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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?

Ranulph Hudston says:
12 September 2017

Sunbeam model 30411826 – 11W, 806Lm, 2700K – I didn’t get even a year of infrequent use out of a couple of them.

Philips model 9290002268 – 11W, 830Lm, 2700K – I put 8 of them in the overhead lamps above the kitchen cabinets two years ago. Two have already failed – the bases crack and then they go out.

I hope you the retailer will replace the failed lamps. It might be worth checking the bases of the surviving Philips lamps for signs of cracking, presumably due to overheating.

So far I have had no failures of the various makes and types of LED lamps, probably mostly Philips.

I am aware that LED claims are totally bogus and in particular the outdoor security light section of the market. I have been trying to find a suppliers who will guarantee them for at least half the lifespan claimed in there advertisements without success. I have had at least six 50W security lights in the last year and none have lasted more than a few months and would guess total usage on each has been approximately 20hours. Having checked on line I can see I am not alone in this. It is disgraceful that claims of several thousand hours life span is not true and legislation should be introduced to protect customers who are fooled in to believing these claims. It is not worth taking legal action given the low cost of these items and this is well known by the suppliers and manufacturers. However it would be beneficial for someone to take action on behalf of the growing amount of customers complaining of this.

I presume that you are referring to LED security lamps that are equivalent to 50W incandescent lamps. I agree that the claims are disgraceful and I’m surprised that the Advertising Standards Authority has not taken action to ask for these claims to be removed from advertising and packaging. You could try making a complaint: https://www.asa.org.uk/make-a-complaint.html

I have not yet had any problems, but if I do have several premature failures in future I will make a complaint.

I agree that products should be guaranteed for at least half the claimed lifetime and have made a similar suggestion myself in this or another Conversation about LED bulbs.

I bought 6 Osram LED ‘classic A 60 dimmable’ lamps for my dining room, although there is no dimmer, just a switch. Over the following two years or so, four of them have failed. This is in a normal domestic setting, unlikely to be running more then four hours a day. I have other (non-dimmable) LED lamps elsewhere in the house which are no problem. The nature of the failure is not that they go out, but that they occasionally start flashing on and off rapidly. Usually only one lamp at a time in the 5-lamp fitting will do this, the others remain lit as normal.

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Tim, may I suggest you contact Osram with the make and model of your dimmer, and details of the Osram lamps. I am sure they will assist.

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Tim has said that he is not using a dimmer but using dimmable lamps. This gives the option of using a dimmer in future, and it is important to use one designed for LED lighting.

I would start by contacting the retailer because the contract is with them, but it is worth informing manufacturers of problems.

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Thanks for the correction, wavechange. However, my advice still stands; contact Osram. They have a base in the UK and are more likely to be able to advise than the retailer.

Thanks also for your correction, duncan. As below, my advice to find out what is happening is to contact Osram.

I know the circuitry in the lamps differ between dimmable and non-dimmable lamps differs, otherwise they would all be dimmable! I bought an Osram LED made in Italy but others were made in China.

Tim seems to want to know why this happens (or maybe he doesn’t and it is just a comment). But if he does, the best people to ask are the manufacturer – technical services.

andrew says:
4 February 2018

And like many who think OSRAM would be good then no such luck,the domestic lamp division of the german company got spun off,to a consortium of an investor and a Chinese bulb maker,we just can no longer believe that a name screen printed on the side of the bulbs base,is indeed the real manufacturer,so once again we are at the mercy of letting all these chinese factories turf out our light requirements,and yes no LED bulb as yet has put the lifespan in as close to a CFL or incandescent so we are being fobbed off.

I have not had any problems with LED lamps, Andrew, and I have replaced CFL’s and incandescents almost throughout the house either as they failed [or became too dim or slow to start in the case of CFL’s] or in order to reduce running costs. Nearly all the LED’s I have used are Philips or Tesco’s own label – both equally good in my experience and still performing well into their third or fourth year in most cases; I see no reason why they should not last for many more years yet.

