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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?

Steven Corry says:
13 December 2014

A Philips 42w EcoClassic exploded around 2 seconds after being switched on and my wife was lucky not to be in the direct line of fire. We have had it for 3 months on 4/5 hours per night without a problem. My issue is why did it explode? It shattered with a loud crack into around 25 larger pieces with hundreds of fragments.Very dangerous to eyes and a nightmare to clean up and get out of socket. I have a replacement but not going to risk using it. Is it likely to do the same? If so they should be off the market.


Steven – The EcoClassic is not an LED lamp. It is a halogen lamp in which the capsule is surrounded by a glass bulb. Unfortunately, halogen lamps can explode very occasionally. You would be very unlucky if it happened again.

Halogen lamps waste a lot of energy and it would be better to switch to LED or CFL lamps. CFL have been around for decades and usually work well as long as the lamps are ventilated to avoid overheating. LED lamps are relatively new and some people are suffering premature failure and radio interference. Once the teething problems have been solved I have no doubt that they will become the preferred type of lighting.

Steven Corry says:
13 December 2014

Thank you. Much appreciated. I’ll look more carefully at my purchases and switch to the less wasteful lamps as you suggest.


I have to say that I think the fact that these lamps have the letters “eco” in their name is quite disgraceful. They are slightly eco in comparison to traditional incandescent lamps (eg 42w in place of 60w), but when there are lamps available that are much more economical (eg 14W CFL or 10w LED for similar or better lumens than a 60W), to describe them as eco is highly disingenuous to say the least!

It is not surprising that people are misled into thinking they are doing the right thing by buying these lamps (either from an environmental or cost perspective), but the reality is they are not making enough difference to be worthwhile.

Unfortunately to the vast majority of people all of the figures such as lumens output are meaningless besides what they are used to – buying lamps on the basis of their power consumption, which to most people is still a direct measure of their light output.

The only way to change this is to radically change the labelling of the lamps – personally I think there should be a prescribed and prominent label on all lamp packaging which clearly shows the lumen output largest, then in much smaller type the power consumption and the colour temperature. This label could be colour coded from red through to green to reflect the energy efficiency. If it is displayed in a standardised way this would aid customer education very greatly.


Nick – I totally agree with you. If you complained to ASA about the ‘eco’ labelling of lamps I doubt that your complaint would be upheld because misrepresentation seems to be acceptable in advertising.

We have the EU to thank for helping us phase out incandescent lighting and halogen lamps will be the next to go. The least efficient ones will go first.

I would like to see the lumen rating of lamps given priority on all packaging.


We can become too obsessed with just one aspect of a topic – energy saving in this case – and forget what lighting is for. It is both to illuminate a task and to provide a pleasant ambience.. I use tungsten halogen in a couple of areas because I want brighter light at some times, but dimmer light at others, accompanied by a warmer colour. You can do this with tungsten (halogen). Not with CFL nor easily with LED.

Sheogorath says:
12 April 2015

Not necessarily. I complained to the ASA about an advert for ‘Beluga’ caviar on the basis that it contains absolutely no roe from the Huso huso sturgeon, and they agreed with me and banned the advert. Check their December 24, 2014 report for the full details.


Sheogorath – Well done in having your complaint upheld. Your case was quite clear. In contrast the ‘eco’ bulbs do save a small amount of energy, but not nearly as much as CFL and LED bulbs. If I’m going to make a complaint it will be one where I am likely to have the satisfaction of winning.

Marcus says:
15 April 2015

Also the expected lifetime (in hours) of the LEDs should be given on all products as sometimes they cannot be replaced – bathroom lights (both ceiling and mirror/cabinet) being examples, I just bought one without realising that it doesn’t state what the lifetime of the LEDs should be.


On this and other Conversations there are examples of LED lamps failing after little use.

The lamps may be claimed to last 20,000 or 50,000 hours but that may not be very helpful if the warranty is only for a year or two. A ten year warranty would be useful.

Bernardo Dania says:
13 December 2014

Having just bought a few lamps from a famous Chinese website, it was a big surprise for me to find out 2 of those lamps stopped working after just a few hours on.
It only took me removing the lamps to start feeling a strong smell of melted plastic. Seems like having 2 bulbs together is not a good idea with those lamps. Both are now burned. I’ll try to install a single one in the same place in order to understand whether this is the case.


I bought LED lamps from famous Asian online shop.. Lamps are 5730 SMD led (36 pcs of leds in 1 lamp) However this lamps burn out quickly.. Much before they reach 1000 hours worktime.. Lamps also get heated a lot.. So I decided to saw of the plastic that covers the leds.. Now the heat has room to disapate.. Since then , no lamps has burned out ( Yet) 🙂 Hope that helps anyone, since I was very frustrated watching these lamps burn out so quickly…

lisa martin says:
15 December 2014

hi there , I purchased 4 x3pks of diall Led bulbs to replace halogen spolights and 4 out of the 12 stopped working properly within 10 months. these were purchased from b and q. anyone know if there is a refund policy.


Contact B&Q. All the LED bulbs they sell will be guaranteed for a year or more, so there should be no problem with getting replacements.


