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See ya, CFL: GE moves on from fluorescent light bulbs

By the end of the year, the manufacturer will stop making fluorescent light bulbs, and instead will focus entirely on halogen incandescents and high-efficiency LEDs.


It's twilight time for fluorescent bulbs at GE Lighting.

By the end of the year,

GE will cease production and sales of compact fluorescent lights

(CFLs), the manufacturer announced this morning. Moving forward, the company's focus will fall entirely on halogen incandescents and on high-efficiency LEDs.

"CFL's kind of been the light bulb that everybody loves to hate," explained John Strainic, chief operating officer of GE Lighting, citing the history of complaints about CFL dimmer compatibility, brightness delay, and quality of light. Strainic says that the industry has come a long way, but admits that the perception of inferior performance lingers. "Ultimately, LED offers a better solution at a comparable price."

The move reflects the shifting landscape of the lighting aisle, where the phase-out of classic 40W and 60W incandescents has made room for more efficient options like LEDs and halogen incandescents. With the prices of those other options coming down considerably in the last few years, the relevance of CFLs has been in decline.

"You end up with a shelf that has (halogen) incandescents on one side and your energy-saving, longer-life LEDs on the other, and the CFLs in the middle get squeezed," Strainic said. "It's already happening."

Strainic also points out that Energy Star's efficiency standards are set to rise to 80 lumens per watt in 2017. When that happens, most compact fluorescents will no longer qualify for utility rebates. The wide majority of those rebate dollars will shift to LEDs, Strainic says.

Sayonara, CFL.

Ry Crist/CNET

And then there's last summer's release of the GE Bright Stik LED, a low-cost LED option designed for the same sort of household utility lighting as cheap fluorescents. Strainic admits that the bulb was more or less designed to be a CFL killer at its price of $10 for a 3-pack, and says that GE plans to build upon its success in the coming year.

To that end, the company has already released a bigger, brighter version of the Bright Stik designed to replace 100W bulbs, and soon expects to unveil a GE Reveal-branded Bright Stik designed to improve the colors in your home, too.

If you're a fan of GE's CFL bulbs, you'll have plenty of time to stock up. GE expects that it'll take some time to sell through its CFL inventory at retail partners like Walmart and Sam's Club -- the entire year, perhaps, and potentially into 2017 as well.

Still, it's a significant step for GE, and for the entire lighting industry. It's unclear whether or not names like Philips and Osram Sylvania will follow suit with CFL phase-outs of their own, but you have to imagine that they see the same writing on the wall.