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Andrew – I’ve been interested in reliability of LED lamps for a few years, speaking to friends and looking for failed lamps when I’m out and about. I’ve now seen numerous failures but on average they do seem to last well. When I took the plunge I started off with Philips lamps and out of interest I have bought some cheaper brands from local shops. All are still working fine, though I have not used mine as long as John has. It’s interesting what you say about Osram because the only lamp that created radio interference was Osram – the first and most expensive one I bought, simply because it offered a four year guarantee.

My advice is to buy locally, keep receipts and take any failures back for replacement.

If LEDs are not lasting as long as old fashioned bulbs there is something badly wrong.

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Sorry, the URL does not work. I doubt that all manufacturers use similar circuitry in their lamps.

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I buy most of my LED bulbs at Poundland only small wattage as yet but have not had any fail The one that did fail was bought elsewhere At just a pound each it does not cost much to replace if one fails I have had them still working after being dropped and the outer glass broken

I have fitted two kinds (mainly Phillips and some cheaper Deltech, some 12v, some 240v), some for up to 5 years.

Of approximately 50 fitted between 3-5 years ago the only failures I have had have all been the same model –
an expensive Phillips dimmable 7w 12v bulb – the Phillips 7W 3000K 12V – marked 7GM6DBAAABA.

Of 18 of these, all fitted with identical best-quality recommended dimmers and transformers, I have had 6-10 failures. Of the 6 retained, 2 have flickering LEDs (2 of 4 leds within bulb), 1 is totally dead and 3 are unacceptably noisy (a buzz which is amplified in the ceiling and keeps my daughter awake in the room above). I threw away 2-4 more of the same bulb, either dead or buzzing like perpetually trapped bluebottles.

I am about to request a refund on the growing collection of duds I have retained, once I check for any others that are developing the dreaded buzz.

Notably, the 240v bulbs have all been fine, including the 10 Deltech ones (less powerful at 5w) I fitted in our laundry room in 2012.

i suspect Phillips had a design or manufacturing fault with the bulb identified, so I will steer clear of these. My other Phillips bulbs have been fine.

I previously posted about a Philips lamp with very poor ratings: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-MyVision-929000200801-Watt-Shape/dp/B005OYW6SG
None of the LED lamps that I have bought have failed so far – and many of them are sold under the Philips brand name.

Many manufacturers produce a mixture of good and bad products. It’s interesting to see that the same manufacturer’s products can feature both in the ‘Best Buy’ and ‘Don’t Buy’ categories, though that’s not because of reliability.

We have had reports of premature failure, flickering and radio interference, but buzzing is a new problem.

Katy says:
23 October 2017

My IKEA bulbs came Ina 2pack of 60 watt equivalents. One made it 6 months in a pot light in the bathroom (it replaced a 6 year old Sylvana 60watt equivalent fluorescent ) and the other one made it a week in an overhead bedroom light that had been on at max 20 hours, again replacing a 6+ year old fluorescent. Have other smaller LED from Philips that I have no problems with after 2 years of frequent use. Is this a common problem with IKEA bulbs. Is there something I should be looking out for in the base of the fixture to determine comparability?

ian beeton says:
20 December 2017

we bought 6 IKEA bulbs, 3 have only lasted 3 weeks, but were rarely in that room, so I’d say lasted less than 20 hours.

My bulbs from Poundland have lasted well one I bought elsewhere gave up the ghost quite quickly a lot more expensive too

I hate energy saving / LED bulbs! God knows how much money I have wasted on crap LED bulbs. I recon that for every £1 I have saved on electricity I have lost £10 on the bulbs. I have bought dozens and only ONE has performed anything like suggested in the advertising. Another went today, the blurb mentions 22 years, I got just over 2.
We need a change in the law, if they mention 22 years then 22 years is the guarantee period. No ifs or buts or get out clauses.

And no, I don’t use dimmers.

I hope that the retailers are replacing the failed bulbs, Mike. I’ve been lucky with LEDs so far, so it might help to try other brands and types.

I agree about the fabulous life expectancy given for many LEDs. If this features as a claim in advertising then it would be easy to lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. I don’t know if what is written on the packaging comes under their remit.

Patrick Forsyth says:
13 November 2017

I have been buying Lighting Ever (LE) LEDs. 3 of their 10w floodlights have now failed at about 2000 hours.

