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Here comes another new idea to replace the traditional light bulb

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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.

Finally bulbRegardless 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.

Finally.bulb2The 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.

Other startups that have developed new light bulbs for consumers include Switch Lighting, Lemnis Lighting and Vu1 Corporation.

28 Responses to “Here comes another new idea to replace the traditional light bulb”

  1. electricdicke

    my experience with induction lighting has been fraught with problems. The most common problems has been the failure of the high frequency generator. First the lamp will flutter and then after awhile will strobe. Another failure point were the induction coils, which actually induce power to the lamp. We finally retrofitted the fixtues with cfl’s

  2. One other thing to consider is that no matter if the “bulb” is a typical 4′ long florescent tube used in supermarkets, schools, and factories or CFL or “Acandescence”, the process of electrons striking the phosphor coating on the inside of the tube or bulb slows down drastically under cold conditions. Place a florescent tube or CFL in a unheated area (such as porch light or lawn shed or service garage) and this can be readily observed. The LED (light emitting diode) on the other hand produces no waste heat, has no dangerous mercury, and light output does not degrade under cold conditions.

  3. CFL’s are more efficient than Edison bulbs however, they still produce waste heat vs LED bulbs that produce no waste heat. With the new induction type bulb, what percentage of driving energy is converted to waste heat?

  4. grassroot

    Developed by Nikola Tesla at the same time Edison was fumbling
    around trying every idea that he could come up with that would possibly work. He, Tesla, was awarded the opportunity to provide
    the !893 Chicago Exposition withe electric lighting for his light bulb design. And he came up with it in record time as opposed to Edison.
    Not to mention his idea of providing electrical power to the citizens of this country and the world promoting Alternating current which Edison demeaned and discredited by every means possible.

  5. bulbman

    in addition to mercury in these bulbs, isn’t the ultra violet light it emits exactly what everyone wears sunblock for? how would it affect our skin over years of exposure?

  6. Robert

    It’s a fluorescent bulb, so any claims to being magically “warm” and better than LED in that respect if highly suspect. In fact most prefer warm white LED to warm white CFL likely due to the far smoother spectrum of most LED bulbs compared to fluorescent.

    14.5W … not very good.

    Not dimmable according to the data sheet … makes it a non starter out of the gate.

    Will never warm up as it dims, unlike what LED bulbs can be made to do and will become more common as costs come down.

    Does not look like production is anywhere near ready.

    I am calling it dead.

    • Frank DuBois

      Actually, induction and fluorescent lighting technologies are fundamentally different. Induction lamps do not have internal electrodes like CFLs do, and instead use an electrical field to put phosphorous electrons in higher energy orbitals. To say that they simply “excite” mercury is an oversimplification. Moreover, the mercury used in most induction lamps is in the solid phase. This eliminates most danger.

      • Martin

        Also in an electrodeless lamp the mercury has to be in vapour phase. Please read the article you cite.
        The true advantage is the absence of electrodes which would burn out. But a had already several CFLs with failure in the electronics (small inductor, electrolytic cap). Due to rare switching events (long on-times) the elctrodes of theses lamps were still good.
        Unfortunately the driving electronics is also often a weak point in LED bulbs.

        • Frank DuBois

          You’re right about the article. Maybe this company has figured out way to have solid mercury in their bulb then. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see about color/warmth quality, but at least according to their website, the color temperature is up around 2700k. That’s the same classification as incandescent.

  7. Madlyb

    “…which enables mercury to make ultraviolet light that interacts with a phosphor coating on the bulb to produce visible light.”

    This is one of the many reasons some of us balk at Fluorescent lights in the first place and CFLs have mostly addressed the color temperature issue. My concerns are more around lumens and durability.

    When you look at the actual output of an incandescent light in lumens and compare it to the most CFLs and LEDs, they are usually much dimmer and neither scales well to lighting above the magic 60 watt mark. For years, I used a 200 watt bulb in my garage and when I found a CFL equivalent, it was so much bigger it wouldn’t fit in the opening.

    CFLs don’t work well in cold, LEDs don’t like heat. Is this product more tolerant to temperature extremes?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love LED lighting, but to even pretend we have replaced the lowly incandescent is farcical at best.

  8. Netbook Nerd

    It looks like they did their research several years ago and forgot that prices change as technology progresses. You can get an ETi 60W LED bulb for 5 bucks. Why would I pay more when I don’t have to.

  9. Kevin Darty

    If these Mercury filled “Acandescence” bulbs come with the same notice on them that CFLs do to essentially “open all doors and windows and evacuate the building” in case one breaks, they definitely won’t go into my house. I am more than happy with my Cree TW Series Bulbs. They look the way a good Incandescent bulb should and all colors look the same as I’ve expected them to for years with Incandescence plus they don’t cost much more than these new bulbs filled with Mercury. I’d say I’m better off sticking with Cree. They will definitely be safer.

  10. Albert Hartman

    All new technologies have to go up against the incumbents and the progress curve the incumbents are on. The progress curves are not just the technologies, but also the cost curves. LED’s are based on semiconductors and are an exponential technology and are improving at a rapid rate with prices that continually fall and performances that continually improve. Is this nice induction bulb tech falling along a similar competitive curve?

  11. Peter

    A few questions consumers will ask that haven’t been answered:
    1) Are the Finally bulbs dimmable?
    2) Do they produce heat?
    3) Do they last as long as LEDs?
    4) Are they programmable?

    I agree with one comment, at $8 a bulb Finally isn’t competitive with LEDs given all the advantages of LEDs over Finally bulbs and that pricing for LEDs continue to fall.

  12. philo-farnsworth

    I have 8 Cree spots in recessed lamps in my kitchen. Total power
    consumed is 76 watts.

    When they are illuminated, and you walk under them, the first thing you unexpectedly notice
    is that there is NO radiant heat coming from the lamps. What a difference I’m seeing in my lifetime.

    If they last the 10 plus years that Cree warrants, we will be more than happy.

  13. I believe the efficiency of an incandescent is 5% or so. If this bulb is 75% more efficient, are we talking about an efficiency of 9%, no? Almost double what an incandescent could do, but still closer to a heater than a light source…

    • Update – the web site indicates that the 60W equivalent uses 14.5W, suggesting an efficiency improvement of 300%. Much better :)

      • Martin

        But there are already good LED replacements for 60W: 9W LED bulbs with 810lm 3pc for €17,- at “Pollin” in germany. Thats also a single digit/piece price in US$.

        I think they are too late and no real improvement over CFLs.

    • RichardLB

      Not a great fan of fluorescent bulbs, and a bulb containing mercury requires a lot of (1) care and (2) infrastructure to support recycling them safely.

      Doesn’t sound like a great winner in the incandescent replacement race.