LED lights are slowly but surely forcing traditional incandescent bulbs into a well-deserved retirement. The reason is simple — LED is a cost-effective, efficient technology that outperforms its counterparts in every important aspect. But perhaps the most interesting question for consumers is that of durability; how long LED lights last and whether their lifespan is really as incredible as it sounds.
If you’ve tried to find the answer to this question, you may have noticed that there is a lot of conflicting information. Some claim LEDs last up to 50,000 hours, others that they’re unusable after 10,000. Still others would have you believe that you can use them for up to 10 years! But before you reject all of the claims as lies, let’s see why no one seems to agree on how long LED lights last.
10-Year Lifespan — Fact or Fiction?
Not having to change light bulbs for a decade sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? No doubt manufacturers think so too when they advertise their incredibly long-lasting LED lights. Unfortunately, though, these predictions don’t always come true.
We don’t claim a 10-year lifespan is an outright lie. Technically, an LED bulb can last that long — but only if you use it for a few hours every day. And typically, when you’re buying a light bulb, you intend to use it much more than that. So don’t be disappointed if your bulb fails to reach this goal — up to 30% of LED bulbs do.
How Is LED Lifespan Determined?
In the world of incandescent bulbs, lifespan is referred to as Average Rated Life (ARL), which is the length of time it takes for half of the tested bulbs to fail. To put it simply, if a batch of 500 bulbs has ARL of 1,000 hours, that means that 250 of those bulbs died at the 1,000-hour mark.
However, this kind of testing doesn’t work with LED bulbs. They don’t just die instantly as incandescent bulbs do; instead, their brightness gradually fades over time.
That’s why manufacturers had to find a different way to measure LED lifespan, one that would determine a certain point at which LEDs aren’t considered usable anymore. The point they settled on is 70% of the original luminosity. If an LED bulb starts off emitting 1,000 lumens, its lifespan ends once it degrades to 700 lumens. The length of time that it takes for half of the test batch to reach 70% of the initial output is LED’s life expectancy.
What Determines How Long LED Lights Last
Typically, incandescent light bulbs last around 1,000 hours, but the LED lifespan can fall anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 hours. Since that’s such a large range, it’s hard not to wonder why some LED bulbs don’t last as much as others. As it turns out, there are several factors to consider.
Heat Is Harmful
LED bulbs are cool to the touch, so it’s easy to assume that they don’t produce any heat. But that’s not entirely true. LED bulbs themselves don’t heat up, but their semiconductors and capacitors do. What’s more, they can overheat and thus fail much quicker than they would have otherwise.
Of course, LED light manufacturers know how detrimental heat can be, so they design their bulbs to be more resistant to it. High-quality LED bulbs have capacitors that can operate at higher temperatures and effective heatsinks that let the heat leave the diodes. Still, if you install an LED light near a heat source or put it inside a closed fixture with no ventilation, it won’t last anywhere near the promised 50,000 hours.
Too Much Electricity
If you’ve ever bought a phone charger from a shady manufacturer, you’ve probably experienced the moment when you plug it in, hear a loud pop, and suddenly you’re left with a useless piece of fried plastic instead of a charger. That happens when the electrical device receives more power than it can bear, and it can happen to LED lights as well — only not as quickly.
Usually, an LED light has protection circuits that regulate the maximum voltage it receives. In addition, some LED lights have a so-called ‘soft start,’ designed to reduce the power fed into LED. Due to the ‘soft start,’ LED lights may take a few moments to turn on.
Unfortunately, the LED voltage protection sometimes fails as a result of faulty components and power supplies. Then the excess power fed into an LED can start damaging it and lead to shorter life expectancy.
Complex LED Circuits
When an incandescent bulb dies, there’s not much mystery as to why it happened. The culprit is usually the filament — it breaks or burns out, and the bulb stops working.
However, LED bulbs are much more complex. Instead of a filament, you will find capacitors, conductors, and resistors. That means that if any of those parts breaks, the whole system will stop working. Therefore, the potential for something going wrong is much higher.
In most cases, nothing will go wrong. LED bulbs wouldn’t be so highly regarded if their parts were constantly breaking. But on the off-chance that your LED light doesn’t even hit the 10,000-hour mark, you can suspect that something in the complex circuitry is to blame.
How You Take Care of Them
Even a perfectly functional, high-quality LED bulb can die before its time if you don’t show it proper care. Don’t worry, though — LED lights aren’t particularly demanding. With just a few precautions, you’ll ensure that they live a long and bright life.
First, keep them away from heat sources. Don’t mix LED bulbs with incandescent ones in a light fixture — the latter produces more heat, and as we’ve established, heat is LED’s mortal enemy.
And when you don’t need them, turn them off. It may seem obvious, but since LEDs use very little electricity, many people don’t feel like there’s any harm in leaving them on. And technically, there isn’t — but your LED lightbulb will burn through its lifespan much faster.
Conclusion on How Long LED Lights Last
There is no precise answer to the question of how long LED lights last. While the 10,000–50,000 hours range is fairly accurate, some may last less, while some others may even exceed the expectations. Whatever the case, one thing is certain — LED lights last far longer than any of the other lights on the market. And for that alone, they are worth your money!