They carry a 2 year warranty according to their website. I wouldn’t expect too much for £12.99.

At least the Lighting Ever warranty period is clearly shown, which isn’t always the case for major brands. Try finding the equivalent for Philips LED bulbs, for example: https://www.philips.co.uk/c-m-li/choose-a-bulb/bulb/latest#filters=STANDARD_BULB_SU&sliders=&support=&price=&priceBoxes=&page=&layout=12.subcategory.p-grid-icon

If you look at the leaflet for these lamps it gives “Durability – lifetime 15000h “.

If you also look at the Philips General terms and conditions http://www.support.philips.com/pageitems/master/countries/GB/UK_Warranty_Terms.pdf

Warranty period
“The warranty period for all Philips products is 24 months, except for the following product
categories:…(light bulbs not listed)”.
So, as these are Philips products, and the warranty document does not exclude light bulbs, I’d suggest a 2 year warranty is implied. I wonder if anyone has tested this?
Alternatively, as “Durability” is a specific requirement in the Consumer Rights Act, and 15000h is the lifetime stated by Philips, you’d have a good case for a partial refund after 2 years if it failed early.

I have read the same information and concluded that the guarantee is for two years, though this is stated explicitly on the websites of some retailers of Philips LEDs.

If Lighting Ever can manage to state the guarantee period in the product specification, then surely Philips and some other large manufacturers could do the same.

I bought 2 e-luminate LED bulbs from Home Bargains on Sunday (12/11/2017). They are warm white 12w GLS with bayonet base. On the following Tuesday evening one died at exactly the same time that I turned off the kitchen light (T9 circular fluorescent). The second bulb has just died this evening (Friday) again, when I turned off the kitchen light.

I have never seen any kind of warning that LED bulbs can be killed in this way.

For info, all bulbs are on the same circuit, the LED bulbs had been on for at least 3 hours and the fluorescent light doesn’t exhibit any problems.

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My guess is that the fluorescent light has a choke (magnetic) ballast. These produce high voltage spikes when the light is turned off. It’s the same with other inductive loads such as fridge and freezer compressors, and washing machine motors, but at least these will be on a separate circuit.

As Duncan suggests you could fit a suppressor, and the other alternative would be to replace the fluorescent light with an LED equivalent.

Voltage spikes can wreck electronic components such as transistors and integrated circuits and sadly manufacturers often fail to design products with spike protection.

R Lobo says:
19 July 2019

I bought several e-luminate LED bulbs and they are failing after a few months. The replacements I was promised are yet to arrive.

Surprised many of the reviewed items don’t include lux figures.
Some LEDs are really crappy.
Nothing like having a LED item that looks great and barely illuminates.

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In simple terms, lux is a measure of illumination whereas lumen is a measure of light output. LED lamps show the approximate number of lumens they produce when new, though some manufacturers still give the wattage in more prominent figures, which is unhelpful.

I bought 6 Opus golf ball 5 watt SES bulbs 3 daylight and 3 warm for light fittings in the living room the daylight ones were bought in May 2014 within 3 years one had failed, the warm 3000K ones were bought in January 2015 the first is currently failing again within three years. Despite claiming 25 years/30,000hours on the packaging and advertisement.

Can anybody tell me why the LED’s I’ve bought when put into a current working halogen system flash once and then go out? I’ve tried this one at a time in every position. Fairly cheap Pro-lec bulbs from CPC.

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Philip Parker says:
14 December 2017

Thank Obama for forcing the manufacturers to stop making incandescent bulbs! These CFL and LED bulbs are expensive and are JUNK! I have had neither last any longer than and incandescent and they cost 10 times a much! If they can not solve the heat problem with the LED bulbs, they will never work for home lighting! I have purchased over a dozen LED bulbs and have yet to have one last more than 4 months! I am sick of this bulb fiasco! It is just like the Global warming lie, they are milking us for billions to line their pockets!

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Maybe I’m just lucky but I have been using low energy lamps since 1985 and have had great success. With CFLs I avoided using them in enclosed fixtures or others with little ventilation to minimise the overheating of electronics and I have avoided high power LEDs for the same reason. I suggest you take back the failed lamps, Philip, and try a different brand and keep every receipt.

