When I went to Home Depot to replace some burned out lighting fixtures last week, decent LED light bulbs cost $20 a pop. Today, LED manufacturer Cree has announced a series of light bulbs that start at just $10, cutting the going rate in half with one fell swoop. What's more, these LEDs don't seem to have a catch. They're as bright, efficient, and long-lasting as practically anything on the market, and they look like incandescent light bulbs to boot. They're on sale today, exclusively at The Home Depot in the following three configurations:

  • $12.97 for a "warm white" 60-watt equivalent, providing 800 lumens of light for 9.5W of electricity, at a warm color temperature of 2,700K
  • $13.97 for a "day light" 60-watt equivalent, with 800 lumens of light at a cost of 9W of electricity, at a cooler color temperature of 5,000K
  • $9.97 for a "warm white" 40-watt equivalent, with 450 lumens of light for 6W of electricity, again at a warmer 2,700K.

For comparison, a typical 60-watt incandescent provides about 860 lumens, and you can get 900 lumens out of a 14-watt fluorescent, so they stack up pretty well there. All three Cree bulbs are rated to last 22.8 years, when used for about three hours a day, and at 9.5W the least efficient of the three is estimated to cost about $1.14 a year to light your home at that rate.

We got to try two of the "warm white" 60W bulbs for ourselves, and were immediately impressed by the design, too:

Not only does Cree's bulb look like a traditional incandescent, with a nice warm glow, but it throws light in almost every direction as well. Many existing LED light bulbs have a fairly narrow configuration of diodes that can cast a rather uneven pattern, but Cree's is better than most, with an "LED filament tower" of LEDs that hits almost every spot evenly except the very top of the bulb. They turn on immediately with no perceivable delay. The bulb's also merely warm to the touch, thanks to a frosted rubberized coating. The oddest part is the weight: at four ounces, each Cree bulb weighs four times a typical incandescent.

All this said, you're still looking to spend over $10 on a single light bulb, a hard sell when you can pick up packages of compact fluorescents for $1.25 each or incandescents for $0.25 a pop, but LED has its advantages: they can be dimmed and placed upside down unlike many CFLs, don't contain mercury, and are obviously far more efficient than many incandescents. LED just took a big leap towards consumer acceptance with Cree's offering, that's for sure.

Maybe we won't need smart bulbs to sell the world on LEDs after all.