San Jose company's LED light bulbs hit store shelves

When it comes to light bulbs, Silicon Valley consumers can now go green and support a local company at the same time. But it will cost them.

Switch Lighting, a San Jose company that designs LED light bulbs, announced Wednesday that its bulbs are now being sold by retailers. The company announced a deal with Batteries Plus, a nationwide chain of stores offering batteries and light bulbs. The bulbs will also be available from “mom and pop” retailers, according to company representative Deanna Siste.

Consumers will have to pay a premium for Switch’s bulbs. Batteries Plus is charging $50 a bulb for them. That’s twice or more what you’ll pay at your local Home Depot for a comparable LED bulb.

Previously, Switch’s bulbs were only available for restaurants and hotels through commercial distributors. The company had initially planned to start selling its bulbs to consumers a year ago.

“As you know, start-ups experience delays all the time, and Switch has been spending this time perfecting the bulb and setting up their network,” said Siste in an email, adding, “Reinventing the light bulb is hard work.”

Like the rival bulbs at Home Depot, Switch’s bulbs are designed to replace the venerable 60-watt incandescent bulb, producing 800 lumens of light. And like those bulbs, Switch’s bulbs use less than a quarter the power of a 60-watt incandescent bulb and are rated to have a lifespan that’s at least 20 times as long.

Switch hopes to stand out from the pack with its design. LED bulbs come in a bizarre range of shapes, including ones that look like bug lights, others that look like weapons and still others that look like they’ve been flattened.

By contrast, Switch’s bulbs have won awards for their sleek, modern design. They come with a brushed metallic base, and some models have a clear glass bulb around the LED lighting elements. Switch officials have told me that they designed the bulbs with the thought that they will become decorative elements, that consumers will want to show them off.

Still, when comparable compact fluorescent bulbs sell for about $1.50 a piece and similar LED bulbs sell for as little $18, $50 is a steep price, even if you are getting a product with a standout design from a local company.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (280 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.