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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?

john Melvin says:
10 February 2020

A further comment.
AMAZON have just refunded the cost of my 4 dead
Paul Russell 15 watt LED 6253 lamps.
I need to find my old 100watt ones now.

Johnny M

I have outdoor units 4 units , put them up in 2018, 1 failed in 2018 summer the other 2020 Feb. I find it infuriating that I cannot change the bulb, it come on only when movement is detected. Therefore short period of times.
I am now going to replace the failed unit with a tungsten halogen unit, at least for 2 pounds I can fit a new bulb.
These do not work and are a fraud, they are not ecological as I have to throw awy the units as it is NOT recyclable.
I worked in lighting when the halogen were introduced, these LED are no more n less than a money making system for someone. I took one apart and NOTHING can be replaced. . .. .

We have 10 led light fittings in the kitchen/dining room which were fitted 3 years ago. I have replaced every single light bulb at least twice, using cheap ones and more expensive branded ones, it makes no difference. In the bathroom in May 2019 the electrician fitted 4 shower room safe lights, one of which has just failed this week. I am sick of the inconvenience and expense for what is obviously a huge con played on us by the EU energy efficient watchdogs who must be rubbing their hands with glee at the level of sales caused by continuous replacement.

Nothing to do with EU, profiteering by companies, cheap materials and very poor labeling. LEDs last a very long time, the cheapskate drivers circuits do not.

Mark C says:
23 September 2020

Two of my ten Eveready brand GUI 10 5w Led bulbs have failed so far in less than 1000 hours. I have spent 10 times the the electricity saving on low energy bulbs.

ikea yet led 200lm. Lasted less than 2 years of light use

mike says:
12 October 2020

similar issue. bought 20 watt led pir floodlight less than 6 months ago from b and q . My uncle informs me it is has failed . failure more on all the time but at a very low illumination level. seems to be a not uncommon problem and is infuriating since nothing is recylable. these leds are a waste of time an d money

You can make a claim against the retailer under the Consumer Rights Act, Mike: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product The guarantee may provide additional benefits. B&Q are generally very helpful in my experience.

I have had to replace a Paul Russell 10w BCB22 within three months – what an energy saving bulb that was. Are any light bulbs made in Britain or are we all subjected to the Chinese manufacturers?

I hope you can get a refund or replacement from the retailer, Shirley.

There are British made light fixtures but I have not come across any LED bulbs made in the UK. Crompton is based in West Yorkshire but as far as I know all their lamps are imported.

If your priority is to avoid Chinese LEDs there are some options. Most of the well known brands show the country of origin.

For me a Diall E27 13W produced in China for B&Q & Screwfix failed after 1 year, estimated 1100 hours use. Claim on the packet was 15000 hours and 5 year guarantee. I managed to keep the packet for reference but unfortunately lost track of the receipt.

If you paid by card, your statement could be used as evidence of purchase.

Robert R says:
29 November 2020

SanLumia branded LED GU10 dimmable bulbs – bought online – are failing at around the 1,000-2,000 hours mark. They don’t seem to last any longer than the “old” incandescent kind. Which brands actually last?

All the GU10 lamps I have are branded Philips and are more than four years old. The ones in the kitchen have had plenty of use but I have not had any failures. I suggest buying in a shop and keeping the receipt in case of problem and avoiding the highest brightness types because the heat produced can damage the electronic components.

I still maintain the best source of LEDs is from household names. You are using products that are well researched and developed and have access to the manufacturer if there is a problem. It matters not if the products are made in China if the manufacture is properly controlled.

I have no LED lamps in the house, only a strip under the upper kitchen cupboards to light the work top area. Some ceiling lights and spotlights use TH, but are used relatively rarely. Other main lights including table lamps use CFLs. When I have used up my box of spare bulbs I will review my policy.

I decided to explore the reliability of cheaper LED lamps, starting nearly four years ago. I have ones branded Tesco and Morrisons, Diall from B&Q, LAP from Screwfix, Status and EverReady from cheap shops. I recently had one of the LAP ones start flickering. I could not find the packaging and receipt (I have kept these together in case I had premature failures) and realised that it’s one of a pack that I was given by a friend who had bought ones with a B22 cap by mistake. I have not bought any LEDs online because it could be difficult to get replacements and because I have never heard of many of the brands.

It annoys me that large companies like Philips introduced descriptions like ‘eco halogen’ to describe bulbs that use 70% of the energy used by the old fashioned bulbs when CFLs and LEDs do much better. Supposedly reputable companies should set a better example.