Earlier this year, the BBC ran a short series entitled The Men Who Made us Spend. It is not on iPlayer at present but the first programme is available online here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x20j885_the-men-who-made-us-spend-episode-1_creation

It’s worth watching the bit about how large manufacturers controlled the market for light bulbs from the mid-1920s until the start of the Second World War, manipulating prices and warning of fines for lamps that lasted over 1000 hours. The Phoebus cartel, as the arrangement is known, is perhaps the best known example of planned obsolescence operated by manufacturing industry.

Limiting the life of incandescent bulbs to 1000 hours is perhaps defensible because running them at lower brightness to increase life substantially decreases light output. It would take a lot to convince me that companies working together to control pricing is a benefit to consumers and periodically we hear when price fixing arrangements are exposed.

It is becoming clear to me that buying the best known brands of LED lamps does not guarantee that they will perform well. My hypothesis is that lamp manufacturers are pushing too much power into their lamps, so that the components get too hot and the LED chips are operating at their limits, both of which will compromise reliability.

Some manufacturers are making extravagant claims for the life expectancy of their LED lamps. In view of the number of failures and the difficulty of making reliable prediction of life expectancy, perhaps it is time for lamps to be marketed on the basis of warranty rather than some dodgy estimate of operating life.

Next time someone says that it’s best to buy products made by respected manufacturers it might be worth reminding them of the Phoebus cartel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel


Surely the profit motive is always a force for good and results in companies always acting in the best interests of the general public. Look at how well-run all our privatised utilities are now, and how much investment the electricity companies have put into continuously keeping their energy generating infrastructure up to date ever since they were privatised!

William France says:
16 December 2014

When, I noticed LED halogen spotlights for the first time, last year, it was because I was looking for a replacement for the standard halogen 50 watt bulb. (These always seemed somewhat over priced.)
The supermarket had an own brand LED, very little more expensive than the Halogens.
I replaced my bedside bulb and was surprised by the quality and quality of the light. The next day, I bought another (Osram this time; more expensive, but I preferred the appearance of the metal as opposed to the plastic support of the original, for my wife’s side.

About a week later, a spot in the study failed. It is a four bulb array. I decided to buy four LEDs from Amazon. There was a marked price advantage compared to the supermarket.

When they arrived, I replaced all four, deciding to use the old bulbs for the replacements for other 50w spots in the house when they blew.

The Amazon lights lasted from one week to a month. As the Osram was still working well in the bedroom, moved it to the study and added another three to the fitting. I replaced the bedroom light with another of the own brand lights. (This evened up a colour discrepancy that hat been annoying me).

I have not had to replace another bulb since. and my electricity consumption has dropped by 18%.

Having filled in the background, I come to my point. Not one Halogen bulb has failed in the last year. Looking at the point on cartels, makes me wonder how much extra I had been spending on Halogen spot replacements. With a viable very long life competitor, it appears that the bulb manufacturers have decided to extend the life of the halogens. Why did they not do this before?


The life of halogen lamps is normally around double that of conventional filament lamps because the halogen cycle deposits evaporated tungsten back onto the filament. However, quality of design and manufacture will influence life. Low voltage halogens can be even more efficient and have longer lives due to internal coating on the quartz envelope – http://www.osram.co.uk/osram_uk/news-and-knowledge/halogen-lamps/professional-knowledge/halogen-eco-technology/index.jsp

Austin says:
9 January 2015

William, either you have been very unlucky with halogens, or I have been very lucky. I think I have had 2-3 GU10 or MR16 halogen lamps fail and need to be replaced in 15 years.

By contrast, I’ve had a fair few failed LED lamps in the 3½ years since I started experimenting with them, all website own brands. I am now using largely Megaman LED lamps – no failures among those yet, but I’ll let you know! 🙂


I have heard some positive comments about Megaman LED lamps too, Austin. That’s encouraging because some of their CFL lamps, particularly the reflector style, were very unreliable.

V Gillingham says:
17 December 2014

Hi have brought four ses led bulbs of eBay lights work in a table lamp but put one in my metal celing light and it blows and wipes out the dimmer switch and blow the trip switch have been in contact with seller has refunded me for blowen one but carnt get stright answer if others will be ok.tryed one more and it blow again in celing light sounds like they are shorting out eny one else have this prob

Will says:
28 April 2015

LED lights should never ‘blow’. They either dim with age, or they stop working instantly due to shoddy circuitry or an incompetent heatsink. To have two ‘blow’ like that? I don’t know what brand you’re using, but you should really consider buying from a more trusted brand.

sparky marky says:
1 May 2015

The majority of LEDS are not compatible with dimmers. some that are require a certain dimmer type not the traditional wire wound variable transformer ones


Domestic dimmers operate by phase control. In the days when dimmers were used on incandescent lighting, these were ‘leading edge’ dimmers, which are not compatible with LED lighting. For LED lighting a ‘trailing edge’ dimmer is required, or just specify one designed for LED lighting.

I am not aware of variable transformer dimmers used in domestic installations, though they were used in lecture theatres and stage lighting until electronic dimmers came onto the market.


