back to article India orders 770 million LED light bulbs, prices drop 83 per cent

Shri Piyush Goyal, India's minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy yesterday celebrated the fact that in just 20 months the price of LED lightbulbs has fallen from 310 rupees (US$4.68) to 54.9 rupees ($0.84), an 83 per cent plunge that is partly India's fault. In early 2015 the nation adopted a policy …


  1. fortran

    What kinds of drivers? (not vehicle)

    There are quite a few ways of driving LEDs from mains. Are they using ancient technology which generates a ton of heat (wasted electricity)? Or something newer (qr buck?) which is much more efficient? As the LED themselves won't wear out for quite a while, they may have just bought themselves a huge baseload of electricity. Granted, probably less than now, but they could save a while bunch more electricity with something efficient.

    Some EE probably has a better description for these new drivers than I used.

    1. andro

      Re: What kinds of drivers? (not vehicle)

      Your thinking of old halogen transformers. Most led bulbs generate only a small amount of heat for the rated amount of light. It sounds like these guys know what they are doing and bought quality bulbs at the right price from the success of the program.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Well even the simplest ones are a start

      Even the cheapest way to connect those LEDs to the mains is a good start, just using a rectifier and many LEDs in series gives you rather good efficiency. That's what is done in those "filament" LEDs.

      Using switch mode constant current supplies is hard to get much more efficient than that. Considering that they are also more complex and therefore fail much more often, it might not be worth it energy wise.

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Well even the simplest ones are a start

        Poundland sell decent ones for a quid, so I'm pretty sure they ban strike a good spec deal at the price

        1. G0HJQ

          Re: Well even the simplest ones are a start

          I bought some of the Poundland LED lamps. They all failed after just a few weeks.

          Like most others, they used a series capacitor to limit the current, followed by a bridge rectifier and electrolytic smoothing capacitor, which is perfectly adequate and pretty efficient at these low powers.

          However - instead of using an aluminium backed printed circuit board to take away the heat of the LEDs, they used the lower cost SRBP (Synthetic Resin Bonded Paper) circuit board, which resulted in the LEDs severely overheating.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't tell the yanks. They'll stockpile incandescents.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      WhenI converted over to CFL's when they first came out, I kept what I had and bought some more. Then when I went to LED's I bought a case of them. I've sold all the incandescents on Craigslist at a profit in the last couple of months. I'm not sure why someone would want the incandescents but they did.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        > I'm not sure why someone would want the incandescents but they did.

        For example, for a closet where you'd switch on the light for 30 secs every other day. The incandescent bulb will last 30 years easily. A LED bulb doesn't seem to makes sense here, a CFL would be outright stupid. I absolutely love (good) LED bulbs but still have a few incandescent ones installed for that very reason.

        1. Malcolm 1

          Sounds like a bit of a "niche" market

          1. Roq D. Kasba

            Photographers, maybe? Some LED drivers flicker at 50/60/100/120 Hz

      2. cd

        One needs an assortment to use a dim bulb tester.

      3. Pompous Git Silver badge

        I'm not sure why someone would want the incandescents but they did.

        Cost? Just over 15 years ago, we moved into our new home I had spent a very happy 18 months building. Lighting was a mixture of 12 v QH sealed spots, 240 v linear QH, regular 240 v incandescents, and bi-pin 12 V QH.

        Half of the conventional 240 v incandescents and all but one of the bi-pin QH have lasted the distance. The replacements for the conventional incandescents have been CFL and have all needed to be replaced several times. They are not as bright, take longer to turn on as well as having a much shorter life. And they cost several times a much to purchase. The first three were north of $AU20 each and the incandescents they replaced cost less than $AU2.00 each.

        The sealed spots last from a few weeks to a year at most. The linear halogens last from a few weeks to about 18 months. The transformers for the 12 v globes have a lifespan of about two years.

        Last year, I replaced three sealed spots with the brightest LED units I could find. Not only were they much dimmer than the 50W globes they replaced, it took only three weeks for the first one to fail. They cost several times as much. Worse, this bank of three globes lights one of the kitchen worksurfaces where I use very sharp knives and I need more light now for my ageing eyes, not less.