If, for whatever reason, you choose to use halogen it is reasonable to describe a more efficient version in some way that represents that. CFL’s cannot do the same job as halogen. LEDs may not be dimmable, or you may have change the dimmer. I still use halogens in appropriate places. Education is the key so we are aware of what we buy, for those who are interested.

I will change to LED’s when my small stock of halogens is exhausted, to save a few quid on my electricity bill.

It’s a pity that we have to be wary of misleading claims by large companies. That’s something that I might expect from ads on social media.

How do we educate people of the need to minimise their energy use?

Advertising a product’s benefits has gone on from the dawn of time, to encourage us to look at their product rather than a competitors. Nothing wrong with that providing they are not misleading, when the ASA can step in. I’m just as concerned about misleading news and reports.

We can probably best educate people if they look at the size of their bills and are moved to take action – but not through misleading advertising of the benefits of smart meters.

My first low energy lighting (apart from fluorescent tubes) was in 1985 when I bought a Philips ‘jam jar’ lamp consisting of a thin fluorescent tube folded and crammed into a glass envelope with a choke and a glow starter. We have moved on a lot with energy saving lighting since then.

When my energy contract is nearing the end I will look at tariffs that make use of smart metering to vary charges according to demand on the grid. Using less than £1 per day including standing charge it will probably not be of much benefit for me.

I have about 20 g9 led’s around house and one seem to fail every couple of weeks.
Also put in some 10W bc leds and 2 failed within 4 months.
Seems like the old filament bulbs lasted a lot longer.

Philip Charlesworth says:
19 December 2020

Bought expensive LED bulbs for the kitchen with the hope that they would last a long time: the advert said up to 30,000 hours. After 3 years of very small usage, maybe a couple of hours a day, one has failed!
When I queried this with the supplier they said the guarantee was for one year! If I left the light on continuously for one year it would only burn for 8,000 hours; so how does this relate to the 30,000 hours expected life?
Something is very wrong here!

Hi Philip – Please contact the retailer (rather than the manufacturer) and point out that you have statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act for up to six years: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

The manufacturer has no legal obligation beyond their guarantee but sometimes manufacturers are helpful. I would like to see these ridiculous claims removed from packaging and advertising. It would be better if they provided a guarantee for several years.

With luck your other LED bulbs will continue working for years.

Having this very issue with Phillips at the moment who are refusing a warranty replacement on a bulb less than 2 years old

Hi Andy – That is disappointing considering that Philips claim a lifetime of 15,000 hours for the LED bulbs I have seen. That is getting on for two years of continuous use. I would rather see lighting manufacturers providing a decent guarantee rather than just telling us how long they might last.

You have statutory rights against the retailer (rather than the manufacturer) for up to six years: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product Hopefully the retailer will provide a free replacement or at least offer a partial refund These rights take precedence over any guarantee.

I’ve just had someone out to do a full survey of our electrics. He was saying the problems we were having were down to an old spotlight system with transformers that are prone to burning out and burning the lights out as well. I wonder how many other people have this problem as well.

On a side note – I am not looking forward to the estimate to bring the electrics up to date! 😀

Hi Abby – I am not convinced by what you have been told about your lights and it would be interesting to see if another electrician makes the same claims.

If you are updating the system I suggest you go for mains voltage LED lamps, which have no need for drivers and are more efficient. If you want dimmable lighting then you will obviously need dimmable LEDs and probably a new dimmer designed for LED lighting.

Hello Abby, personally I would ditch the downlights in rooms where you relax. Put up a nice pendant ceiling light and use table lamps for your normal lighting.

It is the kitchen and the ceiling is rather low so spotlights are the best I’m afraid!

The electrician was saying basically what @wavechange said – there was no reason to have the transformers with the new generation of bulbs that can run on mains voltage.

The kitchen lights are very much on the medium term list. More important is a new circuit board and replacing some of the outlets that have been installed very badly.

Mr Jakob Svensson says:
3 January 2021

JCB Bulbs – premium brand, but they are just cheap Chinese junk with a big name branding on the box. These 15w versions fail after just 6 months, but the box claims 10 year lifespan! Shocking that they can pump out this junk and get away with it. By the time they fail, the merchant has done a runner, or it’s too difficult to claim your money back.


JCB excavators are well respected but I do not understand why the brand name appears on LED bulbs, which are not mentioned on their website.

I suggest you buy LED bulbs from a local shop, Jakob. Keep the receipt and you can take them back for replacement or a refund if one fails prematurely.