I know regular light bulbs burn out, and so do CFLs. but do LED lights burn out too? And do they provide the same level of light throughout their life, or fade like incandescent lights do?

Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes

LED lights do burn out, but at least in theory they should last far longer than incandescent or fluorescent lights. All lights are rated in terms of the average hours they can be left on before the bulb burns out. While the cheapest incandescent bulbs are rated around 500 hours, and better ones around 800-1,000 hours (and in many locations, standard incandescent light bulbs are not even available for sale any more), fluorescent lights are typically rated at 8,000 hours or ten times longer.

LED house lights meanwhile are supposed to last up to 100,000 hours, although the claims on product packaging are typically much lower, in the 25,000 to 50,000 range. I’m not sure if that is because manufacturers are hedging their bets, or if it’s that there are major quality problems that are bringing down the average, but still, even assuming a typical life of 25,000 hours, your LED lights would last you about 34 years if you use them an average of 2 hours a day. Even if you leave them on 24 hours a day, they should in theory last you almost three years!

One other consideration when considering how fast LED lights burn out is that an LED light bulb is made up of a number of individual Light Emitting Diodes. An individual LED may well last 100,000 hours, but it only takes one of those diodes failing before the bulb can be considered to no longer be working properly.

Compact fluorescent lights are typically rated at 8,000 hours but I have seen CFLs burn out much faster than that. One factor that leads to faster burnout of CFLs is their use in ceiling fixtures. CFLs are not ideally suited to ceiling fixtures, and tend to burn out faster there, for two reasons. First, they are meant to be positioned vertically, with the screw-on base either directly below or above the spiral coils of the bulb. In most ceiling fixtures they are positioned horizontally. Second,their life is shorted by heat, and an enclosed ceiling fixture will allow the heat to build up faster. The other thing I have noticed recently is that as prices have fallen in the last couple of yeras, we have seen a decrease in quality – you get what you pay for. I encourage you to always keep the receipts for any lights you buy – whether fluorescent, LED, or incandescent. If your incandescent or CFL or LED lights burn out well before their expected lifetime, you should take them back and demand a refund. The quality of newer bulb technologies will only improve if people fight back against cheap but poor quality products.

LED lights do burn out, but as I explain in my main LED house lights article, they typically start to fade long before that. In fact LED lights can dip down to less than 80% of their original brightness within 20,000 hours; the drop-off rate may be part of the reason manufacturers are toning down their claims of bulb life. I would submit that in almost every application, LED lights will fade to the point that they are no longer suited to their lighting task, and will be replaced for that reason before the burn out.

One bright point here is that LED lights are much less prone to wear and tear from frequent switching on and off, than are fluorescent lights, so if you do turn off lights whenever you leave a room (even if you might return very soon after), you’ll save energy while not damaging the lights.

13 replies
  1. Denis
    Denis says:

    I want to know more about LEDs. They are supposed to last 25,000 hours but many of them last not very long.

    Can water burn out an led bulb?

    Why on a 3x1w led spot does one LED burn out and not the others?

    Why do some LEDs stay on for a short while even when the power is off?

    Thanks for helping

    Reply
  2. David P
    David P says:

    I installed 10 new LED replacements for halogen down lighter spots 14 months ago in new luminaries. Each one has 15 LEDs and all but one are on the same circuit lighting our kitchen. The other one is on the under-cupboard lights circuit illuminating a dark corner and we often leave these lights on for a few ours at a time. So they’ve been used more than the main circuit.

    Now, the one LED on the under-cupboard lighting circuit has suddenly gone really dull. It’s probably outputting about 15% of its original illumination. I can see that one of its 15 LEDs is dead though the others are OK but dim. I wonder if I can expect the remaining bulbs to go soon as well.

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      One bad bulb does not mean the entire batch are bad, but it does give you an inkling about the quality control of the manufacturer. There are many LED bulb manufacturers out there and the quality runs the full range.

      I originally installed a no-name LED bulb in my dining room and they worked well but the lighting level was far below what was advertised on the bulb packaging. My wife complained constantly about not being able to see at the dining room table. Then I replaced them with Philips LED light bulbs, along with those in the kitchen (MR16 for both DR and kitchen) and the living room (PAR20). I went for natural daylight color temperature and they have worked wonderfully. My wife didn’t even notice I’d replaced them until I asked her a week or so after installation if she thought the lighting was okay.

