Osram Sylvania, a division of Germany's Siemens AG, said Monday that it's shipping the first batches of its Ultra LED bulb to some Lowe's stores. The bulb uses 20 watts of electricity and costs $50. It's slightly larger than a regular 100-watt bulb, so it may not fit in all fixtures. Osram claims 25,000 hours of use, or more than 20 times the lifespan of a standard, incandescent bulb.
Competitors aren't far behind. Royal Philips Electronics NV plans to start selling its own, slightly brighter 100-watt-equivalent LED bulb at Home Depot's website starting in a few weeks for about $55. Startup Switch Lighting Bulb Co., with its unusual liquid-filled bulbs, plans to start selling 100-watt equivalents late this year or in January.
The federal government banned the manufacture of regular 100-watt bulbs on Jan. 1 as a consequence of new energy-efficiency standards. Much the way it forces car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency, the government is forcing the lighting industry to move away from incandescent bulbs because they convert relatively little of the electrical input into light. Most of the energy is dissipated as heat. In the next step, 75-watt bulbs will be banned at the start of next year, and 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs at the start of 2014.