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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
john Melvin says:
10 February 2020

HI
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.

Deon says:
1 February 2021

Mark, If you have an idea which card you used for the purchase your chances are that B&Q will replace them, I have gone back and they consistently replaced mine. I have another batch that has failed that I will return for new ones. Every time your guarantee restarts when you get a new batch.

Thanks for posting, Deon. It might encourage more people to take back faulty goods. Normally a guarantee is not extended if a product is replaced so it looks as if B&Q are being generous.

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.

AVOID!!!

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.

I found a ratchet screwdriver with JCB on it in one of my toolboxes recently. I thought the company had come down a bit in the world from mechanical shovels and telescopic handlers. It must be that they have licensed their good brand to other small scale products. I don’t know how I acquired the ratchet screwdriver but it’s not as good as my Stanley equivalents. Odd things with no provenance do tend to turn up in my toolboxes. I don’t think I would buy JCB lamps on the reputation of a brand of dumptruck.

The JCB branding also appears on power tools, batteries, workwear, leisure clothing and even kids’ toys. It’s never too early to start brand indoctrination and maybe one day some children could be proud owners of their own 3CX.

ive got socks with JCB on…..

I wonder what Joseph Cyril Bamford would have thought of it all.

It would probably have blown his . . . . . .

I purchased a number of Diall E14 type 8W LED lights from B&Q, I retained the packaging which stated a 5 year guarantee. I have lost the original receipt, I suspect that its possible that it’s over a year since I bought them, so I suspect that B&Q would state that their guarantee is for one year. So refer me to the manufacturers guarantee. I also suspect that the manufacturers guarantee refers to 5 years continuous unswitched operation. Clearly an unrealistic test that does not reflect normal use, but would allow the manufacturer’s packaging carry a spurious and misleading claim. Even a conventional filament light could last 5 years of continuous operation, as it would not suffer the thermal shocks of repeated turn on events and would be at a relatively stable high temperature. I note there are no stands declared on the packaging or Lightbulb so any test must be the manufacturer’s proprietary Test.

I recently bought G9 LED replacements from Sainsburys HOME range, which have consistently failed. after a few days. They have been run well separated in a 5 pendant fitting with no cover, so heat build up is not the problem. I believe the failure mode is due to a very short duration voltage spike produced by operating other lights on the same circuit (normal physics, not a circuit fault). Is this a recognised phenomena and what is the best solution please?

I hope that Sainsburys will replace the failed lamps, Janine.

If you are prepared to sacrifice a lamp you could test your theory. There is no room in a G9 lamp for a spike suppression component. It would be risky to have LED lamps on the same circuit as a fluorescent tube with a magnetic ballast, which remain quite common despite the availability of electronic drivers. These fluorescent lamps produce large spikes when switched off.

my local shop is selling off in a clearance sale a load of boxes with 3 LED bayonet cap and edison screw cap 60 watt and 70 watt warm white for £1 a box. Was thinking of buying the lot and reselling but twitchy about lifespan..ok for own use at 33p a bulb even if it only lasts a year

I found an LED bulb reduced from £7 or more to £1, in B&Q. I presume that it was a discontinued line and it has given me good service for a year.

If I saw a load of boxes of a product offered well below the normal price I would wonder why they were so cheap. Unless they were branded and look genuine I would be concerned about whether they met current safety standards.

If you wanted to sell them and cover all your expenses in buying, storage, marketing, packaging, postage, potential wastage, disposing of unsold stock, and making a decent profit you would probably need to charge up to £3 a box which would still be good value if the lamps were any good. I reckon you should go for it and see what happens. That’s how Derek Trotter of Peckham made such an impression as an entrepreneur.

I once had the opportunity for some real bargains when a branch of Arco was relocating and tools were being sold off at a fraction of the normal price, for example large Dormer twist drills for £1 each. I suppose I could have bought the lot and sold them on eBay.

Yes, eventually.

A local tools and hardware shop [that probably has more lines than B&Q but, over three storeys, occupies a fraction of the space and is in the city centre] often sells off surplus stocks at bargain prices so I always go in when passing to see what’s on offer. I have bought paint, electrical accessories, tools, garden products, and cleaning materials at rock bottom prices. It really does sell everything from dolls’ eyes to flypapers, with coal scuttles and fork handles on the side. Mine of information also.

If you are concerned about the reliability of LED bulbs you could call in and try to buy four candles, just in case they are needed. Reject the fork handles…. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-35936407

d rothery says:
3 February 2021

bought four hyundai bulbs all four lasted less than a week,not fit for purpose

john stanyer says:
10 February 2021

the latest rip of of the consumer is selling led light fiting with built in bulbs where you cannot change the bulb but instead have to change the whole light fitting. when these go you need a compitent person ie an elecrician to change the fitting. having done the maths on the 9 i have installed of which 5 have gone in less than two years. they are twice the price or more of an old lightbulb if not more. and if you add in the trouble involved thay are way more costly

John – I don’t regard the integrated LED ceiling light fittings as a rip-off. I don’t perceive anything underhand about the way they are sold, In my experience these are clearly labelled as as not enabling replacement of the lamps and there is no compulsion to have them. I have had them installed in bathrooms and shower rooms where their moisture ingress protection is an important feature. They have provided excellent illumination and reliability. In such locations they will not be on for long periods and should last a long time. If yours are failing prematurely you could try returning them to the retailer for a replacement; I appreciate that could incur an installation cost but I think the average practical householder could manage to fit one correctly so long as sensible safety precautions are taken to isolate the circuit, ensure a safe form of access to the ceiling and have the right tools before doing any work.

