Earlier today, I received a package from my friends at Cree — noted chocolate Easter bunny murderers, infographic wizards, and terrible lighting documentarians — that contained what appeared to be a pair of 60-watt incandescent light bulbs for me to test out. Kind of odd given that the North Carolina-based company specializes in manufacturing energy-saving LEDs and, in fact, fancies itself as the fearless leader — or at least the world’s most enthusiastic cheerleader — of the “LED Revolution.”

The contents of the package truly did bear an uncanny, even nostalgia-inducing, resemblance to traditional incandescent bulbs and when I swapped out a pair of cheap-ish, IKEA-procured CFLs in my kitchen to try out the bulbs, the result was, well, just what I would expect from an incandescent bulb: instant, uniform, and warm white light.

Fantastic. So what was the catch? They weren't incandescents.

Available exclusively at all brick and mortar Home Depot locations starting on March 21, the Cree LED bulb is here to shake up the consumer lighting industry with its non-threatening, incandescent-emulating form (made with real incandescent parts!); exceptional performance and design (omni-directional, dimmable, mercury-free); energy-saving prowess (it's 84 percent more efficient than traditional bulbs); and, perhaps most importantly, with its sticker price (hint: compared to a majority of LEDs, it's super low).

The technologically advanced bulb — choose from a warm white 60-watt replacement (9.5W), a day light 60-watt replacement (9W), or a warm white 40-watt replacement (6W) —starts at a little under $10 and come equipped with a 10-year limited warranty. Although there are a few LEDs out there that have managed to break the under-$10 mark including a super-budget, no-frills option released earlier this year by Lemnis Lighting, in terms of performance and quality, the Cree LED bulb is an industry milestone.

In addition to taking on a “non-weird shape” and emitting a “non-weird light,” the longevity of the Cree LED bulb is 25 years —25 times longer than incandescents. By switching out incandescent bulbs with Cree LED bulbs in a home’s five most-used fixtures, consumers can save in the ballpark of $61 annually on electric bills. (Based on Cree LED 60 watt replacements at 9.5W, $0.11/kWh, 25,000 hour lifetime, and average usage of 6 hours/day).

I first featured the bulb in its early prototype form nearly two years ago when it was known as the Cree TrueWhite Light. Back then, Cree chairman Chuck Swoboda dubbed it as the first “no-compromise replacement for a 60 watt incandescent bulb.” Over two years later, the spirit of zero compromises continues.

Says Swoboda of the Cree LED — marketing tagline: “The Biggest Thing Since the Light Bulb” — in a release issued by the company, which despite its successful 25-year history as an LED innovator, has never released a consumer light bulb until now.

The Cree LED light bulb was designed to offer consumers a no-compromise lighting experience at a compelling price. Over the last couple of years we recognized that the consumer is instrumental in the adoption of LED lighting, but we needed to give them a reason to switch. We believe this breakthrough LED bulb will, for the first time, give consumers a reason to upgrade the billions of energy-wasting light bulbs.
Other key features of the Cree LED bulb include a color temperature of 2,700K (5,000K for the 60-watt day light replacement bulb) and a brightness of 800 lumens (450 for the 40-watt replacement bulb). The bulbs are illuminated by the company’s patented Filament Tower Technology which mimics the compact light source of an incandescent filament. They're also, per industry regulations, treated with a shatter-resistant coating. And, as mentioned, the bulbs are omni-directional, mercury-free, and compatible with most standard dimmers which is somewhat of a rarity for low-cost LEDs.

Sure, you could always just opt for an energy-guzzling, dirt-cheap incandescent, an iffy and harsh CF, or an inferior LED for a few less bucks. But with the release of the Cree LED bulb, I’m not sure that you’d really want to.

The Cree LED line is currently available online at Home Depot’s website and, as mentioned, they’ll hit Home Depot stores later this month. The 60-watt replacement day light bulb retails for $13.97; the 60-watt replacement warm white bulb for $12.97; and the 40-watt replacement warm white light bulb for $9.97. Energy Star qualification is pending. 

Any takers?

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

From Cree, a budget LED that won't make Edison roll over in his grave
Cree makes a game-changing jump into consumer lighting with affordable LED bulbs that resemble the energy-hogging incandescents of yesteryear.