Anyone considering Which?’s opinions, ratings, reviews, etc, of bulbs or anything else might consider the opinions of a rival impartial reviewing site:


I am of the opinion that Which? has lost its way, its reviewing ability and its point. I am leaving Which? and cancelling my subscription.


Mike, I’d hardly regard the amazon forum as an impartial reviewing site, any more than these conversations could be regarded as impartial.

I do criticise some of Which’s activities and approach but at least it has a structured and logical approach to product testing – alongside its European colleagues – something I could not find elsewhere. But it could be more rigorous, stop spreading its resources too widely, abandon headline-grabbing pronouncements ( “rip-off” (several), “potentially deadly” (chicken),).

This is all my impartial judgement! But my subscription continues – keep up the good work and improve on the not-so-good. And keep politics out of it.


Hi Mike, I’m sorry you feel that way. Product testing is a priority to Which? and we aim to produce reviews so that consumers have a way to make informed choices. All our reviews are unbiased and impartial so you can be sure that the product or service which comes top in our testing is definitely the one that preformed the best.

In the thread you posted, some people have mentioned they read user reviews to help them choose. We agree and think It’s important to get a balance, so we’re are working on updating our site so it also includes Reevo comments in our product reviews. This isn’t here for light bulbs just yet, but you can see an example in this TV review: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/televisions/samsung–ue48hu7500/review

I hope you’ll keep your subscription. But if you decide not to, it would be good to still see you as part of the Which? Conversation community.


I have been looking at some of the dangerous small electrical goods advertised on the Amazon. Sadly, some of the items have had good reviews, demonstrating that customers’ opinions are not always useful. Sometimes customers can make some very useful points and some of these customers will have expertise.

I want to know if something is a ‘rip-off’ or ‘potentially deadly’, so hope that Which? will continue to alert us to these problems. If they stop I will accuse them of dereliction of their duty. 🙂

The TV review mentioned by Alex refers to the possibility of updating the hardware and software so that the smart TV functions will continue to work in years to come. This is a really important issue, which we are currently debating in another Conversation. Hopefully Which? will keep us informed of developments because a lot of TVs and other technology items lose functionality long before they stop working.

Ken Arton says:
31 December 2014

About three weeks ago I bought an Osram LED Star Classic A60 from B&Q. This is a reputable manufacturer, and recommended by Which. But the bulb has now failed, after only about 200 hours use. Perhaps I was just unlucky, and I expect B&Q will replace it, but it does not inspire much confidence in the expected long life of LED bulbs.

Dogdays says:
2 January 2015

I have just received one of the new style filament led laps fro China. Alas they are ES27, so I am waiting for the adapter to arrive. They are rated as being a 50 Watt replacement with 2700 K colour temperature and 360 angle. My first impression is that its a tungsten lamp look alike and very compact. I will post more details when its running. With postage its cost £4.80 and was with me in 10 days by air.

namesake says:
4 January 2015

If you are buying LED bulbs make sure you keep the receipts. I bought a load of them from B&Q to replace Halogen ones when they failed. I am sure the LED ones were claiming something like 10 or more year life span. The first has just failed today. It barely made 10 months of occasional domestic use. I stupidly believed the hype and did not keep the receipts thinking I would never be able find – or probably read them – in nearly 10 years. If my experience is anything to go by you won’t need to keep them 10 years. Really ironic thing is some of the halogens are still working even though they get exactly the same usage and were put in approx 5 years before the LED ones.

Miao says:
12 January 2015

I am a bit surprised by the numerous bad experiences reported by many people. While I cannot comment on the stability of 12V bulbs, I have bought about sixty 5 to 7W GU10 warm white LED bulbs from various brands over the last 2.5 years and am very happy so far. Here are my own results after an average 1 year residential use (about 1000 hours) in recent standard (back enclosed) recessed downlights:

-Durability: no problem so far with 30 Philips, Osram, Sylvania and Megaman (the most expensive ones purchased on average at £7-10). 2 out of six £5 Lighting Ever bulbs failed within 1 year. Half of the fifteen £2 (!) Chinese bulbs sourced on AliExpress have failed within a few months. The rest are various unknown brands bought in the UK that are doing fine without being impressive. Note that I haven’t used LEDs in any bathroom.

-Lumens: I have nothing to measure it beside my eyes but it seems that they all deliver what they state (generally 320 to 350 lm). My family doesn’t see a difference with the former halogens.

-dimming: the cheap ones don’t dim even so they pretend to be dimmable; at least they don’t blow of on dimmer. Some of the intermediary ones (Easy Lighting) tended to flicker so I moved them. No problem with the big brands. Of course keeping the old dimmers means that you need 4 bulbs on a dimmer (or keep one halogen) and you can’t lower the light intensity very low. Much better with a proper LED dimmer. But I really miss the orange glow at low dim. I will have to wait a few years for the feature to be artificially added at reasonable cost.