In other Conversations we have been pushing against modern manufacturing practices that can result in products being scrapped prematurely and John has provided another example. I don’t see why domestic fixtures cannot have lamps and driver(s) that can be replaced if necessary. IP rating need not be a problem.

I had a driver fail in my bathroom lighting and I replaced it easily.

The LEDs may well be in a board as a wired-in part of the fitting and not a simple removeable item. Buying a quality light fitting should not require LED replacement.

If there are better designs where the lamps can be replaced without scrapping the fixture that will help avoid waste.

Our fittings are described as having a 10-15 years life. With limited periods of use they should last longer than that. I think they are manufactured as Malcolm has suggested and are more durable than an ordinary LED lamp where the electronics are crammed into a tiny space. If I am still around when they fail I shan’t mind paying an electrician to install replacements. They provide the best lighting conditions for a bathroom I have ever experienced.

I hope they do last as long as you want them to, John, but what happens if one fails? You would have the cost and inconvenience of replacing a fixture, and if the same model is no longer available you could end up replacing the others to match. A responsible designer would have designed the product so that the lamps and driver could be individually replaced.

Separating lamps and drivers should help to prolong life because overheating of the components should be reduced but but for various reasons high quality lighting can still fail and I have seen examples of this.

Wavechange – I am used to replacing fittings. We had six integrated LED ceiling lights at our previous house which we left behind when we moved and four more of the same type have been installed in our present home. There are no matching problems because there is only one unit in each room with such a light. Our fittings are not the £20 items you can pick up in the DIY sheds and I am confident that they will stand the test of time. Our electrician can change a ceiling light fitting in about 15-20 minutes so the inconvenience is not significant. The cost is just part of the overall house maintenance and improvement expenditure and not a show stopper.

I have not seen your light fittings, John, or that of original poster John Stanyer, who has had LEDs fail in his fixture, but why not design products with lamps that can be replaced by the owner? That would reduce cost and inconvenience for the owner and reduce the amount of electronic waste that would be generated if a fixture does have to be replaced.

Decent LEDs should last and not be regarded as a replaceable item. There are plenty of light fixtures that will take independent LED bulbs if people want that option. We don’t replace valves in tvs any more or timers on washing machines.

I hope we can replace failed drivers easily. We can always carry on using fixtures with faulty LEDs which will provide a reminder that even decent quality products can fail.

I feel sorry for John Stanyer who reported his problem.

I am generally utilitarian by nature and agree that repairability is good. However, I feel that consumers should have a choice of whether they want the fully integrated type of fitting or to have items with individual and replaceable components. Both versions are readily available although the integrated fittings tend to be more expensive than the bare fittings plus the cost of lamps. I have no intention of getting up to the ceiling on a step ladder from time to time to fit replacement lamps or drivers – we selected these units in order to obviate that. Domestic lighting technology and energy efficiency will advance over the life of these products and it might even make more sense to replace the light fittings in due course before they fail in service.

I don’t see why fixtures incorporating replaceable drivers and lamps should be any less reliable, John. What it achieves is the possibility of repair if a failure does occur.

I am not suggesting that we should continue to use fixtures with familiar BC, ES, etc. lamps. These were only needed because of the short lifetime of incandescent lamps.

I agree about taking the advantages of major improvements in technology but not in having to replace products that have broken and their design make it impractical to carry out repairs.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I must now have about 70 LED lights installed, some with separate 12V transformers (MR16 downlights), some mains bulb replacements (R63 spots), some driver + separate lamp (non-replacable) and some totally integrated units.

The most recent of these were 22 x LEDLite integrated units from TLC Electric Supplies for the kitchen. I bought three spares, but those are still sitting on the shelf after 3 years of daily (nightly?) use. I would have thought if these were going to be unreliable, then at least one would have failed by now. OK, so one was faulty (flickering) from new, but TLC replaced that without quibble.

In fact, none of these LEDs have failed, giving an average MTBF of over 5 years and counting.

What they all have in common is they are COB (chip on board) LEDs. They are all reputable makes, like Sylvania, Philips, Enlight and some own-brands from established trade outlets – LEDLite (TLC) and LAP from Screwfix.

A few of the earliest LED bulbs I had did need replacement. They also ran hot, were dim or had awful colour balance. I was actually glad to get shot of them, as the technology has advanced and the light output per unit increased through better efficiency and/or higher wattage units.

In terms of the repairability of separate drivers / bulbs versus integrated, the electrician’s time costs more than the light fittings, so what is quick and easy for them to install initially is now becoming most economical in the long run as reliability improves. Nearly all the modern units can be swapped out from below with simple press to release wire terminals.

With some LED fixtures costing hundreds of pounds I think it is reasonable to expect to be be able to replace drivers in particular. I am less concerned about inexpensive integrated downlighters, though if you have not asked the bathroom fitter to provide spares you could have to put up with a non-matching replacement or to have to change the lot.

I agree about the improvements in LEDs over the years, Em. I avoided the early offerings and did not start buying them until I moved house five years ago.

@wavechange – Fair point. I think the maximum I have every paid is around £20 each for some external Philips garden lights and £30 for an Osram twin LED light with sensor. Since they were cheaper than the old CFL lights they replaced that needed new balasts (and I’ve still got “spare” bulbs for these), I wasn’t too bothered 🙂