The Department of Energy awarded lighting giant Philips the $10 million L Prize despite the fact that the winning energy-efficient bulb failed to meet several contest criteria requirements, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Philips raised eyebrows when it debuted the winning bulb with a $50 price tag. That is far beyond the $22 cost recommended by the department, which is now working with utility companies to cut back on the upfront cost through rebates.
Department documents, however, cast doubt on whether the expensive LED bulb was even worthy of the prize.
Contest rules outlined by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act required the winning L Prize bulb to shine at 900 lumens. A department report on 200 bulbs tested at two different facilities showed that nearly 70 bulbs failed to meet that standard, including more than 60 percent of the bulbs tested at one of the labs.
“The integrating sphere test from the [lab name redacted] shows that only 5 of 100 samples tested were below 900 lumens, but the [lab name redacted] integrating sphere testing shows 38 samples that were over 900lm and 62 were under,” the report reads.
Despite Philips’ poor showing at the DOE lab tests, the department passed the bulb after receiving reassurance from the Dutch company.
“Philips data shows all tested lamps (2000) were above 900 lumens. Philips test and modeling data indicate…this criterion will be met in the production lamp,” the report continued.
A department spokeswoman insisted that the bulbs met the requirements.
“The minimum output measured in this sample of 200 lamps was 873 lumens and the maximum was 967 lumens, a range consistent with normal manufacturing tolerances,” the spokeswoman said. “The average light output of the 200 samples tested was 910 lumens.”
One lighting expert, however, said the average is not a good indicator of LED performance.