        It's a bit hard to see any cost saving when units need constant replacement and those units cost so much more than what they replaced. It's a bit hard to see any energy saving given that the globes and the transformers require energy to manufacture. The cost of the transformers alone likely exceeds the cost in electricity saving; nearly a hundred so far at ~$AU10 purchased locally.

        I have been told that the CFLs would last much longer if we left them constantly turned on rather than turning them off when we don't need the light. Also we should purchase a very expensive power conditioner to reduce the swings, sags and spikes in voltage. Our electricity supplier is only required to provide an average voltage of 240 v over a 24 hour period. Several neighbours have installed solar PV in recent years "to save money"* and made the voltage issue much worse: 210 to 260 volts.

        I expect to be accused of wearing a tinfoil hat, but it seems to me that the move to make conventional incandescents illegal has more to do with increased revenue for GE, Philips, Sanyo etc than "saving the consumer money and the planet".

        * After receiving a quote from a solar PV supplier I questioned their numbers as their claimed cost saving would require the units to supply 140% of their rated output. The supplier either couldn't, or wouldn't respond. My cost estimate was close to that of Choice, Australia's consumer magazine. My estimate of time to payback was 18 years and Choice's was 16 years; different supplier, and presumably different state. There's a reasonable chance of my being dead by then. It's also possible I'll be incapable of finding anything of interest to spend the consequent fairly trivial savings on if I survive.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      I have a stockpile of incandescents because I have dimmer switches and most LED and CFL don't like working with dimmers.

      I got a bargain on my CFLs as I bought them just as VAT temporarily dropped a few years ago, old VAT inclusive price shown on shelves, adjustment made at checkout. My supermarket were selling CFLs at 50p each or five for a £1 to encourage up-take. Took five to the self-service checkout and I think they subtracted 17.5% of the 50p price times five or something like that because those five CFLs cost me around 25p all-in. Suffice to say I ended up with enough CFLs to last a lifetime.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        "I have a stockpile of incandescents because I have dimmer switches and most LED and CFL don't like working with dimmers."

        Actually at least the simpler LED lamps should work fine with dimmers. It's just that companies selling such lamps usually don't know to much about electronics, so they assume they don't work with dimmers. Plus there's, in theory, a wide variety of devices called dimmers. Usually you have something that turns on the power for small amounts of time. Those are made with Thyristors. However other dimmers might use a variable transformer as that might have been cheaper at one point in time. So in effect you'd have lots of testing to do for a minority of users.

  3. LaeMing Silver badge

    I'm still trying to use up all the free CF lamps we were given here in Aus several years back (I got into CF lamps before they were cool! :-) The bulb in my living room is one of the first I bought, 24 years ago, and still running!).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      24 years sounds about right for a CCFL to go from it's switch on "twilight" brightness to something useful where you aren't stumbling around in semi darkness.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Light Bulb Moment

    A politician with a clue!

  5. Potemkine Silver badge

    Good news, really?

    "There's good news for everyone here, as analyst outfit LEDinside reports that global LED bulb prices remain steady, suggesting that India's big buys aren't necessarily straining the global supply chain and creating shortages"

    The good news would be to have seen a decrease in LED bulb prices for everyone.

    If more LED bulbs are produced and there's no lack of resources, why isn' t the price going down?

    1. evilhippo

      Re: Good news, really?

      "If more LED bulbs are produced and there's no lack of resources, why isn' t the price going down?"

      They are. Certainly in the UK they are less expensive than a few years ago, even if you ignore the unreliable Poundland garbage. I was recently in Indonesia and the manager at the place I was staying said the hotel had recently made the switch to "mostly" LED because it was now economic as they had gotten cheaper.

  6. Jimbo in Thailand

    LOVE them LED lights!

    Thankfully, it's not just India that's enjoying lower LED bulb prices. Here in Thailand prices have nosedived as well during the past few months. I replaced all the interior light bulbs in my house with warm-white LED bulbs. Obviously, the main benefit is operational cost savings, followed by longevity. The new miserly replacement bulbs consume typically only 20-50% of the wattage of the similar E-27 compact fluorescents, which themselves are fairly economical.