-Heat: cool enough to be changed when I was swapping models around to experiment, although hotter than I would have expected, especially the cheap ones. I understand the concern with poor heat dissipation and hope this won’t reduce their lifespan. I will need to report again in a few years…

-CRI: again, not measured scientifically but, comparing to halogens, I would roughly give 95% to Philips (very warm white), 90% to Osram/Sylvania and Megaman (warm white), and I dislike the colour rendering of the cheap ones, although they tend to be less warm which makes comparisons difficult (I am not commenting on the Kelvins per se but on the rendering of the skin under the light). In any case that makes the Philips a very attractive winner.

-Radio interferences: never noticed anything but I am not even sure how I would

-Savings: you have all done the calculations. Currently 1 to 3 years to recover the price differential with a cheaper halogen in most residential uses. But this time reduces fast as bulb prices fall and electricity price goes up. Only issue will be what to do with the still working older LEDs in a few years when we will get even cheaper intelligent LEDs/OLEDs with fantastic specs and wireless capabilities :-(. On the other hand… if the concerns of many on durability are right, this won’t be such a problem in a few years!
Kudos to Malcolm for alerting on Power Factor. I just hope this is not going to one day kill some of the economic advantage.

I hope this will help those who hesitate. I have no affiliation with any brand. I see many strong advantages. My only disappointment is losing the orange low light.


It’s good to hear some positive news, Miao. I think you will find that most of your well known brands of LED lamps originate in China, not just the cheap ones. That’s certainly the case with CFL lamps.

Miao says:
12 January 2015

Of course most of the LED bulbs are currently produced in China, at least some of the parts and the assembly, but apparently under the tight scrutiny of brands that specify the components to be used. I observe that China can offer the best and the worst (just tested it with memory cards as well as some professional medical technologies). Like other commentators, I have seen a significant difference in the quality of the bulbs between the big brands and the cheapest no-name ones. I burned by mistake a non-dimmable Philips and took the opportunity to open it. It just looks better.

Tony Brown says:
13 January 2015

I bought replacement LED’s for my halogen kitchen lights when I moved into this older bungalow in Bournemouth. I was mildly surprised when I found half of them were standard GU10 mini-bayonet
240 volt fittings, the other half (randomly positioned-not split down the centre of the kitchen) were 12 volt MR16 (the little 2 pin push fit connectors). I had ordered 2 boxes of 6 of the MR16’s as that was the only sample I had checked. I then had to order some GU10 240 volt ones.

When they arrived in August 2013, I fitted them and waited. They performed well for a day then 2 of the 12 volt transformers packed up. I searched around in my junk box in the garage and found a couple of old 12 volt power supplies, one of 1 amp, one of 3 amps. After fitting these to the MR16 LED’s, they have been working beautifully until yesterday when 2 of the 240v GU10’s stopped working. The type of led’s were THG for the 240 volts and Senwiet for the 12 volts.

I opened up the package and had a look at the circuitry. I am a television engineer so know a lot about electronics. There was a small circuit board with smd components, a large electrolytic capacitor of 4.7mfd 400v and a small transformer.

In November I decided to change all the incandescent candle lamps in the lounge candelabras to LED’s. I ordered 13 cool white E14 (used to be called Small Edison Screw) dimmable candle led lamps from China as they were a third of the price of the major manufacturers. I also ordered a trailing-edge LED specific dimmer from a local source, a Vpro Varilight.

After fitting the candle lamps to the fittings, everything worked well for a week or so. Then first one, then another, then another stopped working. I was glad I had ordered 3 spares.
I thought I’d open one of these up to see what the differences were between these Chinese sourced candle lamps and the kitchen ones locally sourced.

The same printed circuit board – even down to the board number, the same I.C’s, the same transformer and capacitor, in fact the cheapest Chinese £2.20 led’s had identical circuitry as the £10.50 sourced locally.

The moral of this convoluted tale? Don’t buy an old house where the previous owner thought he was a great DIY’er.



Tony – Your finding that cheap and expensive LED lamps contain the same components does not surprise me. I saw numerous examples of this in the 70s when I was an an electronics hobbyist. Miao has also made a valid point that there can be a significant difference between branded and cheap products. It is very difficult for the anyone to know which applies without having some expertise and taking products apart, as you have both done.

It would be very interesting to know if the LED lamps you have taken apart contain any form of fuse, which could be a low value metal film resistor or simply a very thin track on the circuit board rather than a conventional fuse. The reason I ask is that I have read of a few examples of LED lamps failing and nearly starting fires.

Miao says:
14 January 2015

I have done a bit more research around power factors for dimmable warm white GU10 LEDs and found some interesting differences:
-cheap unknown brands: no mention of it
-affordable branded models (6 to 12 pounds):
Megaman: couldn’t find
Philips value: 0.5
OSRAM: >0.5
Philips Master MV: 0.6
Sylvania ES50: 0.7 (but the package clearly claims a dubious 0.9!)
-expensive models (often the longer ones): some claim 0.8

As for CRI, the affordable “good” brands all show the same 80 (I would have expected Philips to be higher). Cheaper ones rarely state it but I found for example Lighting Ever at 75.
The more expensive branded models (often the longer ones at >20 pounds) can have a CRI of 90

Would someone know how reliable the PF measures are, and why it seems to double the cost to lift the CRI from 80 to 90?


