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Why LED Bulbs May Not Last as Long as They Should

  • Posted: 09.22.2020
Photo image of a man changing out an LED bulb in a light fixture.

Besides being the most energy efficient lighting options on the market, LED light bulbs are often advertised as having such a long life that you may never have to change the bulbs. But some homeowners are learning that in real life situations, that’s not always the case, and they end up changing the LEDs after a year or two. So why is it that some LEDs wear down after a short time rather than shining on for the 10,000 to 50,000 hours they may be rated for?

Here are some reasons why your LEDs might lose their luster and fail too soon:

  1. The wrong brand. LEDs are much more complex than the old incandescent bulbs. LEDs have a chip, a driver (converting AC to DC) and a heat-sink that wicks away heat from the bulb. The weak link is the circuitry, not the LEDs. The more cheaply made the bulb is, the more potential for one of these features to fail or not be made correctly. Look for Energy Star-rated brands and check ratings on the web before buying bulbs.
  2. A poor design. Look for bulbs with gaps between the fins to let heat escape, as heat is one of the major reasons why LED bulbs fail.
  3. The light fixture. Again, heat is a factor in bulb failure when you place LEDs in an enclosed fixture or recessed can. Look specifically for enclosed-fixture-rated bulbs if your fixture is not well ventilated.
  4. Any other bulbs. Don’t mix bulb types in any multi-bulb fixture, as other types of bulbs (such as incandescent) create heat that can affect the LEDs.
  5. The rating. Ordinary LED bulbs don’t work well with dimmer switches. Instead, you need LEDs rated for dimmers, which have more complex circuitry. In addition, you will need an LED compatible dimmer switch installed. Inserting a bulb that is too large for the fixture is another way to cause burnout.
  6. The connection. LEDs can wear out prematurely if the bulb is too loose or has been screwed in too tightly, if there are worn or corroded contact points in the socket, or if there is a loose wire or connection.
  7. The location. LEDs don’t like heat. If the bulb is placed in an area that is hot, it may not last as long as one located in a cooler environment. In addition, the higher the temperature, the lower the light output will be. While all LEDs dim over time, heat does speed up the degradation.

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