Like Duncan I have seen fluorescent tubes last for decades. The manufacturers could have honestly claimed a long working life.

On a technical point, your decades-old lamps will be using the same electricity but giving you much less light than you started with. A bit like driving your car with the handbrake on, or cooking food in your oven with the door open – not that you’d do any such thing.

Lamps are there to give the right amount of light, so their life is about when its more economical to replace an inefficient one, rather than wait for it to drop dead. You will not realise its inefficient of course, because your eye reacts in a logarithmic way to brightness, but when you find yourself with 5x magnification specs and the large print book underneath the lampshade, its a sign that there are no longer enough glims. Either trim the wick or visit Mr Swan’s showroom.

This is very obvious when old fluorescent tubes an CFLs are alongside new ones, and is one reason why they are often replaced in batches in the workplace.

I have been wondering about lumen maintenance in LED bulbs, especially when fabulous lifetimes are mentioned. I assume that the phosphor will degrade as in fluorescent lamps including CFLs. For the moment I’m just thankful that my LEDs are still working.

The life of LEDs is officially quoted as the point at which the light output has dropped to a set value (I haven’t looked it up, but think it was 80% of initial light output). For fluorescent lamps, there is an initial loss of light output when first switched on, so the “initial” and quoted output was measured at 100 hours. Manufacturers are not the dishonest thieves some imagine.

For LEDs the figure I’ve seen quoted is 70%. In the Which? tests the light output can differ from what is quoted on the pack, either more or less. Sometimes I wonder if this difference would have been seen if a larger number of samples were tested.

Correct wavechange
” Why is the life of LEDs measured as lumen depreciation?

Unlike conventional light sources that reduce in output and eventually fail, LED products do not normally suddenly fail. Instead, the light output reduces over time.

The normal convention is to quote the life when the output has reduced by 30%. I.e. when there is 70% light output remaining. This is often quoted as the L70 life and is measured in hours.”

When, say, 3W warm white LEDs are manufactured they come in a range of colours ands outputs around the objective, and are “binned”, or selected, into matching batches. So there will be variations in output among nominally the same lamp. This should be small in good quality LEDs.

I’m familiar with the matching from when I used to buy transistors. They were grouped according to gain and sometimes colour coded in the 70s and I assume that as manufacturing techniques improved it was no longer necessary.

I understand why fluorescent lamps including CFLs produce emission bands thanks to the phosphor blend but the LEDs that I have looked at with a hand-spectroscope produce what looks like a continuous spectrum, irrespective of colour temperature. Any ideas?

Lumileds is quite a good source of information.
A white LED is a (deep) blue LED with a phosphor coating, working rather like a fluorescent lamp. A spectral power distribution like this results from decent white LEDs (not all whites are the same!).

Thanks Malcolm. You mentioned blue LEDs and a phosphor before.

What I see with my spectroscope is similar to this image:

Credit: /web.ncf.ca

The continuous spectrum of an incandescent lamp is well known. When I look at any CFL or other fluorescent lamps (including those with halo phosphate phosphors) with a spectroscope I see the emission bands, albeit more clearly than in the three examples shown. With every LED, irrespective of price, I see what looks like a continuous spectrum, more convincing than what is shown in the image, and with no sign of emission bands. Fascinating, if off-topic. 🙁

It seems broad band phosphors are used.


My under-cabinet kitchen lights show the characteristics of the simpler “cool white” LED where the blue chip excites a yellow phosphor and the “fringe light” shows the two components – bluish and yellowish faint broad bands.

I’m not a fan of warm white; my preference is for something nearer 3500K.

My experiments do suggest broad band phosphors, suggesting that it may be possible to achieve a better colour rendering index in future.

I have noticed that while warm white (2700K colour temperature, matching old fashioned bulbs) LEDs remain most commonly used, cool white (4000-5000K) seems to be growing in popularity. I am happy with warm white, though cool white works best in the cooker hood and I think 3500K would be ideal for the kitchen.

Fred Ruddick says:
6 January 2018

Bought two batches from the LED Hut around 20 bulbs (9w Bayonette fitting). So far three have gone within a few months. Claims of 15,000 hour lifespan seem to be exaggerated.