Miao – It is easy to compare power factors using an inexpensive meter that measures W and VA or displays power factor directly. I cannot see much opportunity to do power factor correction in small mains voltage LED lamps but there is scope to do this in drivers for 12V lamps, since there is no shortage of space. The influence of power factor on the cost of running domestic LED lighting is probably not too important. Poor power factor is a problem with the switched mode power supplies that have largely replaced transformer-based power supplies.

Unfortunately CRI is more difficult to measure. It’s not often mentioned and I don’t know how reliable the figures are when they are provided. Maybe Malcolm can comment on this.


Colour Rendering Index represents the ability of a light source to accurately reveal colour. It is generally measured by comparing a test lamp’s performance with that of a filament lamp that has the same colour appearance, when illuminating a set of standard colour samples. Not something you can measure yourself so the manufacturers usually give you the CRI. Best is 100, anything over 80 is OK for general use, but 90 onwards where colour is particularly important.

A rough check on how good a lamp is – like an LED – is to use 2 identical paint charts and look at them with your LED and a halogen lamp (if you have one) side by side – hold a vertical barrier between the charts to stop one lamp affecting the other. Or for a cool appearance lamp, do the same in in a window where you can compare it with daylight. Some LEDs are rubbish at this!

Miao says:
14 January 2015

“Poor power factor is a problem with the switched mode power supplies that have largely replaced transformer-based power supplies.”

Thanks wavechange. Do you mean that, in residential premises, electricity providers now charge extra for a poor PF? Or that they will be able to do it whenever they decide too?


That’s a very interesting question, Miao, but I don’t know the answer. It looks as if we will have smart meters before long and these may be able to measure PF continuously. I would be more concerned about heavier loads with a poor PF, such as fridges, freezers and washing machines. Dimmers and speed controls do interesting things to PF and the AC waveform.


Miao, domestic electricity meters are, to my knowledge, watt hour meters and measure actual power consumed (watts = volts x current x power factor) x time, not apparent power (just volts x amps). The tests for meter accuracy include a power factor of 0.5. So you would not be penalised for have poor power factor equipment. In most cases power factor is not a domestic problem – the equipment that might be poor power factor is either low power (e.g CFL and LED lamps, chargers) or of relatively short duration (machines with electric motors for example).

Miao says:
14 January 2015

Thanks Malcolm. So I shouldn’t be too bothered that Philips Value LEDs have a power factor of only 0.5 against the Sylvania at 0.7? Both can now be found at around 6 pounds!
Btw, I have been tracking the speed at which prices are falling over the last 3 years and it’s a good 10% at constant quality.


I brought two USB LED lights for two different computer’s some time ago which LED lights I rarely used, so was surprised when one did not work and the other had some LED’S not working or blow?
I thought a LED lights could not blow? But they do and from my research they can blow from overheating and with two much current. Therefore LED lights manufactured with cheap components will not last longer and since a lot of companies now send their products over to China to be made cheaper and brought back. How do you know which brand is really better since they may be coming out the same factory floor with only a name change on the package.


EL, the LED chip (the bit that produces light) can be destroyed by over-voltage, but it is more likely the other bits that make up the circuit that fail – an electonic component in the power supply, the connection or track on a pcb, the connection between the LED chip and the circuitry for example. This should be rare in “professional” products but cheaply made products with poor quality control, low-cost and minimal components, poor production expertise can be the problems.

elsie marshall says:
28 January 2015

I changed my kitchen spot lights to Phillips led lights, I am 77yrs old and I find it difficult to keep changing the old ones, so when I changed to led long life bulbs I thought I would never need to change a bulb again! but one has already stopped working after about 6 months

John M says:
5 February 2015

I purchased 3 Ikea LED bulbs in November 2014. They fit in an Ikea track system.
Good warm, bright light. And none of that “warm up” that you get with low energy bulbs.
But recently, two of them sometimes just go off (not at same time). I turn the power off then back on again, to get them to go back on again. Will get worse as they get older? Who knows?
Don’t know accurately how long they’ve been used for, but as quick calculation, say 2.5 months or about 80 days, and about 4-5 hours a day. So roughly no more than 400 hours so far. That’s a long way off the 15000 – 25000 hours quoted for many LED bulbs.


Philips openly advertise theirGenie light bulbs as lasting 10 years or 10,000 hours…What rubbish!
See my email to and reply from one of Philips light bulb suppliers shown below.

From: John
Sent: 12 February 2015 10:46
To: sales – energybulbs
Subject: Your invoice

Good morning.

I purchased qty 6 Philips Genie 11W Rapid Start Bulbs – SES/E14 Daylights from you on 4 February 2013.

Your invoice shown above refers.

I have changed 2 this morning as they had stopped working, have 2 others in different lamps.

None of these bulbs have lasted even a third of the 10,000 hours the boxes say they are good for which is a big disappointment.

Should I return those which have stopped working, to you for free replacements or should I contact Philips?

I appreciate your help.

Thank you and regards, John Ireland.

