More commentary on the CREE CR6

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I received a comment on yesterday’s post about the CREE CR6.  Rather than leave the comment and the response buried in a comment section, I’ll pull this out into a front-page continuation of yesterday’s post.

David B. wrote:

Mike, not to be a spoil-sport, but I don’t think a $50 light bulb is worth getting excited about. First, LED’s don’t use dramatically less energy than a CFL (the $200 savings is compared to an incandescent). Second, if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother.  Finally, the 35,000 hour life expectancy is a bit misleading. That works out to more than 20 years at 4 hrs a day (someone energy conscious enough to spend $50 for a bulb is probably obsessive about turning off lights that are not being used presently).

While LED’s offer some aesthetic and performance advantages over CFL’s, the price probably needs to drop below $10 before they make any sense.

Hi David,

The right LED lighting makes a lot of sense right now!  And I’m going to get excited anyway!   On a New Year’s morning, here’s a thumbnail version of the reason why.

I like the non-energy performance and appearance of the CR6 and LR6 better than the incandescent they replace.  And some people like “better” over “cheaper”.   When “better” is cheaper than “cheaper” that’s even better!  (Whew—try saying that fast five times.)  And over the life cycle, these certainly are less expensive.

I disagree with your statement that “if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother”.  That is a common fallacy in the energy-efficiency world, and it ignores the real reasons that most of our customers pursue energy-efficiency, namely for comfort, health & safety, durability of the home, and even aesthetics!  Energy-efficiency is often a nice way to pay for these benefits for many people.  And examples of this abound.  Windows is one—and we see payback on windows stretching to 40 years-plus in some cases.  [By the way, this doesn’t mean we don’t educate people about the low-hanging fruit of air-sealing, insulation, duct-sealing, etc.  We install more of those services than windows.]   What’s the payback on a granite countertop?  A sofa?  An Xbox?  A trip to the Grand Canyon?  What’s the payback on making your daughter’s bedroom more comfortable all summer or winter? 

As I’m sure you’re aware, many people don’t like and won’t use CFLs.  And even though I used them in recessed light applications, the quality was inferior than incandescents in characteristics including light quality, color rendition, and dimmability.  And that means that the stuck with incandescents.  I’ve noted this in the California market, for example.  In these cooling climates—and high electricity rate markets—in particular this is a shame.  Not only are people forgoing the savings on the lighting side, but the inefficient lighting is dumping heat into the space that they there pay to remove with air-conditioning.  A double whammy.  Having a product that people are willing to use is a game changer.

In new construction applications, or retrofit applications where trims are being installed (or replaced) anyway, the cost is the CR6/LR6 is actually overstated by about $10—because it includes an integrated trim already.  Plus, installation is quicker than with a two-step trim-lamp-process.  Not much, but minutes add up.

In some high-bay applications with 9-, 10-, or higher ceilings, a 35,000 hour life (or a 50,000 hour life in the case of the LR6) is a huge deal.  Some people have to pay a professional to change their lamps—and avoiding this covers the cost of the LEDs even without the energy savings!   This is certainly true in commercial situations as well.  You may be handy and not afraid of heights or ladders (and have the appropriate ladder), but for some people this is a very important factor.

I’ll note that it took me three tries to find these at the Home Depot in NY—because they’d already sold out at the first two and they were waiting on the next shipment.  So some people are recognizing the value already. 

These already make sense.  We don’t need the price to change a penny for that to be true.  I do agree that they won’t have broad market appeal at that price point yet.  I’ll expect the prices to drop steadily in the coming years.  They have already dropped over the last 18 months.   But people can feel good about starting savings today.

Happy New Year!
Mike

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6 Responses to “More commentary on the CREE CR6”

  1. David Butler Says:

    Hey Mike, I totally agree re: high-bay applications where there’s a labor savings involved. Warehouses have been using very efficient (but expensive) induction lighting in high bays for years, and LED’s have been around for a while in traffic lights, etc.

  2. Alex Hering Says:

    Mike,
    You didn’t mention if the CREE CR6 has a reduced heat emission, cathedral can lights & ice dam problems may be resolved using a cooler bulb. I guess UL would never let us foam above a cooler can light, since someone could put a regular bulb back in.

    • Mike Rogers Says:

      Absolutely. More than 90% of the energy from a traditional incandescent bulb goes into producing heat instead of light. Both LEDs and flourescent bulbs generate less heat for the same amount of light. The can be a big deal with recessed lighting in catheral ceiling as you mention. It can also be an issue in the summer months when that excess heat from lights in dumped into the same space you’re trying to keep cool. It’s this systems thinking that leads to the best results from comfort, safety, and energy-efficiency.

      [An no, we can’t change the way we treat the recessed lighting housings, because the homeowner may indeed switch lamps back.]

  3. Jeff C. Says:

    A few things, I agree price is not the only game in town. Quality and better is become more and more important as consumers find cheaper products very undependable and not long lived. However, with that said its not very pleasing to see only a 5 year warranty on a 33K-50K hour light. I say that being with current price at $40-60, had these been $10-20 lights then yes 5yr is trust-able. I have a solar attic fan made in the USA that has a lifetime warranty because the company believes that strong in their product so that makes me feel good about spending more money on it vs the chinese version that was cheaper by 75% but had abysmal ratings from users.

    But these products are in their early stages and no one really knows how well these things will hold up. Perhaps in 10 years they will only rate at 60% their original brightness. To me that makes it a 10 year bulb since its not the same as the day I installed it.

    So yes, I agree better is a big factor now. But I do think the price does need to come down into the $20-25 range. $10 is a bit too low considering it includes the trim and the bulb.

    • Mike Rogers Says:

      Fair points, Jeff.

      However the Cree lighting I’m recommending has been in testing in my own home. If it only lasts 5 years, it will still have paid for itself! And this isn’t a big compromise on lighting quality–as I’ve mentioned, I like the CR6 better than the incandescents it replaces.

      Keep checking back, though, and we’ll keep updating you on results.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  4. Bob Says:

    The Cree CR6 is now $24.97 at Home Depot stores with a limit of 10. Can be ordered on line with store pickup. I bought 1 to try it and then ordered 10. It took only a couple of minutes to install, lights instantly, dims, slightly warm color, and looks great.

    Bob

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