The LED price tag tipping point is here

For years, the promise of affordable LED light bulbs has inched closer. But it’s remained out of reach–until now. General-purpose LEDs from Cree and Philips are hitting the market at under $10, a price tag that could give the energy efficient light bulbs a mass market appeal.

When viewed over the long term, the savings a light emitting diode bulb offers far outweighs its upfront cost. Still, the masses have been largely turned off by prices of $40, and more recently, $20 a bulb. The price of LEDs have steadily dropped in recent years and now at least some bulbs have dropped below the $10 mark, the price Royal Philips Electronics CEO Frans van Houten has called atipping point for consumers.

Cree launched a line of low-cost LED bulbs yesterday that will be sold at Home Depot. One of the bulbs, a 40-watt warm white replacement, will retail for $9.97.

Meanwhile, Philips says it anticipates the 60-watt bulb it currently has on the market will come down to $9.99 (without rebates) by the end of the year.

Every six months to a year, Philips releases a new generation of LED light bulbs, each time more efficient and cheaper than their predecessors, a company spokeswoman told me in a phone interview. In this latest “refresh,” Philips used less metal and removed the dimming capability of its 60-watt bulb in order to lower costs.

Cree and Philips certainly aren’t the only companies that have introduced cheap LED bulbs. Last February, Lemnis Lighting unveiled a no-frills non-dimmable consumer LED bulbs for under $5, which are available for purchase online. Still, the Lemnis bulb has its limitations. The versions available at the time of release gave off less light than a 40-watt incandescent.

The under $10 bulbs by Cree and Philips will likely have a bigger impact on the industry, largely because the products, which are sold in big box retail stores, are more widely available to the everyday consumer.

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