REPLY FROM PHILIPS stockist that sold me the products.

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your email.

I am sorry to hear that you have had an issue with your units.

The quoted life of 10,000 hours is a measure of average life as opposed to an actual guarantee of life and as such this figure can be subject to both increase and decrease depending upon a range of factors such as the quality of power supply in your area and the ambient temperature of the environment in which the units are being used.

We offer a one year guarantee with these units, but unfortunately as you are outside of this period we are unable to issue you with replacement goods at this time.

I apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Kindest regards,

Customer Services

Energy Bulbs



John, I’ve looked at a couple of Philips CFL cartons I have and nowhere can I find any reference to a 1 year guarantee. It prominently states on one “10 years 10 000 hours” and on the other “10 years” and less prominently “based on 10 000 hours”. No mention of average life or restrictions.

A nomal domestic use would be 1-2000 hours a year, all night use would be around 4000 hours a year. Your lamps mus have failed well before 10 000 hours – outside any sensible variance. Your power supply is unlikely to be outside legal limits – for which the lamps should be designed. Only you will know whether the lamps have been used in enclosed fittings where they might run too hot.

The way the life is presented is, I suggest, either misleading or you have been sold rubbish lamps. Either way Philips seems at fault. I suggest you challenge them and report the misleading wording to Trading Standards (through Citizens Advbice now I beleve). Or ask Which? to pursue this.


I have had great success with Philips CFLs, but have avoided using them in enclosed fixtures and semi-enclosed in unventilated lampshades. I have some 11W Philips Genie CFLs which cost 10p each and there is no indication that they need to be ventilated to avoid overheating. The Tesco CFLs I have bought state that they should not be used in enclosed fixtures and the lifetime may be shortened in semi-enclosed fixtures.

I have not used the Philips Genie lamps yet, but remember that their lifetime was not as good as other CFLs in a Which? test, several years ago.

Unless John purchased direct from Philips, he should go back to the company that sold the lamps, because they have an obligation under the Sale of Goods Act. An appropriate remedy could be offer a discount on replacement lamps, taking into account the amount of use the customer has had of the lamps. Alternatively, they might give John a bunch of new lamps.

Ballymoney Bailey Boy says:
20 February 2015

Having suffered a number of MR16 halogen down-light failures, in January 2013 I converted to GU10 6w LED lamps supplied by SGD. These lamps are rated at 30,000 hours.
In December I had the first failure which manifested itself initially as flickering and then complete failure of the lamp. The wholesaler replaced this without question, but during December I had a further three lamps suffer the same fate. Again the wholesaler provided replacements without question. This year, January 1st to today, I have had a further three lamps fail in the same manner.
Not sure these LED lamps are as good as they claim, especially considering how much more they cost that halogen lamps.

Martin Claridge says:
26 February 2015

I bought 15 GU10 4 watt bulbs from LED Hut in November 2012. The first one failed in September 2014 and was replaced. Two have failed in February 2015. The retailer will not replace them, claiming they are out of warranty. Not a good retailer in my experience.


LED Hut now allows you to register purchases to extend the warranty from two to five years. I don’t understand why they or any other company should expect you to register in this way.

We should be pushing for lamps with a five or ten year warranty without messing around with registration.


Does each lamp have a unique code that can be registered?

I remember in the early days of CFL’s I took one back to John Lewis because it had failed very soon after purchase. I didn’t have the original box but I did have a receipt for a number of lamps. JL took it on trust that the one that failed was part of that purchase. Would a trader today honour that obligation five years into the ten-year life of an LED?

I agree there should be no requirement for registration – the system would become unmanageable[I see it as a deterrent to the average consumer in order to avoid claims]. If a product has advertising or specification markings on the packaging that indicate a certain life-cycle, that is de facto the warranty. Getting redress in year nine is probably out of the question [even assuming the supplier still exists] so I think a considerable risk element should be factored into the value-for-money equation before buying LED’s at today’s prices [especially since many people might require several simultaneous replacements for Halogens for example].

Will says:
28 April 2015

I don’t trust LEDhut for two simple reasons.

1. Their bulbs are all own-brand. That’s a big no-no in my book; for a specialist should sell a wide range of brands.

2. Their website reviews are totally faked. Every. Single. Product. Has a solid 5-star rating. They claim their customers give them solid 5 star ratings all the time. I’m sorry, but no company is this perfect, for in the real world you see mixed reviews.

Any retailer that fakes their reviews and offers their own brand is bound to be dodgy at best. I did some digging around and found out that they’re a bit of a con, really. So are tp24. Avoid both like the plague.

Chris Edwards says:
14 March 2015

I bought 8 COB 9W GU10 lamps from Toolstation 18 months ago. Only 4 are still working. They have been used for maybe 5 hours per day, which means a life of under 3000 hours versus the stated life of 40,000. Trading standards really should investigate the ridiculous claims made the manufacturers. I shall see what luck I have exchanging them.

