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Summary:

When it comes to the more energy-efficient, twisty-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs, consumers complain that fitting them into some lighting fixtures is difficult, that they’re inordinately fragile, and that they give off an unusual light. So how do you get regular Joes to buy up the greener […]

gesmartbulbsmallWhen it comes to the more energy-efficient, twisty-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs, consumers complain that fitting them into some lighting fixtures is difficult, that they’re inordinately fragile, and that they give off an unusual light. So how do you get regular Joes to buy up the greener bulbs (other than stressing that they lower electricity bill costs)? Make them look a lot more like traditional incandescent bulbs — because let’s face it, people don’t like change.

That’s just what GE plans to do. The company is expected to announce tomorrow that it will start selling a CFL bulb — the GE Energy Smart CFL bulb — which is shaped like an incandescent; the company has basically shrunk and scrunched the twisty CFL shape right into the rounded glass bulb form factor. Developed by engineers in the GE’s consumer and industrial division, the bulb will go on sale at Target on Dec. 28th, at Ace Hardware in January, and at other outlets like Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart sometime in April, in time for Earth Day. It’s GE, so they already have a massive retailer partnership footprint.

The idea to make CLFs, and even the more efficient LEDs, look like regular bulbs isn’t new. Philips has more bulby-looking CFLs. Silicon Valley startup SuperBulbs is trying to tackle more difficult task of making an LED look like a regular bulb.

But GE calls their smart bulb the “first truly incandescent-shaped” CFL bulb, and the company says it has more than a dozen U.S. patent applications to protect the design. The bulb does look more like a traditional bulb than, say, the Philips rounded CFL. GE spokesperson David Schuellerman explains the difference as:

Over the past several years, lots of manufacturers, including GE, have sold “A-shaped” CFLs that feature a plastic ballast housing. The one we’re announcing this week is the world’s first truly incandescent-shaped CFL. It mirrors the shape and size of a traditional incandescent light bulb. There’s no plastic ballast housing. It’s all glass.

But perhaps getting the exact bulb shape perfect isn’t key to cracking this market. The twisty form of the regular CFL has come to signify a greener consumer choice. It could be that, like the Prius, a more alternative design could also drive sales.

The more important factor will be the cost. And GE’s product is priced pretty well — in an estimated range of $5.99 to $7.99, depending on the retailer — particularly if any kind of programs were implemented to bring down the cost even more (like the PG&E CFL program). A $6 energy efficient bulb is not a bad deal, given it’s guaranteed for five years (based on four hours of daily use). GE’s current smart bulb version is 15-watt, but the company will eventually start selling 9-watt, 20-watt, 40-watt, 75-watt and 100-watt versions. If you’re interested in the seeing a close-up of the smart bulb design, check out the video.

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  1. “So how do you get regular Joes to buy up the greener bulbs (other than stressing that they lower electricity bill costs)? Make them look a lot more like traditional incandescent bulbs — because let’s face it, people don’t like change.”

    Perhaps I should bow to the wiser marketing people at companies like GE and Philips. But maybe the problem isn’t so much that “people don’t like change” as much as the lamps in which people would put these bulbs are hostile to anything but the traditional bulb shape.

    Some lamp shades have a framework that rests directly on the round top of the bulb. Guess what no longer rests on a “twisty” CFL? Some lamp shades rest on harps which are not big enough to accommodate a CFL of equivalent light output (put a 60-watt incandescent next to a 15-watt twisty CFL and you’ll see what I mean). Some lamps are enclosed, which, earlier on, was a no-no for CFLs.

    I won’t even get to the problem of not being able to dim CFLs if you screw them into a typical incandescent-lamp dimmer circuit. Or the quality of the light, especially of cheaper CFLs.

    Yes, there is a percentage of the U.S. populace that approaches anything new with revulsion. But there are others among us who have figured out that it’s not “green” to use a CFL if it means you have to buy a light fixture to use it.

  2. 100W version, really? Wouldn’t that be equivalent to a 300+W incandescent, something that never even remotely existed as a traditional bulb?

  3. Yes, high wattage screw in CFLs have existed for some time now:

    http://www.goodmart.com/pdfs/tcp/289hi_watt.pdf

    The 28968 is equal to a 300W incandescent. I have them in my garage.

    The only reason incandescents of this output level don’t exist is due to the heat they would generate and the power they would consume. Fire hazard and possible overload hazard for older homes.

  4. It’s not as nutty as you make it sound. I’ve been buying the twisty kind of CFL for year (maybe 10 years — have they existed that long), but never made the total switchover because I have a few lamps, including one I inherited from my grandmother, that require an incandescent shaped bulb. So…now I can finally buy CFLs for those lamps as well.

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