Blog Post

Why the future of the light bulb is flat

Philips launched a dimmable, LED lightbulb Monday with a completely different shape. Instead of a round bulb-shape, this lightbulb is a relatively flat circle. Philips is calling it “slim” but it’s really a new design aiming to eliminate the ugly problem of heavy heat sinks needed by LED light bulbs today.

Much like how the increasingly powerful computing capabilities inside our phones have needed new designs and UI’s (touchscreens) to help us take advantage of them, Philips is hoping this new design helps lower the cost and increase adoption of LEDs. A Philips spokeswoman wrote via email:

“The flat surface helps conduct heat away from the LEDs, eliminating the need for the heavy aluminum heat sinks associated with LED bulbs. This eliminates the cost of the bulb, while still delivering omni-directional light.”

The bulb will be available Jan. 2 at Home Depot, and the spokeswoman couldn’t offer a price saying it would be set by the retailer. Given that LED bulbs can range from under $10 to $60 (for Philips’ hue connected color-changing LEDs), lowering the price will be an important element of design. And while LED’s last longer than their incandescent counterparts it can be hard to get anyone to spend the cost of a dinner out for a lightbulb.

From left to right: The Philips SlimStyle, an LED with heat sink and a traditional 60-watt bulb.
From left to right: The Philips SlimStyle, an LED with heat sink and a traditional 60-watt bulb.

However, we’re nearing a tipping point in the lighting market thanks to federal laws that will go into effect on Jan. 1 that will prohibit manufacturing or importing the traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs. I know, we stockpiled a few.

So Philip’s SlimStyle will be an interesting experiment. Will we embrace a new style of light bulb (light-disc?) if it brings the cost of an LED into the range of a traditional incandescent? The bulb purportedly cuts down on energy consumption by 85 percent and lasts 25 times longer than a traditional 60-watt incandescent. But up front cost challenges could keep LED adoption in the slow lane.

Can this new design offer a technological improvement (eliminating the heat sink) that lowers the cost of LEDs to the point of public acceptance?

13 Responses to “Why the future of the light bulb is flat”

  1. You have to imagine that they timed this carefully, to meet with the stop date on 40 / 60 watt incandescent manufacturing. Things progress and designs change — we only like the traditional bulb shape because we’re used to it. But that momentum is hard to adjust, and many people will balk at this just because it doesn’t meet expectations.

  2. Billabob Johnson

    Can’t understand comments by people claiming superiority of incandescent lights over LED. I moved to CFL’s several years ago and realized dramatic electricity savings. This year I replaced every CFL’s with instant on fully dimmable LED’s from Costco for less than $6 each.
    I find the color fidelity, brightness and LED flexibility to be eye opening. Ironically, while some suggest incandescent lights are the province of low cost third world countries – China is working aggressively to adopt LED’s throughout the country to improve light quality and lower energy consumption while scaling an industry to light to world.

  3. Progress is not cloning incandescents.
    It is using all lighting for inherent advantages
    (Incandescents as bulbs, Fluorescents as tubes, LEDs as sheets, as also originally developed)
    The incandescent ban is a sham, supported by Philips et alia to get rid of simple patent-expired cheap competitition while basking in green corporate image
    (if incandescents are so bad, they could have voluntarily stopped making them ,as they do with much else , cassettes, etc)
    A comparison with audio tube / transistor related progress on freedomlightbulb org

  4. DV Henkel-Wallace

    I’m sorry but the first thing I thought of when I saw your photographs was Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 entry at the Paris Salon, “Fontaine”.

    If it’s behind a lampshade, and if the light it casts is roughly uniformly spherical, than it’s fine.

  5. Jason Danforth

    I have those color changing, internet connected Hue bulbs and I love them. I’m even setting up an installation for a bar that wants the lights to change when they get retweeted.

  6. JackSLewis

    before I saw the draft which said $7064, I have faith…that…my mom in-law had been actually earning money part-time online.. there friend brother has done this for only about 23 months and by now paid the debts on their apartment and purchased a brand new Renault 5. web link >>>>>>>>>>>>

  7. Anaxamaxan

    Still doesn’t change the really unattractive light emitted by LED bulbs so far. The public would pay current prices if the light was anywhere near “good enough.” However so far for home use LED bulbs are only useful in low-traffic, utility areas like garages and basements.