Enter the gladiator ... maybe
The LED has seen its own transformation of late. No longer relegated to red, orange, yellow, green or blue, the white LED brings more-livable light into the mix. White LEDs (WLEDs) are actually blue LEDs coated (like the CFL tube) with a phosphor stimulated into emission by the internal LED's blue light. WLEDs are the staple for small LCD backlight, and the rise of high-brightness WLEDs is now moving the technology into the realm of both larger LCD backlighting and general illumination.
Cree has been an innovator in SiC-based blue LEDs central to the WLED construction, and in February, the company bought LED Lighting Fixtures (LLF), in an attempt to capture more of the value chain around its high-brightness devices.
The specific product acquired for this column, Cree/LLF's LR6 can "downlight," was acquired at a local lighting contractors' store for the princely sum of $100, plus tax. Yikes! The price reflects the more limited nature of high-brightness LED production versus CFL. Simply put, a mix of technology lock-ups and the costlier production needed for the WLEDs means not everyone can pile on--yet--to drive costs down.
The LR6 produces a claimed lumen output equivalent to a 65-Watt incandescent lamp with a more miserly 12 W of input consumption, making it 80 percent more efficient than the incumbent tungsten-filament bulb and roughly 50 percent better than the CFL.
Construction of the light is driven in part by the retrofit nature of the LR6, which is meant to screw directly into a traditional can light's lamp base. However--and to my surprise--the housing is a substantial cast-aluminum, finned structure. This adds significantly to the costs and seemed like overkill in light of the minimal 12-W draw. I must be missing something there.