You describe your product as “the last lightbulb you will ever need to buy”. Why have you decided to bring out a product that lasts so long?
Standard LED bulbs were failing in a few years, had poor light quality and looked boring. We wanted to change that and knew we could do better. However, to be successful, we would need extraordinary products at affordable prices. So, we set targets. The bulbs would need superb dimming; look really cool and most importantly, they had to last a lifetime!
How are you able to get the bulb to last that long? What's the secret?
The secret is low operating temperatures. Our bulbs are designed to last 70 years. High temperatures kill bulbs, so we designed super-efficient electronics and optics, plus a unique airflow system to radically reduce temperatures. We operate 40°C cooler than competitors which gives us a ten-fold lifetime gain over standard LED bulbs. It makes them much safer as well.
Standard LED bulbs claim lifetimes up to 25,000 hours but regularly fail within 2-3 years, sometimes within weeks. Is that due to high temperatures or is there something else affecting their lifetimes?
Most standard LED bulbs we have tested do not have basic transient surge protection. When a large domestic appliance is operating, such as a tumble dryer or vacuum cleaner, they generate large voltage spikes or transients which can blow other devices in the same building, such as light bulbs. If you operate your tumble dryer, vacuum cleaner and electric showers when such bulbs are on, don’t expect them to survive for long.
The traditional business model with light bulbs is to sell product that last a few years and then need replacing. Can you make enough money selling people one light bulb instead of replacement bulbs?
We are a small player. With 2.3 billion possible customers, we could sell a million bulbs a month for 200 years before everybody would have a Blume bulb. Our focus is to be the most sustainable lighting company on planet Earth and build our business on that. There are always smart customers who will pay for good quality products, knowing they will get superior value over time.
How much will the light bulb cost? Can you make it cheap enough that people will buy it?
When production is ramped, we can sell for £15 and operate an excellent business. Ten times the lifetime for twice the price – that is five times better value, if you do the maths. Our early launch prices may be higher while we achieve scale.
Your light bulb is designed to last a long time. How does it perform when it comes to saving energy?
Against an old incandescent bulb, you save £11 per year in the UK. Compared to standard LED bulbs, energy savings are more modest, maybe £1 year. However, the real saving is there are no replacement costs, no climbing ladders or falling off chairs. If you add the savings in energy and savings in replacement bulbs, Blume is the lowest cost of lighting available.
How are you funding the development and rollout of the bulb?
The original designs were part-funded by Innovate UK. For the past 12 months, we have self-financed. We need £300-400K to get to market quickly and we’re offering 20% of the business to accelerate that process. All the details are on our website, www.blumelabs.com – it is a good investment and we want to close it quickly so we can focus on growing the business.
What are the environmental benefits of a long life light bulb like this?
6 billion bulbs go to landfill every year - we can stop this. It is like filling a football stadium with light waste every single month. Based on the global installed base for residential lighting, Blumes can reduce global CO2 emissions by 200M tons, which is a 0.7% annual reduction. The ripple effect is more renewables can be put on the electricity grid – maybe 2-3% extra. Any reduction in electricity use for lighting or refrigeration has a disproportionately positive impact on renewables being able to go on the grid.
What experience does the team have in getting a product like this up and running?
A lot! Phil (CTO) has developed lighting products for 15 years. Dave (CFO) was a senior operations guy at GE Lighting for 40 years. Gerry (CEO) managed an LED lighting company 20 years ago, before LEDs were even used in general lighting. A couple of the team have supplied technology and applications expertise to the biggest lighting companies in the world. We know the global supply chains, we are good to go!
What's to stop a Chinese company taking one of these bulbs and just copying it?
One can rip off an iPhone or a Dyson – it doesn’t make it one. It is the same with Blume. Even though we have patents filed and various design protections, nobody can stop copycats producing. But, who is stupid enough to buy? Why would a copycat produce a 70-year bulb when they are ripping off another company’s reputation?
How do I know which bulbs to buy and which colours?
You get the best value if you first change the bulbs you use most every day – these will have the biggest impact on reducing your electricity costs and eliminating the endless cycle of replacing bulbs. In terms of colour, we recommend warm white for dining areas, lounges and TV rooms. For kitchens, bathrooms and study areas, daylight or cool white is better.