EERE Success Story—L Prize™ Competition Drives LED Lighting Innovation, Energy Savings

December 6, 2016

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As light-emitting diode (LED) performance continues to improve and prices continue to drop, adoption continues to increase. According to the latest Department of Energy (DOE) Revolution…Now report, total installation of LED A-type bulbs (the most common type) exceeded 200 million last year, growing 160% over 2014, and now accounting for 6% of all currently installed A-type lamps. That growth has been enabled by a 94% reduction in cost since 2008. Today, the best-performing 60-watt-equivalent LED bulbs on the market consume 85% less energy than the incandescent bulbs they’re intended to replace.

DOE’s L Prize® competition was instrumental in moving the LED replacement-lamp market to higher performance. When the competition was launched in 2008, most LED replacement bulbs were of poor quality and wouldn’t satisfy consumers looking to replace the common 60-watt incandescent bulb—and none came close to meeting the competition’s minimum requirements for efficacy (90 lumens per watt), color rendering (a color rendering index greater than 90), color appearance (a correlated color temperature of 2700-3000K), and lifetime (maintaining at least 70% of initial output at 25,000 hours).

Philips Lighting North America’s entry went through a rigorous 18-month evaluation that included laboratory testing and field assessments conducted by L Prize utility partners. Declared the L Prize winner in the 60-watt replacement category in 2011, it helped catalyze market competition and pushed industry toward a clear target. The L Prize set the bar for efficiency and quality, elevating user expectations and keeping upward pressure on performance, even as market competition pushed prices down. Today, the market offers a variety of high-quality, high-efficiency light bulb options, benefiting consumers and saving energy.

Philips’ L Prize entry drew less than 10 watts, a savings of 83% over the standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, while providing excellent color quality and reliability. Technology advances developed by Philips for the L Prize entry—including more-efficacious LED chips, electronic miniaturization, better heat transfer, improved optics, and remote phosphors—have had a lasting impact on the company’s LED offerings, inspiring a new technology platform that accelerated enhancements to the company’s successive product designs, and finding their way into millions of subsequent products that continue to save massive amounts of energy each year. Philips estimates that this family of products reached sales representing more than $51.3 million in energy savings in the first two years alone.

Ed Crawford, Philips’ head of Lamps and Lighting Electronics, credits the L Prize with pushing his company to focus its research efforts on LED bulbs—accelerating those efforts three to five years ahead of where they would have been without the competition. The competition has also signifi­cantly increased the industry’s knowledge about Solid-State Lighting technology and its capabilities. In order to win the competition, the Philips entry had to survive more than 8,000 hours of accelerated long-term testing under elevated ambient temperatures. After the prize was awarded, some of those samples contin­ued to be tested through more than 50,000 hours of continuous operation, after which they were still performing well, averaging 93% lumen maintenance and no failures—which serves as a powerful reminder of the exceptional performance possible with well-designed LED lighting products, and validates the methods being used for predicting performance.