an R30 floodlight for recessed cans which produces as much light as a 65-watt incandescent at 870 lumens while consuming 19 watts. An Energy Star-compliant compact fluorescent light with similar output consumes about 13 watts. But unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, Vu1 bulbs will not have mercury. The cost is projected to be under $20, said Styles.

Vu1 estimates that the life of the bulb will be eight years and the color rendering index is 85. It is dimmable, has instant-on light, and the color temperature is adjustable.

Next year, Vu1 plans to introduce a general-purpose bulb in the familiar "A" shape which will give off 870 lumens and use less than 19 watts. The company is targeting a price between $10 and $12, Styles said.

The company has been developing the technology behind its bulbs for over four years and is now reaching the point where it plans to start manufacturing and distributing them. It has a factory in the Czech Republic where the bulbs are being developed and will be made, Styles said.

So far, it has not announced any retail distribution partnerships. But yesterday, Vu1 announced that former Home Depot merchandising and marketing executive Bill Hamlin joined its board.

Home Depot is significantly expanding the efficient lighting products it carries. Earlier this year, it started distributing LED bulbs of different types from Lighting Sciences Group and in December it plans to sell Philips' 60-watt replacement LED bulb, which will cost between $40 and $50.

Updated at 4:20 a.m PT on Monday October 11 with correction to Styles' title.