Someday soon, your home will probably be lit by the glow of LED light bulbs. The transition is already taking place, but GE wants to see it happen even faster. This morning, it's announcing plans to phase out the sale of CFL bulbs in the US over the next year as it begins to position LED bulbs front and center. That means the next time an energy-conscious consumer goes looking for a light bulb from GE, they're going to pick LED.
The transition is about focusing on one energy-efficient technology
On the surface, the news sounds great for anyone interested in seeing our homes get greener. LED lighting is slightly more efficient than CFL lighting, so this is another step in that direction. But GE will continue to sell its many other types of bulbs, like incandescent and halogen — the only technology it's phasing out is CFL. Those other bulbs aren't energy efficient, and they still represent a large portion of the lighting market.
That means this switch to LEDs is primarily about focusing on a single energy-efficient technology. GE's real hope is that, in doing so, it can expand the market for LED bulbs. GE's lighting head, John Strainic, says that across the industry, CFL bulbs hit about a 30 percent marketshare in 2007 thanks to big pushes from Walmart and Oprah — "I remember it very well," he says, "because ... I couldn't find enough CFLs to ship to customers" — but the technology's growth stopped there. In part, he says, that's because consumers don't like CFL's slow start-up time. "It's kinda been the product that everybody loves to hate." LEDs solve that issue, so they may be able to capture a bigger market.
The other reason GE is making this switch is Energy Star. Rebates that have long been offered for CFL lights will switch over to LED lights next year. By completing its transition to LED by then, GE's lineup will be able to take advantage of the new Energy Star requirements. That means other companies may soon head in that direction — Strainic expects it. So while GE appears to be the first major company announcing plans to phase out CFL, other companies may follow suit as LED becomes the favored energy-efficient bulb.