General Electric's new hybrid light bulbs have begun shipping to retailers and are expected to be available nationwide by April 22, Earth Day, the company announced yesterday.
The hybrid halogen-compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, announced in October 2010, look like a spiral frosted CFL light bulb snugly fit inside a clear glass bulb shaped like a typical incandescent light bulb.
One selling point is that the bulbs don't take time to light up like many CFLs currently available. When switched on, the hybrid bulb's halogen portion lights up within a half-second. Then once the CFL portion has warmed and brightened to full luminescence, the halogen portion turns itself off, according to GE.
GE also claims that each hybrid bulb only contains 1 milligram of mercury. If true, that is significant. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average CFL light bulb contains about 4 milligrams of mercury.
Mercury in light bulbs has been a concern to consumers as the element is widely known to pose a health risk if ingested or inhaled, especially in young children. While the mercury in CFLs poses no danger while contained, there is a risk that people can be exposed to mercury if a CFL bulb, and its tubes containing mercury, are broken. The EPA has guidelines on how broken bulbs should be handled.
The hybrid bulbs are expected to retail between $5.99 and $9.99 depending on the wattage and color. GE says its hybrid bulbs have a life of 8,000 hours, the same as its CFL light bulb products. That's significantly more than the average 60-watt incandescent bulb which typically has a lifespan of about 1,000 hours, according to the EPA (PDF).
The light bulb announcement comes amid a firestorm of criticism for GE and CEO Jeff Immelt after a March 24 New York Times article revealed that despite making $5.1 billion in U.S. profits, GE claimed a $3.2 million tax benefit on its 2010 federal tax returns.
The 2010 tax return was unusual due to losses sustained by GE Capital since the financial crisis, and would be higher in 2011, GE said in a statement. In a speech yesterday at the Economic Club of Washington, Immelt said he welcomed reform for a simplified corporate tax system like in other countries, rather than the current complicated "loophole" system in the U.S.