A Google search for LED Hut produces the following text: “Our energy efficient LED lights last for 15 years! Great range of LED bulbs, spotlights, lamps and lighting solutions, with 5 year warranty and next day delivery!” I don’t see this on the website itself but perhaps it would be worth contacting the Advertising Standards Authority and challenging the claim. You might have to find the claim on the website itself or in printed advertising.

LED Hut get different reviews – Facebook give 3.1/5, eKomi 4.7. The latter seem to be “requested” reviews so may well not look beyond the purchase point. Facebook includes reviews stating early failures; 48% gave 5*, and 42% gave 1* (we should have a zero rating, shouldn’t we?). I’d say this suggests very mixed experiences. Trustpilot seems to agree with Facebook – 6.6/10 (=3.3/5).

At LedHut, we make sure each LED bulb is the highest quality with rigorous quality checks. You have 30 days to return your products, no quibble, and a five year guarantee on all bulbs, so you can be sure that you’ll be delighted with your products.. I haven’t read the guarantee but suggest you return failed bulbs for a replacement or refund.

Reviews ?? all should not be taken as the true facts You find good and bad next to each other on the same review page Who send reviews anyway ? do people always tell the truth ? I say anything when I occasionally answer a survey maybe what they want to hear ? Which surveys usually get the near truth but not always as many question do not make sense to me Advertising is there to persuade you to buy and many times do not tell the exact truth or bend it to suit their purpose Use adverts for advice not as fact

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Malcolm – The reviews on the LED Hut website are good and we are told: “With a 97% positive rating from independent review site eKomi, we know how to keep our customers happy. We give our customers confidence through our 30-days return policy and 5 year warranties. We also have a multi-lingual call centre for our global customers, and offer next day delivery”

It does not impress me and LED Hut features in our Convo about radio interference problems.

@wavechange, I am not sure (and I presume neither are you) that a supplier’s website is necessarily the best place to find impartial reports. I believe eKomi (sounds like a bacterial infection 🙂 ) asks customers immediately after purchase for their views, so are unlikely to pick up problems with life (unless it is very very short).

@bishbut I don’t just look at the number of good and bad reviews but examine the 1 stars to see what people might have experienced that seems plausible, rather than just a moan. Facebook reviewers clearly had issues with short life.

Re Which? surveys. I believe (but stand to be corrected) that they have used “professional” survey companies that pay those who reply to their surveys. I don’t believe this is a good practice, particularly when Which? have getting on for 40 000 Connect members whom they can approach with surveys. I have asked if Which? would publish the background information given to those surveyed and the questions asked, but was told this information was “confidential”. It doesn’t fill me with confidence, nor do the results therefore. But Which? may tell me I’m wrong, or this practise is out of date now.

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Danny Burleson says:
12 January 2018

We just built a new church and we installed LED Retrofit lighting throughout the entire church. We love the lights but they started burning out in less than 3 months. We normally burn our lights approx. 9-10 hrs. a week. After 1 year we have replace approx. 40-50 and they are still burning out. We installed the Nicor brand. Very disappointed.

Danny, this is the (US) Nicor warranty. You’ll need to check your own supplier’s warranty but I’d suggest, providing they have been correctly installed, you reject the whole installation and get replacements or a refund. It worries me that Nicors “limited warranty” states “NICOR will, at its sole discretion, repair, replace, or refund …” https://www.nicorlighting.com/support/warranty/

You might be better off trying to exercise your legal rights under the Consumer rights Act if you don’t want to proceed with Nicor products in the light of the high early failure rate. Your claim will be against whoever supplied the LEDs – your electrical contractor perhaps?

I believe that the Consumer Rights Act only applies to purchases made by an individual rather than an organisation.


I don’t think this is true at all, Ken. In domestic LEDs that replace bulbs, the LEDs have electronics in the cap and these control the power supplied to the LED chips. In non-domestic applications, the electronics can be separate, which helps protect it from overheating.

There are no separate starters required for LEDs Ken. In fluorescent lamps an initial high voltage is needed to start the arc in the gas filling, and that used to be provided by automatic “switches” with a wire-wound ballast but these days most are electronic ballasts with integrated stating.