    One of the best features of LEDs is, for me, instead of 'operating room' stark grayish-white glare of fluorescents, LEDs give off the warm yellowish-white glow similar to incandescent bulbs. You can opt for cool-white LEDs if you have to do a heart transplant, though. Haha!

    I'm still waiting for cheap LED replacements to swap out the long fluorescent tubes in the carport and covered patio but confess that's not a big deal. And my electric bill has been laughably small the past few months! It's all good and you should take the plunge if you haven't done it yet. ;^)

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: LOVE them LED lights!

      Incandescent bulbs are still the most effective space heaters you can buy - over 95% of the energy is transformed into heat...

      I'm still in the process of phasing out of using halogen and fluorescents and into using LEDs. (Great believer in the don't-fix-if-not-broken approach.) Any burned out or obsolete light source gets replaced by LED. LED replacements for the long fluorescent tubes have just become cheap enough.

      The white LED lights are quite good for lighting pictures without colour distortion. The "warm white" make for a cozier atmosphere though - must be genetic memory passed on from the ancestors sitting around their fires...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LOVE them LED lights!

        The white LED lights are quite good for lighting pictures without colour distortion. The "warm white" make for a cozier atmosphere though - must be genetic memory passed on from the ancestors sitting around their fires...

        I found they're not great for lighting fast video, though. I was experimenting with the 100/200 fps mode on my camera and came up with the bright (haha) idea to use an LED light, which resulted in a recording where some frames were lit, and others were dark. It was funny, but also a hint that I need to think about how to light any fast video. Probably add a couple of big capacitors that are rated to the high voltage this stuff runs on..

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: LOVE them LED lights!

          Many "white" LEDs are no better than the "white" CFLs they replace. "white" LEDs are actually ultraviolet LEDS with a blob of fluourescent material on top. It's the fluourescent stuff that makes the light.

          Unfortunately, as with conventional fluorescent bulbs, the quality of the light is critically dependent on the number and type of phosphors used in the coating. Cheap LEDs use a small number of phoshors, and so you get a discontinuous spectrum, which make some coloured things look odd, and plays merry hell with digital photography.

          Real halogens are unfortunately still the most cost-effective way to light indoors for colour fidelity.

        2. Shades

          Re: LOVE them LED lights!

          "I found they're not great for lighting fast video"

          I suspect he was actually on about lighting pictures of the type that hang on walls, not lighting things he was taking pictures of.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: LOVE them LED lights!

            Have to say they work pretty well over fishtanks as well.

    2. Adrian Harvey

      Re: LOVE them LED lights!

      Re: greyish-white glare:

      Most compact fluorescent bulbs are (and have been for a long time) available in warm white too. In fact as most white LEDs are in fact blue LEDs pumping a phosphor coating your colour range should be pretty close between the two technologies.

  7. Thought About IT

    Who's paying the piper?

    In an area of France which I regularly visit, the sodium street lamps in towns and villages have been replaced with LEDs, and this in a country where most electricity is generated by nuclear power stations. Contrast that with the UK, where all subsidies for energy saving have been cut, while fracking is heavily promoted. It's hard not to make the obvious connection.

    1. Stu J

      Re: Who's paying the piper?

      JFYI, there are LED streetlight replacement projects running in various areas of the UK...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Who's paying the piper?

      FWIW Sodium lights are themselves very efficient and low maintenance, which is why they're used for street lighting.

    3. toughluck

      Re: Who's paying the piper?

      The only reason to replace sodium lamps with LEDs is significantly better color rendition and slightly more longevity.

      The luminous efficacy of a white LED ranges from 1 to 20% (typically about 12% for street lamps).

      Contrast with low pressure sodium lamps (orange), the efficacy of which ranges from 15 to 29%. High pressure sodium lamps (white-ish) is 12-22%, so still potentially better than LEDs.

      There are some advantages, however. LEDs are directed down and slightly outwards and don't require reflectors. It's somewhat easier to shape the light cone of LEDs, and you need to do it to avoid glare. Omnidirectional sodium lamps need reflectors, but due to their orange monochromatic light, they don't cause nearly as much glare and shaping the light cone isn't as critical.

