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We’ve been telling Toolmongers about the slow-but-mostly-inevitable move from incandescents to more energy-efficient lighting for a while now, like last year when the possibility of voting down anti-incandescent legislation arose. We even took on our own long-term experiment to see how CFLs hold up. At that time we mused that CFL pricing had dropped significantly, LEDs — the ultimate in low-lower, long-life light — remained massively out of range at around $40/bulb. It looks like that’s changing. Pharox recently announced the 200 Blu, a 200-lumen bulb with a lifespan of 10 years — to sell for just $5.

That’s the good news. There’s mediocre news, too, of course. A quick look around the Googleverse tells me that a normal 40 watt incandescent delivers about 280 lumens, so this bulb is gonna be a little bit dimmer than a standard 40 watt. Still, this is a pretty big jump in price improvement over the existing Pharox 200 LED bulb, which streets for around $20. It looks like that savings comes at the price of control. The cheap-o 200 Blu, for example, isn’t dimmer compatible. But it does deliver white light, and hey, it might not work that bad in low-light applications like a bedside lamp. 15,000 to 35,000 hours of runtime for $5 is a hell of a deal. And $2 more gets you another hundred lumens in the 300 Blu.

What’s really exciting, though, is that in our experience pricing like this tends to beget more price decreases. Maybe we’re witnessing the real beginning of the end for incandescents. Legislation aside, once you can buy brighter versions of this light in various application form factors for only, say, 2-4 times the cost of an incandescent, I’m betting we all flock to ’em. Why not? Changing light bulbs is a pain in the ass, and I’d pay a couple bucks a bulb to avoid doing it but once ever decade. $40/bulb? No. But $4? Sure. Why not?

Pharox Blu [Pharox]


19 Responses to Enter The $5 LED Lightbulb

  1. BJ Nicholls says:

    The shape of this bulb is a real step forward too. I’ve replaced most of the bulbs in my house with LEDs, but the current best bulbs (Philips Endura) are too long to fit in many retrofit fixtures. This bulb looks short enough that it will work in many more.

  2. woodworker01 says:

    They equate it to a 25w bulb on their site

  3. John says:

    The LED bulbs will have to be shown to have more longevity. I am afraid it will be like the CFLs in that they don’t last as long as advertised. The LED itself can last a very long time, the weak spot is the circuit board that the LED is soldered to. If the manufacturers use inferior circuit boards, then it is a waste of money. Time will tell.

  4. Chris says:

    That light output is pathetic. There’s a reason this POS is only $5. Not remotely worthy of any promotion by this site or any other. 🙁


  5. ShopMonger says:

    I would have to disagree. I think this is a great post. I have been looking – waiting for something like this. Yes i will admit like it was stated in the post, it will be nicer when the higher wattage ones come down. But as chuck said, this is the start of that drive to bring these down. And there are a lot of 40w applications, like hallway lights, bedroom lights, and those lights in your family room that stay on all day or all night when watching TV….and it’s LED so less power consumption.

    Nice job Guys
    Thanks once again


    PS. Is it time for another tool talk? Since you said after last years survey, you would be bringing it back…..I know it hard to find time…

    • Chris says:

      I’m 100% certain there isn’t a single 40-watt bulb in my entire house, and I’m equally certain I can’t think of a use for one anywhere in my house.

      The one place I’d really like to put an LED bulb that I currently can’t (because AFAIK no one makes one that size) is my brand-new fridge, which for some stupid reason STILL uses an incandescent.

      As Brent notes below, it’s going to take eight years or so to pay for itself, and as John notes above, circuit boards on low-end light bulbs (CFL thus far, and I agree with him that LEDs will follow suit) have underperformed. Good luck getting eight years out of what amounts to the Wal-Mart house brand.


      • dave_c says:

        What’s the point in a fridge? The light isn’t on enough hours to save much money if any, the condensation is an issue for the electronics in a driver based LED bulb, and a typical incan bulb will last several years in most cases.

        In fact, an LED fridge bulb would cost enough extra that it would probably never pay for itself once you factor for interest on money spent over what the incan bulb costs.

        • Chris says:

          It’s probably not a big deal in terms of cost, but it’d sure save a lot of space in the fridge, and it’d be dirt-simple to separate the driver electronics from the LEDs and build a lifetime bulb right into the fridge at the factory.


  6. browndog77 says:

    Without researching this issue further, I will only say that my gut tells me the price drop will probably coincide w/ a new product (maybe dimable versions), and is intended to clear out current inventory. Just guessin’, at this point. That said, any movement away from CFLs and their inherent ecological downside is worth consideration, even if it does cost a little more up front.

  7. Brent says:

    Am I missing something? It’s a replacement for a low-watt incandescent. Most low-watt bulbs around my house are only on for a few minutes…maybe even seconds…each day. I’m thinking of closets, night stands, etc.

    If you use the bulb for 15 minutes each day, you’ll have to wait about 8 years at $0.20/kW-hr to recoup the $5 investment. I’d wait for something better.