      If you use a dimmer switch, you need to replace it with one compatible with the particular LEDs you’re using. It’s possible that extended use of an incompatible dimmer switch can damage the LED bulbs.

      Finally remember that the boast of 100,000 hours of bulb life is a best case scenario. On the other hand 14 months is an awfully short time for an LED light to burn out – even if it were on 24 hours a day you’ve barely hit the 10,000 hour mark. You might try contacting the manufacturer by their 800 number and complain – often they will send you a replacement to keep you happy.

      Reply
  3. Leanna
    Leanna says:

    Hello.
    I do hope you will be able to help me.
    I get a cherry blossom tree light for my daughter. It is had 4 colours on it, all LED. When we switch it on it all was working fine. Then we plug it in to power and left it on for a couple of hours. In our return only green light was on, but all others doesn’t work. Now, when we switching on the lamp, all lights coming up – only green very bright, all others lights is coming up to, but not to bright. In a second they all fading off. Only green light stays nice and bright.
    Would you be able to tell me if it is something with a cable or there problem with a Led lights? I can not have another one like that, as they out of stock. My daughter loves them and I would love to make it work.
    Thank you very much for your help.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    All the very best wishes.
    Leanna

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      I’m not an expert on what can go wrong with these lights, but it sounds like something is shorting out and directing too much current to the green light and drawing current away from the other colors. If one of the green lights looks different than the others – brighter, or gets hotter – you could try to replace that, but I don’t really know if it will help. Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Leanna
    Leanna says:

    Thank you Robin.
    Will try to check all connection first. If it help will be good, if not will go to electrician.
    Thank you a lot for replay.

    Reply
  5. Joe Giliberti
    Joe Giliberti says:

    Will LEDs burn less hot?
    My dining room chandelier lets off too much heat. Thinking of switching to LED.

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      LEDs produce far less heat than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs convert about 10% of the electricity they use into light; the rest becomes heat, LEDs convert most of their electricity into light, which is why it takes far fewer watts to produce a given light output from an LED than from an incandescent bulb. Fluorescent bulbs are somewhere between incandescent and LED in terms of efficiency and heat output.

      Reply
  6. BarryMpls
    BarryMpls says:

    LED bulbs DO burn out! I like LED bulbs and am replacing my compact fluorescent bulbs. But thus far, I’ve had 3 or 4 fail in the last year. It IS possible that those LED bulbs were cheap off-brand ones I bought at Menard’s. The problem is, many do not have brand name on the bulb itself, so it’s difficult to tell.

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      It really depends on the brand and the quality of that brand. I had halogen lights throughout my ground floor, and the bulbs that came with the contractor-grade pot lights failed pretty early on – the first one burnt out after perhaps six months, and another would burn out every month or so (out of about 24 lights total). I moved to Phillips LED lights over a year ago and none of them has burnt out. They are on LED-compatible dimmer switches. I’ve seen plenty of no-name LED lights burn out but so far these ones are doing well. (If you click the Phillips link you’ll see a wide selection of Phillips bulbs on Amazon, and what’s impressive is the consistently high reviews they get – mostly 4.5 to 5 stars.)
      If you think about it, cheap off-brands are counting on the fact that you can’t easily figure out, when one fails, where you got it or what the warranty is, so they can cut the cost by cutting the quality. It’s worth paying extra for a top brand that stands behind its product. I once had a CFL fail on a Phillips circular CFL (a very ugly bulb for a kitchen table lamp, but back in those days that’s what you had to do to save energy), and I phoned them and that same day they put a replacement bulb in the mail. As they say, you get what you pay for.

      Reply
  7. BENI
    BENI says:

    When my LED light goes out will I need to replace the entire fixture? I am considering replacing all outdoor lighting with LED fixtures

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      If the LED light that goes out is part of a string of bulbs, for example, or is otherwise not easily removed and replaced, then you would need to replace the entire fixture. But if each bulb can be individually removed and replaced, no need to replace the whole fixture – different bulbs from different manufacturers should be able to co-exist.

      Reply
  8. Eric
    Eric says:

    It’s likely the LEDs are not burning out. Keep in mind each bulb has a power supply that must convert AC mains power to DC voltage. So while it may be true that the LED can last 25k hours the power supply necessary to power the LED likely does not last nearly as long. The power supply gets very hot (yes even in LED bulbs) and heat kills electronic components. If a car engine will consistently run for 250k miles but the transmission fails after 50k miles then it doesn’t really matter how robust the engine is, so take the 25k hours lifespan with a grain of salt.

    Reply

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