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Philips' pricey LED bulb has impressive specs

Company's L Prize LED bulb, which will go on sale on Earth Day for $50 online and in stores, brings a big jump in efficiency, life, and light quality.

L Prize LED bulb

Philips on Sunday will start selling an LED bulb that sets a new bar for performance -- and price.

The company will release the Philips L Prize LED on Earth Day for $50, which includes an "automatic incentive" from the company. The general-lighting bulb came out of the Department of Energy's L Prize competition to develop long-lasting, efficient, and less expensive LED lamps.

Philips claims its L Prize LED is the most efficient 60-watt LED equivalent and improves on features from Philips own existing LEDs.

It gives off 940 lumens, consumes 9.7 watts, and has a color rendering index, which is a measure of light quality, of 93. It's also rated to last 30,000 hours, which would be 20 years if used four hours a day. The color temperature is 2700, similar to an incandescent bulb, and it's dimmable.

In terms of price, Philips is offering an "automatic incentive," a discount that takes $10 off the actual price of $60. Other local rebates can bring the cost down to as low as $25. Philips expects it to get the EnergyStar rating.

The bulb is significant in that it is far more efficient than other LED and compact florescent bulbs in the popular 60-watt equivalent category. At 96 lumens per watt, the L Prize LED is about 50 percent more efficient than Philips' AmbientLED.

The color rendering index is also significantly higher and -- to people with discerning eyes -- should be a noticeable improvement in light quality.

To design and manufacture such a bulb, however, leads to a $60 price tag, much more than people pay for other lighting technologies and higher than the DOE L Prize price target of $22. Philips' existing 60-watt replacement costs between $25 and $30.

Online reviewers who have purchased LED bulbs are generally happy with the performance and willing to pay a higher upfront cost for the energy savings over time. Philips estimates the L Prize bulb will save $165 over its lifetime.