Sunday, September 21, 2014

Finally Light Bulb Preview - CNET

Finally Light Bulb Preview - CNET

Too many red flags to trust this bulb

The Finally Light Bulb Company

Today's home lighting choices boil down to incandescent, CFL, or LED, but the team at the Massachusetts-based Finally Light Bulb Company has a fourth option in mind. Available now for preorder, its eponymous bulb has no filament or diode, but instead, produces light using a compressed form of induction. The company calls this technology "Acandescence," and claims that its $10 bulb is the first one to truly replicate the look and feel of incandescent light while still adhering to modern efficiency standards.

That's a claim that raised my eyebrows a bit when I read it, given that modern lighting options have gotten increasingly good at mimicking incandescent light. After all, a failure to do so was one of the big reasons why CFLs stumbled out of the gate with consumers several years ago. Manufacturers quickly learned that providing a familiar, incandescent style of light was critically important to their bottom line -- and modern bulbs got dramatically better at it as a result.

The Finally Light Bulb Company's marketing information, like this chart, is largely misleading. The Finally Light Bulb Company

The Finally Light Bulb Company would have you believe otherwise. Tour the induction bulb's website, and you'll find a number of exaggerated or downright misleading claims. Along with the demonstrably false suggestion that LEDs and CFLs can't put out warm light, a chart on the Finally Light Bulb Company's main page suggests that they don't fit in standard fixtures, either -- another glaring untruth. A recent blog post by company CEO John Goscha is equally riddled with overstated, misleading claims.

Then there's the bit about LEDs and CFLs lacking a familiar shape. This is a less egregious claim with regard to CFLs, given their typically winding coils of light (although it's worth noting that there are plenty of CFLs with the coils encased within a bulb for a more familiar shape).

Ry Crist/CNET

With regard to LEDs, however, it's just blatantly wrong. Take another look at that picture of the Finally Light Bulb at the top of the page. Now look at the LEDs pictured above. Those are just the options I had lying around the office. If anything, I'd say that the Finally Light Bulb's appearance is derivative of bulbs like these, not of incandescents.

Half-truths about other bulbs aside, the Finally Light Bulb has plenty to say about its own merits, as well. With a 15,000 hour lifespan, it promises to last for years and years, though not quite as long as the average LED, where 25,000 hours is the norm. Similarly, with 800 lumens of brightness from 14.5W, it's noticeably more efficient than a comparable 60W incandescent -- but not nearly as efficient as a comparable LED.

To this end, the Finally Light Bulb is probably most comparable to CFLs -- somewhere in between incandescents and LEDs in terms of efficiency and lifespan. The team at the Finally Light Bulb is quick to claim a distinct usability edge, though, citing common complaints with CFLs that don't apply to their induction bulb. These include the fact that CFLs don't always reach full brightness the instant you turn them on, and that their lifespan tends to get cut short if you use them in short increments.

The Lighting Facts label makes it clear that the Finally Light Bulb contains mercury -- something the website fails to mention. Ry Crist/CNET

However, one of the most common complaints with CFLs is that they contain trace amounts of mercury, meaning that you'll need to be somewhat careful in how you dispose of them, and in how you clean up after a broken one. A quick glance at the bottom of the Finally Light Bulb's Lighting Facts label tells us that it, too, contains mercury -- a fact that's conveniently omitted from those charts and statistics on the bulb's main page.

None of this is to say that the Finally Light Bulb is a bad bulb, but the numbers and the specs just don't add up to the bold marketing claims. It claims to be the incandescent replacement we've been waiting for, but it also appears to be patently equal in terms of brightness and color temperature to the wide majority of what's already lining the lighting aisle shelves. It claims "high color quality," but the CRI of 83 is actually rather average. In terms of efficiency, it's a step backward.

The Finally Light Bulb's engineering team contains some impressive resumes, including former research and development engineers from GE and Osram Sylvania. I'd be interested to hear more about induction lighting, and to try out one of their bulbs for myself. But in a new age of higher standards, bulbs need to stand on their own merits, not misrepresent the merits of the competition, a tactic that's only helped to scare consumers away from legitimate lighting advancements. As much as the team at Finally professes to care about quality lighting, their marketing efforts come across as disingenuous.


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