|Vu1 ESL Light Bulb|
With all of the fanfare over the emergence and potential of LED bulbs, you might be asking how lighting can get better. LEDs run cool, are more efficient than CFL in many applications, and support new form factors and instant on like the good old incandescent. What's left for lighting and how can a new technology find it's niche?
Well, CFLs and LEDs have their shortcomings, and ESL promises to address many of the shortcomings while offering all of the benefits.
Vu1 (pronounced View One) made a splash in early 2011 announcing their first UL certified ESL bulb (this after a "mini-splash" in 2009 when they announced their product). ESL, short for Electron Stimulated Luminescence, is full of promise.
Is There Room For Another Efficient Lighting Technology?The short answer is a resounding YES. We've discussed the limitations of CFLs and LEDs. CFLs have a 'slow start' problem, wear out quickly if turned on and off a lot, and have mercury. LEDs are expensive, haven't reached their full efficiency potential in lumens per watt, and it is hard to find bulbs with a nice 2700K color.
Both LEDs and CFLs continue to make strides towards lowering costs and improving quality, but Vu1's ESL might hit the market with some of these limitations solved.
Specifically, Vu1 promises a nice laundry list of feature and capabilities:
- Light quality comparable to incandescent
- Efficiency that (might) meet or exceeds LEDs (more below)
- Fully dimmable
- Long life (greater than incandescent, similar to CFL, but less than LED)
- Entry cost less than LED
ESL Bulbs Too Good To Be True?That list above sounds like a panacea, but looking at the first bulb to be released, we see a few areas where improvement is needed.
First, initial efficiency doesn't seem to stack up with CFLs. The R30 bulb listed on the vu1 website indicates 19.5 watts to produce a 600 lumen light. EcoSmart R30 CFLs produce 650 lumens on 14 watts.
Cost-wise, the R30 is said to retail for about $20. Compare that to the EcoSmart CFL at less than $5, or an LED that lasts 6 times longer for $40 and it is clear that these initial ESLs are not as economical.
What Does The Future Hold?Despite the initial gaps, it is impressive for a new technology to immediately be so competitive (at least on the spec sheet). It is probably safe to say that prices will drop, and the product will be refined.
But even today, those looking to avoid the limitations of CFL and LED while maintaining a high quality light now have a viable alternative - the ESL.