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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?


Reputable (“professional” quality, as chosen for public and commercial lighting) LEDs should last up to 50 000 hours – although they will be replaced well before that as improvements in, e.g. colour, efficiency and light output develop. Domestic LEDs will be of very variable quality from less reputable sources driven largely by cost – some with inherently short lives, due to failure of poor electrical connections for example, being too densly packed and overheating, or run at too high a current to extract more light – again overheating. Probably more of an issue will be the electronics used to control the current – often integral with the LED board and still more susceptible to being run too hot, and to the use of cheap low quality components.
Testing LEDs with a 50 000 hour life is an extrapolative process – even run continuously takes nearly 6 years to reach 50 kh.
I guess a typical user will run domestic lights for around 2000 hours a year – so a really decent LED could last 25 years . A modest 15000 hours will take 8 years. I wonder how many users have yet had sufficient use of LEDs to judge how good lives really are.
It will be interesting to see Which?’s results. As reported in another conversation, there are national bodies interested in the performance of LEDs, particularly whether they comply with EU standards. I hope the information will be shared and other results reported on.
Given the inherently long life of an LED, I am at a loss to understand why the EU minimum will be a meagre 6000 hours for 10% failure. That’s little better than CFLs should achieve.
I wonder how you will make any claim against a retailer for short life LEDs – how can you demonstrate actual lifetime achieved?


It will be practically impossible to seek redress for a prematurely failed LED lamp. I succeeded in getting a replacement from John Lewis for a CFL in their early days because I had a recent proof of purchase for a significant number of lamps but I can’t see any store today accepting responsibility for a lamp that has failed well short of its declared life expectancy. The chances that a customer will have the box it came in and proof of purchase, say, 13 years hence is pretty remote and the industry knows this. Only major consumer testing organisations are going to be able to demonstrate that certain products are not what they’re cracked up to be, but – apart from negative publicity – it’s still unlikely that any enforcement action will be taken. With the high price of LED lamps, it’s getting to the point where consumers should be able to register the purchase as you would for a small appliance, and that product recall and replacement should be carried out by the manufacturer not the retailer. It’s almost certain that any LED that hasn’t suffered damage in transit is going to survive the warranty period and possibly escape from Sale of Goods Act case law. I cannot justify the cost of installing LED lamps – I’ve already wasted enough time and money on CFL’s that have utterly failed to live up to their promises and proved unsuitable for their applications and I have no confidence that things will be any better with LED’s. This latest research confirms it.

Tony says:
24 January 2014

I totally agree. I had/have a CFL from Phillips supposed to last 10 years. Its light output has diminished so much that it is not fit for purpose. Philips dont want to know! The cost of these new lamps means that they are actually uneconomic


About 2 years ago I had a detailed conversation with a Osram “technical” advisor in a local large DIY store in Germany. They were pushing the LEDs onto the market.

On the question of the LED lamp life, he assured me that the 5 year guarantee was genuine, the LEDs would last that long.

Asking how I could prove that a LED lamp failed too early, he stated in the “electronics” used to control the change from 240V to less than the 2V a single LED needs, there was a “usage monitor” which recorded the time the LED lamp was switched on. Upon the LED lamps return to Osram under guarantee, they could check the validity of premature failure claim and would replace the lamp if it was true.

Somewhat doubting the statement as such electronics seemed unlikely on cost grounds, I did not purchase.

Now with more sensible prices, I have just recently purchased a number of LED lamps, various makers.
The light output is generally good and the light equivalence ratings are believable.

The heat generated by the electronics is far too high. The temperature of the LED lamps (after say 20 mins.) are basically to hot to handle comfortably. The required change in voltage causes energy losses resulting in a temperature change. Nowhere have I seen the explanation of how much energy is actually used to produce light and how much for temperature change in a LED lamp.
(Perhaps Which should be publishing such data for various makers!!)
I suspect that as many have indicated here, the temperature is critical to lifespan of the lamp electronics, as a LED itself is very reliable when used within its design parameters.

For me, only time will tell if the LED cost savings are real. Until now I have no failures.
If Osram receives a guarantee claim and responds with a replacement lamp remains to be proven.


Earlier today I suggested that LED lamp manufacturers could build in a device to record how long their lamps had been in use. I do not see this as unreasonable on cost or practical grounds. The consumer is entitled by law to buy goods that are durable and the manufacturer should not be expected to replace/repair goods that have been used excessively, for example LED lamps that have been used continuously for ten years or washing machines that have been used several times a day for years. We have the technology. Let’s use it so that the consumer and the manufacturer are both treated fairly.

Andy Cooke says:
21 January 2014

Don’t talk to me about TCP I say! Their halogen bulbs blow out faster than fire crackers at Mardi Gras! Rubbish!!

John says:
21 January 2014

In the last 5 years I have had very poor performance from my LED bulbs. The first ones I bought were from B&Q and they lasted less than a year. I had difficulties getting a replacement as I didn’t have proof of purchase.

From then on I bought a different make which also gave a 5 year guarantee. I have two of these and over the last two years I have had them replaced twice. This performance level is really poor. Even with a 5-year guarantee replacing them every year with postage costs is a nuiscance.

I am glad to see the EU stepping in to enforce a minimum performance criteria. But 6000hrs seems quite low if they can advertise up to 50000hrs. They must do more.


We have recently moved house and have LED bulbs in some rooms. We are not impressed. Some of them flicker and need to be switched on and off several times to stop the flickering. Because they are recessed flush with the ceiling they produce a shaft of relatively low light vertically downwards. This is daft as the rooms are unevenly lit. Lights need to be below the ceiling so that light is reflected off the ceiling and the walls to give better distribution of light. The LEDs also interfere with FM and DAB radio . We are planning to replace some of the LEDS with CFLs!