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Are your LED light bulbs burning out too soon?

LED light bulb

LED light bulbs have a tendency to make grand claims about their lifespan – it’s common to see manufacturers promise bulbs will last 25,000 or even 50,000 hours. But we’ve found many failing well before this.

One of the attractions of LED light bulbs is that they’re supposed to last a long time. And so if you’re shelling out for these bulbs – typically more expensive than other types of light bulb – you’ll want to be sure that they’ll live up to those claims.

But our tests show that not only do many LED light bulbs stop working before the end of their promised lifespan, some don’t even reach the soon-to-be-implemented EU minimum lifespan of 6,000 hours. We discovered bulbs from both Ikea and TCP that failed to reach the 6,000 hour mark for the majority of samples we tested.

Ikea bulb among failures

In the tests – which were carried out by Which? and our European partner organisations – we took five samples each of 46 different bulbs. The bulbs were switched on for two hours and 45 minutes, then switched off for 15 minutes, in a continuous cycle until they burned out.

Five different bulbs stopped working before the 6,000 hour mark for the majority of samples we tested, though the TCP and Ikea bulbs were the only ones which were sold in the UK. Both have since been discontinued.

New EU regulations which will come in from 1 March 2014 say that 90% of any batch of LED light bulbs should last at least 6,000 hours.

Another five bulbs stopped working before the 10,000 hour mark for the majority of samples we tested, despite claiming lifespans of at least 25,000 hours. None of these bulbs were sold in the UK.

In total, 66 of the 230 samples we tested failed before the 10,000 hour mark, though they all claimed they would last at least 15,000 hours.

Has your bulb burned out early?

Ikea said the bulb had passed its own tests and those in a third-party lab. It’s looking into why the bulb failed our test and has removed it from sale in countries where it was still available.

TCP said it was already aware of the problem with this bulb and withdrew it from sale when they discovered the problem. TCP added that it no longer deals with the supplier of that particular bulb and now make their LED bulbs in-house.

We’re in the process of testing the life span of many more LED bulbs, and we’ll update you if we find others that burn out prematurely. But we also want to hear from you – have you bought bulbs that haven’t lasted as long as they should?

Comments

I am tired of LED bulbs which fail sometimes within minutes of first being used.
It is virtually impossible to untangle the claims made for brightness as it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some quote incandescent lamp wattage equivalent others the wattage of the LED, it might be given in lumens or lux. We are not all versed in the intricate science of light measurement. We urgently need an industry standard applied across the board.
Another issue is the size of the lamp envelope, I have purchased bulbs which will not fit in the shade or in the case of replacing strip halogen lights, the lamp holder. Others have up to half the envelope composed of housing for the electronics making them useless for light coverage in some instances.
It has become a free for all to the detriment of the consumer.

My suggestion would be to give priority to the lumen rating for LED lamps and consign the wattage to the back of the packaging. It’s still useful for those who are familiar with the light output of old fashioned light bulbs. I have not seen any mention of Lux on any lamp packaging, though I have seen it on some bars of soap. 🙂

Which? brand of LEDs failed within a few minutes, Keith? It’s quite common for products to fail when new, hence shops will usually replace them without question if you have the guarantee. Nevertheless, it should not happen often.

Producing LED replacements for bulbs has been difficult and in some cases impossible. For example we don’t have replacements for tiny halogen capsules or the replacement is considerably larger (e.g. G9 type).

Most people will not understand lumens, but will relate to filament lamp wattage equivalent. Re-education will take time, as with going metric. So wattage equivalent plus lumens for now is my proposal.

I use Metric Leather rather than Lux – the latter not being a measure of light output of course.

Frank says:
18 February 2021

I live in Holland and bought for an average of 10 Euros per piece Philips LED light bulbs from a reputable shop for the whole house. Almost all failed after one year of use, some after six months. Some were switched on for only a few hours per day. There is no warranty on light bulbs, even with the receipts and the fact that they should have not failed even if they would have been switched on 24 hours a day from the day of purchase. I feel cheated.

Frank – Your experience is most unfortunate and I would say out of character for genuine Philips products.