GES says:
24 March 2015

I purchased nine Crompton LeD GLS 14Watt bulbs type: LGBC14WW-DIM for one of my customers having recommended LeD bulbs for long life. Out of the 9 installed 5 failed within 2 months. I installed these bulbs with a trailing edge dimmer and initially they all worked and dimmed fine. Crompton have been very responsive about the problem and discovered a component overheating and burnt out in each returned bulb. I got my money back on these from my supplier too so I can’t complain about them.
It has though caused me a lot of my time to be provided FoC to try an find a workable and reliable solution. There are many suppliers of LeD lamps now but the majority will only give a 1 year warranty after which the customer is expected to go back to the manufacturer. This is not acceptable for me to expect my customers to deal with the manufacturer. I am still spending my free time on this to resolve the issue and satisfy my customer. In future I will NOT be providing LeD bulbs, just suggesting to my customers that they look into it!


I was aware of a recall of the screw-fitting version of this lamp, which is mentioned on Electrical Safety First’s website. It could cause electric shock. Looking at the Crompton website, the bayonet cap version is also affected: http://www.cromptonlamps.com/images/pdf/Crompton-Lamps-LED-14W-Dimmable.pdf

If you are purchasing lamps and reselling them, I doubt that you are covered by the Sale of Goods Act, as you would be if you bought unsatisfactory goods for your own use.

On this and other Conversations we have learned that buying LED lamps from large manufacturers is no guarantee that they will be durable, yet the manufacturers often claim very long lifetimes.


I notified Electrical Safety First and they very promptly updated their website to cover all the potentially dangerous Crompton lamps.

Somebody in Seattlw says:
7 April 2015

I had a GE LED bulb burn out yesterday after only about maybe a year. I’ve had CFL bulbs last longer. What an expensive waste.

Sheogorath says:
12 April 2015

Actually, LEDs don’t burn out. They dim to non-functionality, yes, but they’re made from semi-conductor materials, thus having no element to burn out with.


That’s not very comforting for anyone who has suffered failure of an expensive LED lamp that may have come with a claim of outstanding life expectancy. 🙁

If you Google ‘LED failure modes’ you can find out the various ways that LED lamps DO fail. Add to this the failures due to overheated electronic components.


If you regard an LED lamp as a complete unit of electronics and LED chip mounting then you can regard them as “burning out”. These electronics may fail, the contacts between the LED chip and the circuit board may fail, and the lamp stops working. The LED chip itself is certainly durable, but that is no good without well-designed and decent quality manufacture of its ancilliaries. This is where the bulk of the domestic problems will lie – both for short life and interference.


Malcolm – Have you seen any examples of domestic fixtures in which the electronics are separated from the LED chips to avoid overheating of both these components?

With fluorescent lighting, the lamp has to replaceable but I envisage that we could have LED lighting where the LEDs would never need replacement – for example in bathroom light fixtures.


wavechange, I haven’t looked and so far don’t use LEDs in the house except in torches and solar-powered gate lights. The problem with domestic LEDs is that, for understandable reasons, we have gone for complete lamps that interchange with the tungsten equivalents; people would not to want to replace expensive light fittings generally just to use a new “bulb”. So they are a compromise on temperature and circuitry because they need to be compact. And price seems a key issue, so wide open to junk products.

The same problem with CFLs – basically a decent lamp but with electronics in a poor place where they can get too hot.

To use lamps with separate electronic controllers would need new light fittings and would greatly inhibit their domestic use, so the energy savings we see would not have happened. However, I wonder how much extra we spend on lamps that fail early compared to the energy we save – with LEDs in particular..Unless an LED “lamp” lasts around 5 years it is unlikely to recoup its cost in energy savings – and many don’t last anything like as long, it seems. A false economy?


I’m not convinced that cost is the only factor. In the days when old fashioned lightbulbs were the only choice, many homes had expensive light fixtures, wall lights, table lamps, and so on, whereas the most cost-effective way of lighting would be one or more 100W bulbs surrounded by lampshades. Likewise, installing LED lighting is still more expensive than using CFLs, yet many are switching to LEDs.

We know that keeping the LEDs and electronics provides durability in non-domestic applications such as office and street lighting and we just need something similar that would look presentable in the home. To tackle the problem of radio interference – the other drawback of LED lighting – I would suggest that everything except the LEDs is shielded.

How about voice-activated dimming? If I can ask my mobile to ‘call Malcolm’ then perhaps I could say ‘lights 5’ to tell my light fixture to select half-brightness. 🙂

Sheogorath says:
12 April 2015

@ wavechange: I’m not attempting to claim that LEDs never fail because I know they do after long enough or under adverse conditions. I was just saying to the OP that they don’t burn out because they have no filament to burn as in incandescent bulbs and no gas to use up as in CFLs. Context is everything, no?


I see. I’m sure that Matt was using ‘burn out’ in the colloquial sense, referring to premature failure.

Apologies in advance for being picky but I don’t think CFLs use up gas. They can exhaust their mercury vapour, which is gradually deposited on the phosphor coating of the glass, but this is a relatively uncommon mode of failure, or so I have read.


Fluorescent lamps (inc CFLs) usually fail because the emissive material on the cathodes becomes depleted.