      1. Nixinkome

        Re: Who's paying the piper?

        The Highways Department changed a street light nearly outside my south facing bedroom window from Sodium orange to "white". It's very effective at lighting the pavements and road at night including the junction to a close opposite it but I cannot leave even a chink open in my fairly thick curtains for the light to intrude. Full Moon only came once a month before this new lamp. I wonder where the yellow went!

        It's more of a blackin than blackout and yet we are rightfully told that sleeping in utter darkness is good for our circadian rhythms. I know that Summer is coming and the dawn chorus will move nearer to 03.45BST [to be followed by the bird scaring guns in not-so-nearby fields] so any sleep time has to be husbanded and any sunshine to be welcomed.

        The "white" bulbs may not be LEDs, yet.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Who's paying the piper?

          It's the same here. The new ( 2/3 year old? ) LED streetlight outside my bedroom window means I had to buy blackout curtains and in summer when the windows are opened, a gust of wind often dislodges the curtains enough to make my bedroom look like the set of an alien abduction film.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Who's paying the piper?

            "The new ( 2/3 year old? ) LED streetlight outside my bedroom window means I had to buy blackout curtains"

            We got our new street lamps before the LED ones became cheap enough to be an option so the low pressure sodium (orange) lights were replaced with high pressure sodium (white) lights. Much better, brighter, more directed and from the attic we get a much better view of the night sky, ie above the street lights which offer up much less light pollution. In fact, the reduction in light pollution is very noticeable as I come over the hill on the way home in the dark, especially if there's low cloud. The orange glow from the neighbouring town now stands out like a sore thumb.

            Thumbs up for India though, that's a decent saving in power across the country. Here in the UK, considering that being "green" is supposed be the big thing, it's interesting that there are no schemes to offer free LED bulbs to householders the way they did with the CFLs.

          2. Chris Evans

            Re: Who's paying the piper?

            No LED street lights around here but almost all the pedestrian crossing now use them for the lights the cars see, the green/red cross now/don't cross and the button LED the pedestrians press, they are all very bright in particular the red LED in the button the pedestrians press I find quite a glaring distraction as a motorist or cyclist.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Who's paying the piper?

              "very bright in particular the red LED in the button the pedestrians press I find quite a glaring distraction as a motorist or cyclist."

              Not half as distracting as LED daylight running lights which can be dazzling in lower light conditions when they suddenly flash in your rear view mirror as the car goes over even a slight bump or if the car just has a heavy load in the back. And don't even get me started on HID headlights, especially LED ones!!!

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Who's paying the piper?

        Here in Cambridgeshire, UK, there's been an extensive program to replace sodium street lighting with LED. The white light is much more pleasant than the horrible sodium orange, but the light source is slightly more dazzling.

        I get the impression that the illumination is slightly more localised, with dark patches midway between lamps. Personally, I find this effect pleasant. It reminds me of the charm of gas-lit streets. (Yes, I am that old, though I was reacquainted with it recently in The Park, a private estate in central Nottingham that retains its gas street lighting.)

        1. graeme leggett

          Re: Who's paying the piper?

          Round my way, they replaced a lot of street lamps with higher efficiency ones. A combination of fitment design that puts more light down rather than sideways or up, and shorter posts (lower maintenance cost apparently because they can use a smaller vehicle to service them) gives darker gaps between the posts. But still enough to see and be seen.

        2. ICPurvis47

          Re: Who's paying the piper?

          My GF used to like it when we drove through the tunnel under Rugby railway station, because the sodium lamps gave her the appearance of having a good tan "like an Essex Girl". She's not so keen now they have been replaced with LEDs, as they make her appear pasty white instead :-(

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Who's paying the piper?

            She spends a lot of time checking her complexion in a mirror while walking through tunnels? Odd!

      3. ridley

        Re: Who's paying the piper?

        As a keen amateur astronomer I am very aware of light pollution.

        Sodium light pollution is a pain but with the right filters it can be, largely, mitigated.

        I wonder if filtering out white led light would be as successful?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Who's paying the piper?

          I wonder if filtering out white led light would be as successful?

