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Philips Unveils Mass Market — But Still Expensive — LED Bulb

The massive annual lighting convention Lightfair kicks off tomorrow, and that means one thing: Energy-efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes) will be making the news this week. Dutch lighting giant Philips (s phg) is first up, with the unveiling of a 17-watt LED bulb that comes in the standard incandescent bulb format and can replace a 75-watt incandescent bulb (the standard not efficient bulbs most people still use in their homes). There are 90 million 75-watt incandescent bulbs sold in the U.S. every year, according to Philips.

Philips could start selling the new LED, dubbed the EnduraLED A21, as early as September. But the downside — which has so far been the big problem with LEDs — is that the bulb will cost around $40 to $45. Compare that to incandescent bulbs, which retails for a couple bucks, and the bulb will likely be a hard sell for a mainstream consumer. (See this cheatsheet on the metrics of lighting).

However, over the life of an LED bulb, it can actually save significant money on energy costs. Philips says because its new bulb lasts 25 times longer than an incandescent, and reduces energy consumption by 80 percent, the owner will save $160 per bulb over the 25,000 hours (about 17 years) of the life of its new 17-watt LED bulb. Though, seeing the LED bulb as a money saver, will take a change in mindset for consumers, who are used to spending change on a super-cheap bulb at a local convenience store.

Philips unveiled a 12-watt LED bulb last year at Lightfair, which replaces a 60-watt incandescent bulb, and that LED also lasts for 25,000 hours and is 80 percent more energy-efficient than incandescents. Expect many more announcements this week about lower cost LEDs, LED lighting management systems, and LED wireless control chips (like Google and Lighting Science Group’s project¬†(s goog)).

LEDs are no doubt the future of lighting — they’re solid state, can be digitally-controlled, and are far more energy-efficient than incandescents and CFLs — but the industry won’t take off until the price comes down considerably. All the big lighting companies from Panasonic, to Toshiba, to GE (s ge) are making more mainstream LEDs, and startups like Lemnis Lighting are racing to scale to compete with the lighting conglomerates. Here are¬†5 LED Bulbs You Can (Soon) Buy to Replace¬†Incandescents.