Cree expands its LED bulb lineup with a 20 BR30

first_imgIt turns out that Cree’s first LED bulb offering, which launched 3 months ago, wasn’t just a test balloon floated by the LED manufacturer to learn about the retail lighting market. Rather, Cree is quickly marching forward with its proposed goal: the 100% adoption of LED lighting. Today the company announced the first addition to their LED bulbs offerings, a 65W-equivalent BR30 bulb that will sell for $19.97.In March of this year, Cree launched the LED bulb that the industry has been waiting for. The company’s A19 bulb, known simply as the Cree LED, was one of the first LED offerings to fall below the $10 mark while offering consumers a trusted brand name and very good light quality. Cree’s A19 bulbs are available in 40W-equivalent ($9.97), 60W warm white ($12.97), and 60W daylight ($13.97). They’ve gotten great reviews and, at this point, are a certified hit.The A19 (“A” being the shape and “19” being the size) makes up the majority of retail bulb sales, but ultimately it’s just one part of the market. The next most popular style, at least in US homes, is the BR30 — unfortunately named the “bulged reflector.” This is a directional bulb (where A lamps are omnidirectional) designed mainly to work in fixtures, like ceiling cans. BR30 lamps sell about 2 million units a year in the US according to the Department of Energy’s most recent solid state lighting report.Cree’s BR30 will be a 65W-equivalent (this is the sweet spot in the BR market) that produces 650 lumens at 9.5W, making for 68.4 lumens-per-watt. It is dimmable, damp-rated, works in any orientation, can operate in a recessed can (obviously), carries Cree’s 10-year warranty, and is rated for 25,000 hours. It will ship in a 2700K warm white version (which I’ve tested) and a 5000K daylight, both of which has a CRI of 80. The daylight model will sell for $21.97.One of the good things about transitioning from manufacturer an A lamp to BR is that the two designs are quite similar. In fact, the base on both Cree bulbs is essentially the same design (though the BR30’s finned base is larger). This means the company’s designers didn’t have to worry about new electronics or cooling, and attention could be focused on orienting the LEDs inside. When the bulb is on you can see that the BR’s  LED “filament tower” uses a modified design compared to the A line. The coated glass cover and the metal base were both specifically designed to fit in recessed cans.Cree did change the LEDs for the BR though. This time the XB-G was used where the A19 used the XT-E high voltage white. The choice was made so that Cree could optimize the LEDs for directional operation, which required getting a nice wide beam angle.I’ve done a small amount of preliminary testing with Cree’s BR30 and so far everything looks good. The lamp is structurally sounds (just like its smaller brother), stays cool during operation, and has a wide, uniform light pattern — as a BR downlight should. The 2700K bulb looked very warm and slightly yellowed to my eye, but Cree says the bulb has a CRI (that is, color accuracy) of 80, so I’m going to give it some time before questioning that. For reference, 80 is generally considered to be the minimum acceptable level for a mainstream retail bulb, but it is sufficient for most people.Unlike some other vendors, Cree is taking a bottom up approach with their bulb offerings. The A line has huge volume and low margins, where BR margins should be slightly better even if the market is smaller. The best thing (for Cree) about BR bulbs though is that they are used differently than A19s, which could make them an ideal place for Cree to make up some ground. BRs tend to be hard to change — you almost always need a ladder — so people tend to change multiple lamps at a time. Also, while BRs are less popular than A19s, they tend to be run for more hours — the ceiling cans in most living rooms run for hours while the lamp on the side table is only used for a little bit each day. This means people should be OK with spending more on them and will see energy savings more quickly.Right now the prime competitor to Cree’s BR is Philips’ 13W BR30. It sells for about $25 and the 2700K version produces 730 lumens (56lm/w). It’s dimmable and Energy Star certified. I’ve used this lamp a lot and have been happy with it, though there is a minor start-up delay.Cree’s BR30 bulbs will be available online today, July 16th, and will be arriving in Home Depot stores this summer. VIEW PHOTO GALLERY Cree A19 and BR30 LED bulbsCree A19 and BR30 LED bulbsCree BR30 and A19Cree BR30 LED glass coverCree BR30 heatsinkCree BR30 press shotCree A19 workingBR30 2700K packagingBR30 5000K packaginglast_img read more