Made-in-US Bulb Maker Cree Announces 100-Watt LED Bulb

While efficiency regulations banned new 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012, LED manufacturer Cree says the future is bright for fans of high-wattage lights.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina-based company announced its new 100-watt LED bulb, which will retail at Home Depot for $19.97.

The new product launch comes nearly one year after Cree introduced its 40- and 60-watt LED bulbs, says Cree vice president of product strategy Mike Watson. Watson says Cree was the first manufacturer to break the $10 barrier for 40-watt LED bulbs.

“We didn’t make consumer products beforehand and we weren’t looking to get into the consumer market until we realized that the competition really wasn’t providing products the consumer would adopt,” says Watson. “[W]e actually built a manufacturing facility in the U.S., hired the people to do it … and actually launched a product in a very short period of time.”

Ban on Incandescent Bulbs a Boon for Business?

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act mandated phase-outs for energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs. New sales of 100-watt traditional bulbs were prohibited in 2012, while 40- and 60-watt incandescents were banned Jan. 1 this year.

While Watson says the law may have helped educate consumers about LED options, he says Cree did not advocate for the regulation.

“We’ve always believed in absolute consumer choice … choice and good products [are] what drives adoption,” says Watson. He adds that Cree products became the best-selling bulbs in Home Depot before the ban even went into effect.

“We believe that giving consumers products that are fundamentally better than before is really what drives adoption. It’s product that looks and lights like a light bulb, but gives consumers benefits they’ve never had before,” says Watson.

Watson says Cree’s 100-watt version is 82% more efficient than its incandescent counterparts, and will last upward of 20 years.

Vertical Integration in North Carolina

Watson says Cree, which was founded in 1987, is able to innovate and keep costs down by controlling all aspects of production. The company makes its LEDs in North Carolina, where Cree employs approximately 400 workers in manufacturing roles.

He says domestic manufacturing is a benefit, rather than a challenge—though finding the right talent isn’t easy.

“We’re the world’s only vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer … We believe strongly that having a manufacturing facility close to where our R&D is, is a benefit at this point and time for the consumer and for Cree,” says Watson.