As long as I’ve been covering energy technologies, there have been ambitious entrepreneurs looking to offer better replacements for the traditional incandescent light bulb (which is being phased out in the U.S.). Among the problems that face lighting startups: The bulb is too expensive, manufacturing is really hard for a startup and regulatory hurdles take too long, among other things.
Regardless of the hurdles, though, here comes another startup with major ambition. On Monday a startup called Finally Light Bulb Company launched, led by entrepreneur John Goscha, who previously founded a company that makes dry erase whiteboard paint. Finally makes a replacement for an incadescent (A type) light bulb that is both energy efficient and relatively inexpensive compared to some of the LEDs out there.
The bulb uses induction technology and, as the New York Times explains it, the engineers at the company were able to shrink down the induction device to a three-inch antenna wrapped in a copper wire. The result is a magnetic field inside a bulb, which enables mercury to make ultraviolet light that interacts with a phosphor coating on the bulb to produce visible light. They’re calling the technology “Acandescence,” and the startup, which is based outside of Boston, has raised about $19 million in funding.
The big upside of the Finally bulb is that the company says its quality of light is similar to an incandescent — a warm solid glow — but without the crazy-high LED prices. Many consumers hate CFLs, because the light can be such a low quality, and until very recently LEDs have been in the two-digit dollar prices. The Finally bulb is 75 percent more efficient than an incandescent and lasts 15 times longer.
The company says it intends for the first 60-watt replacement Finally bulb to be available in stores in July of this year for $7.99 (you can pre-order it now for $9.99). The 75-watt and the 100-watt will be available in the fall, says the company. They’re manufacturing it in India, and it “has almost all of its regulatory approvals,” notes the New York Times.
The big issue I see with the Finally bulb is that $8 doesn’t seem cheap enough to replace the incandescent. Big LED companies like Cree have launched sub-$10 LEDs and they have deep pockets to promote and distribute their bulbs. LED bulbs are just getting cheaper and cheaper, and seem as if they will inevitably be the dominant form of lighting in the future. A startup with novel tech could make money off of the slow-moving LED price drop in the short term, but LEDs will eventually get so good and cheap that it will be hard to compete with them.