  8. Aaron says:

    I want a few of these to replace the terrible cfl’s that are currently in the pendant lights above the island/sink area of my kitchen. They need to be about 35-40w each to not be too bright since they are just above eye level. The current problem I have with cfl’s in them is that the regular ones are too long and stick out the bottom and the short ones I bought (also expensive) take about 1-2 full minutes to come up to full brightness, this is not very convenient. So there is a market for this type of bulb. Too bad they are currently sold out since the price is really good (the cfl’s I purchased where about $6 each).

  9. Shopmonger says:

    Yes I agree that the price drop will take time, and Im sorry you waste energy with high watt bulbs all over the place.

    I see these as a market change, and as that change trickles down/ or actually up into high watt bulbs i see a great savings.
    As for the “Cheap boards” even a cheap board for an led can outlast the useful time you will spend in any one home.

    And yes these Led’s are going to be the norm soon enough, since CFL’s have the bad rep for environmental reasons..

    So toolmonger keep bringing us great stuff…again

    P.S. podcast time


    • Chris says:

      Perhaps I should have been clearer: there are no 200-lumen bulbs in my house, nor can I think of a use for one, especially one that’s made with cheap components that’ll turn into a 100-lumen bulb (either through LED death or dimming) in three or four years.

      Everything in my house except for about five rarely used bulbs is already CFL and under 15 watts, and puts out enough light to actually see at night. Try that with a house full of 200-lumen bulbs.

      There’s a *reason* good LED bulbs cost more than $5 right now, and there’s also a reason these are *only* $5. You know those flashlights that Harbor Freight is always giving away free with purchase? Same deal. There’s a reason they’re free. Gonna go out on a limb here and guess that it might have something to do with the failure rate of the individual LEDs in the flashlights.

      A low-quality LED light that lasts only five years is probably *significantly worse* for the environment than an incandescent, due to the higher manufacturing costs and larger and more toxic waste stream.

      Nobody seems to think twice about jeering when TM features a bottom-of-the-barrel cordless screwdriver with a NiCd battery, but somehow an equivalent LED light bulb is the greatest thing since sliced bread?


      • Marty says:

        I’m with you. I always get a kick out of all the 60 watt equivalent CFL’s which are pushed on us from all directions. Who uses 60 watt bulbs? Even my bedside lamp has two 100 watt bulbs – sorry, I need the light to read.

        When their lifetime cost equals current filament bulb lifetime costs, and have the same form factor, I’ll be buying. Otherwise I’ll continue to hoard by incandescents.

        • browndog77 says:

          What kind of bedside lamp is rated for a 100w bulb (incandescent), let alone two of them? That is a lot of light, but more importantly a ton of heat! If you are ignoring the ratings on the fixture, think twice. They are safety related, taking into account the proximity of flammables as well as wire size used in the manufacture. Not bein’ nosey, just curious!

  10. Les says:

    I replaced 8 candelabra-style bulbs in a light fixture with 24w-equivalent dimmables from Home Depot last month. They were running $16 each. Given that this fixture is in a high traffic area and is on much of every we’re home evening, I figure my cost break-even point for power savings is ballpark 3 1/2 years. Would have been nicer if they were cheaper, and a little brighter, but no complaints so far (especially on the dimmer).

  11. Eddie says:

    The technology of LED’s is just not where it needs to be yet to even come close to replacing incandescents. They will not last as long as advertised. They will not be bright enough to stand in for incandescents.

    They can fill a niche in light bulb needs but they will not be good replacements for all incandescents. Why don’t they make them for automobile interior lights. They are seldom used and don’t need to be as bright. That seems like a logical place for LED lights.

  12. Justin says:

    Note the EFFICACY of the $5/200-Lumen bulb is pathetic at 42 lm/watt, meaning worse than many of the CFLs on the market. Compare to, say, home depot’s 2011 ecosmart $35 PAR bulbs at 1100 lumens from 15 watts (~70 lm/watt; better than nearly every CFL).

    Only upside to these $5 bulbs is a decent color rendering index (better than many CFLs, and not much worse than incandescent), whereas depot’s $35 bulb I recall being closer to 70 (foggy memory on this, tho).

    The $7 300-lumen bulb, however, is at a better ~60 lm/watt, which is comparable to most CFLs and potentially longer lived (assuming not QA line rejects from a pricier production line marketed under a diff brand et al.).

    At present, I’ve found depot’s ecosmart 1100 lumen daylight can bulbs the best overall deal in quality, price (now that they’ve dropped to $35’ish), longevity, output, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: power efficiency! Pricey up front, but cheap to run and no probs endlessly switching them on/off (which is DEATH to CFLs and FLs)!

    Food for thought!

  13. dave_c says:

    Be weary of off brand lumen ratings, many of them are fictional and based only on what the LED itself is rated to produce at it’s peak safe drive current, not necessarily the drive current actually used and not the amount of light that escapes the bulb after being diffused by the frosted globe.

    You really have to audition a cheap bulb next to the supposed equivalent incandescent to decide if it’s such a great value or little more than a night light.

    The important factor then is how much light do you need? You’re going to have to replace fixtures to have more sockets and multiple bulbs at $5 each in most situations, or have to learn to live with less light.

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