          It will be much more difficult. Sodium lighting was chosen because the eye is relatively more sensitive to the orange / yellow spectrum and the eye can switch to monochrome. The big problem in the UK is that the lights are generally open at the top which gives you your light pollution.

          Most LED systems have been doped to give a much fuller spectrum so that if you start filtering this, you'll be filtering most visible light. So, LED street lights really ought to come with a cover so that they only illuminate down.

          1. Boothy

            Re: Who's paying the piper?

            Quote: "So, LED street lights really ought to come with a cover so that they only illuminate down."

            The LEDs that were fitted on the road outside my place (about 3 years ago), are like an array of spot lights, (GU10 like) all pointing downwards, splaying out towards the edge. So no light at all going upwards (other than reflected light of course).

            They are also lower than the older sodium fittings, so are at about the same hight as the bottom of the 1st floor windows sills (the older lights were around the height of the top of the 1st floor windows), which means little of the LED light hits the bedroom windows.

            So overall, much better visibility outside, whilst at the same time, reducing both internal and external light pollution.

  8. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Hope they keep a close eye on the quality and design...

    I replaced a halogen light with an LED module, it failed in a few months. When I checked, the PSU was too high a current for the LEDs. I guess some idiot didn't want customers to complain about the brightness.

    1. DanceMan

      Re: Hope they keep a close eye on the quality and design...

      I have used track lights meant for 50w MR16 halogens that I hoped would be perfect for MR16-style led's. But my electrician son-in-law advised me against the led's, saying the starting current would lead to early burnout of the 120v AC to 12v DC units. There are track light systems such as those that suspend on two current-carrying bare wires, that use a large master 12v psu. Perhaps one of those would fare better.

    2. jantill

      Re: Hope they keep a close eye on the quality and design...

      It is difficult to diagnose a situation from afar but I think that the current rating of the PSU is unlikely to be a direct problem. What is likely to have happened is that the PSU has been designed to a price (i.e. cheaply) and provides the specified output voltage at a particular current. The regulation of the output voltage may be poor and so, with the reduced load of the LED bulbs, will output a higher voltage than the LEDs can comfortably handle. The LEDs would have taken too much current, been very bright then overheated and eventually failed.

      So the problem may well be that there is a mismatch between the PSU and the LED needs.

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    In the UK

    For most of the year the "waste heat" of incandescents is quite beneficial. In that small Summer window when the warmth from the lights is not needed, the evenings are light until fairly late anyway so little need for lighting.

    As we have transitioned to low energy lights I have noticed the wife making more frequent use of quick bursts of fan heater to top up the temperature in rooms where previously the bulbs helped keep the room warm. So electricity usage savings have not been hugely significant as bulb savings partially offset by increased portable heater use.

    Obviously in somewhere like India that is a significantly warmer a lot of the time the heat is mostly waste.

  10. toughluck

    Have they finally solved strobing?

    Most people I know don't complain about this in LEDs, but I can clearly see it if anything moves. Even the more expensive LEDs fitted with a rectifier still annoy me. And don't even get me started on the cheap ones where the LEDs themselves are arranged in two series (opposite directions) in parallel, which flicker like crazy.

    Then again, I also notice RGB ghosting in DLP projectors and it's another thing that annoys me, whereas most people can't see the phenomenon even when it's pointed out to them.

    1. Timmay

      Re: Have they finally solved strobing?

      My issue is most of my lighting is dimmable, and despite specifically paying extra for dimmable LED bulbs, I get a quiet but noticeable buzz from them when they're on anything but 100%. I also get some flicker when they're like this too, but again nothing when they're at full.

    2. techmind

      Re: Have they finally solved strobing?

      I too have one (Philips, non-dimmable) LED GU10 lamp - and it has 100% depth 100Hz modulation (flicker). You are not alone. I see this too. It makes my stairs and banisters strobe horribly.

      Unfortunately neither the packaging or the manufacturers' websites tell you anything about flicker before you buy...

    3. kryptonaut

      Re: Have they finally solved strobing?

      Strobing RGB projectors are horrible. And LED rear lights on cars drive me nuts the way they flicker. My kids see it too, but most people I mention it to don't know what I'm talking about. I wonder if it's a genetic thing?


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