Nearly all the lights in our house are Philips LED’s and have proved to be very reliable. The odd replacement has been required but overall I am satisfied with their performance – and one of them is on continuously. I realise the 15 years predicted life-cycle still has a long way to go but compared with other makes I have tried I would rate Philips lamps as the most satisfactory. Like most other brands they are made in China but they seem to have superior design and quality control processes.

Like John, I have not had a problem with Philips lamps (or other brands) and most of those in my house were bought nearly five years ago.

I suggest that Frank contacts Philips about the failed lamps. There was one type of Philips LED that had an exceptional number of failures according to Amazon reviews but that was discontinued years ago and I have not read of other problems.

Matt w says:
13 April 2021

I too have had similar experiences here in the UK with Philips branded LED bulbs. I started to log the lifespan and one only managed ~600 hours. This is also the same for Tesco branded bulbs and after some persuasion Tesco agreed to give me a gift card to cover the cost of 2 new ones. But not much use if they just fail again.
The electrical installation in my house is very high quality and the supply is excellent, all done to a very high standard and the supply comes straight from a main pylon and into the house as 3 phase. It’s a very consistent quality of supply.

I hope you have just been unlucky, Matt. If you look at reviews, premature failure is a well known problem but most people like myself have had better experiences. I suggest you ask your retailer for a refund for the Philips lamps. Manufacturers have no legal responsibility but can offer goodwill.

I have looked at the reasons why household LED lamps designed to replace old fashioned bulbs can fail prematurely. The LEDs can fail themselves because the LEDs are driven hard to maximise light output, the circuitry in the cap tends to get very hot and the components in the cap are overheated. Capacitors in particular can fail prematurely. The build quality can be variable, so some examples may have poor cooling due to incorrect use of thermally conductive paste or some other reason. I had one lamp that obviously had a poor connection because it could be switched on or off with a light tap.

I hope you will be lucky with future purchases.

I’m sick of throwing money away on LED lamps that last days or weeks.
I’ve taken to writing the date installed on each one when fitted & claims of 15- 25 year life are NONSENSE.
I’ve had the following fail since late last year (with date installed)

Crimson 5w SES golfball 03/01/19
Luceco 5.5w SES candle 11/12/20
Luceco 5.5w SES candle 25/09/20
Luceco 5.5w SES candle 23/05/20
Luceco 5.5w SES candle 14/09/20
Luceco 5.5w SES candle 18/10/20
Crimson 5w SES golfball 06/04/20
Crimson 5w SES golfball 01/01/20
I must have had at least another dozen fail prior to those listed over little more than a couple of years.

My wiring & voltage have both been checked, I don’t use dimmers & the light units are rated for use with LED lamps.

Don’t buy the rubbish made by these companies.

I hope you have returned the failed lamps for replacement, Mike. I had not heard of the Crimson brand but some of the Amazon reviews warn of rapid failure.

Found on Facebook:
” Salem, Tamil Nadu, India 636501
Crimson led lights manufecturing by Sri Balaji Lighting Industry. we manufecturing and delivering most promising quality products.
our products are
indoor lights and outdoor lights.
for trade enquiry-9894096097
crimsonled2***@gmail.com

Oh dear! I am sorry you have made bad purchases, Mike.

I think you would be well advised to buy replacements from well-known brands in future. I have found Tesco and Philips LED’s satisfactory with no premature failures for ordinary bulb-type lamps [including golf-ball and candle designs].

I have had less success with pre-installed capsule lamps in multi-branch ceiling light fittings but replacing them all with a better brand as soon as the first one fails has been satisfactory.

I have also replaced a few halogen downlighter lamps with Philips LEDs and they are giving good service.

You might need to pay a bit more at the outset but the longer life will repay the expense.

@mikesterland Hi Mike – I hope that you can overcome your problems with LED lamps by switching to other brands. It might be worth checking with neighbours to see if they are having problems in case there is a problem with voltage spikes. It’s best not to have LEDs on the same circuit as fluorescent strip lights, which can cause these spikes.

Best of luck.