That’s certainly true of fluorescent tubes but when I acquired some dead CFLs and did a postmortem, quite a few had both heaters intact and capable of emission. In all cases there was evidence of overheating of the circuitry but it was generally not obvious which component had failed. I’m sure that if people were advised to avoid using CFLs in unventilated fixtures many more of them would survive to cathode depletion.

I have decided not to study failure modes of LED bulbs.

Rob48 says:
18 April 2015

As for LEDs “not burning out”… I have just replaced one after only three months or so which certainly seems to have “burnt”. It’s a GU10 consisting of 60 small LED chips. I noticed one of the LED chips was out and the rest were much dimmer than normal. On closer inspection the chip had clearly overheated/burned: it had gone black and had discoloured the surrounding area and the clear cover over it, which seemed to be slightly melted in one spot.

This was one of a cheap box of 10 from Amazon. I’m wary of using the rest now as it seems this could be a fire risk.


Surely the reason that people are switching from CFL’s to LED’s despite the cost is because the former are genrally ugly. Atr least it is possible to get LED’s that resemble ‘traditional’ lamps and have a ‘pearl’ bulb. The intermediate type of eco-halogens [lower wattage than an incandescent but higher than a CFL for equivalent lumens] don’t give this appearance because they all have ‘clear’ bulbs. There are a number of designed-for-LED ceiling fittings now on the market mostly in very modern styles. Because we’re not looking for new lighting at the moment I haven’t checked to see whether the electronics are separate from the light source but I guess they are in most cases. They seem to be very much ‘statement lighting’ [more suited to a modern hotel lobby] and not what we would want in the bedroom, or even in the sitting room for visual comfort and a pleasant ambience.

Wavechange, the problem with voice-activated dimming is that you could find your lights going on and off and up and down depending on what was on the television unless there was sophisticated voice recognition and discrimination software in the fitting. Good idea for couch potatoes though.


I was never very keen on the appearance of old fashioned bulbs, especially the clear variety, and halogen bulbs are more dazzling. I prefer CFLs because there is no bright filament.

Voice-controlled lighting may be a failure, like many of my ideas, but I am not going to rule it out as a possibility.


John, CFL’s used in the wrong place can be ugly, I agree. Using them in the right place (and choosing the right shape to keep them concealed) is important, so normally OK in table lamps, uplighters, enclosed lights of the right volume but not when exposed to view – although there are opal candle and golf ball shapes that work well as in a desk light next to me.

Halogen bulbs, like LEDs, are bright – it simply means using them properly in the right sort of light fitting so they are either shielded or not pointing in the normal line of sight.

I’ll use LEDs when they combine good colour (not too cool), long reliable life and no radio interference if their cost is sensible compared to energy saved. Easy.

Light fittings of any quality are relatively expensive and most homes will already be equipped with them. So most people are unlikely to go to the great expense of changing them all simply to accommodate energy-saving light bulbs – it would not make financial sense. That was the point I was making wavechange.


I expect that LED light fixtures will become popular when they become widely available. Perhaps it will be fashion rather than energy saving that will be the driver. Let’s see what happens in the next few years.

Sheogorath says:
14 April 2015

malcolm r said: Light fittings of any quality are relatively expensive and most homes will already be equipped with them. So most people are unlikely to go to the great expense of changing them all simply to accommodate energy-saving light bulbs – it would not make financial sense.
I agree. Manufacturers should be used by now to making bulbs that existing fittings can take, so we shouldn’t have to go to huge expense changing them all. Simples! 🙂


Sheogorath – We have this Conversation because many have experienced premature failure of LED lamps that we are told should last for many thousands of hours. You can read the four pages of comments, which relate to well known brands as well as cheap products sold online.

In LED lamps that are direct replacements for old fashioned bulbs, I believe that the main problem is the LED-chips that produce the light are crammed in a small space with electronic components and the whole lot runs too hot, which can lead to premature failure. Some of the cheaper lamps are likely to contain substandard components too, or lack protection from voltage spikes in the mains supply.

I hope I am wrong but I don’t see much scope to achieve reliability of LED lighting as long as we carry on making simple replacements for old fashioned bulbs. Look at the LED lighting in offices, street signs, traffic lights, shops and so on. The LEDs and electronics are kept cool because they are not crammed in one place, so they will last many thousands of hours.

I don’t see how it is simple just to keep fixtures and put LED lamps in them.

Sheogorath says:
15 April 2015

Oh gee, I don’t know. Same fixtures with larger shades, maybe? *facepalms*

susiet says:
13 April 2015

We have 2 led bulbs in our porch which cost us £20 each and they have been lit for a “Hello, come in,” probably about 10 times a month, just during winter nights only, for 18 months. No, not true. We HAD 2 led bulbs, one has died! So, we’ve paid £20 for a super, duper bulb, which is supposed to light for thousands of hours and because we’ve had it for over a year, Screwfix will not change it, even though we have a receipt. Shocking state of affairs I say. Back to ‘cheap’ LED’s now.


This is why we need long guarantees rather than claims that LED lamps will last a long time.


Two separate bits of LED news:
1. “First LED incandescent lamp replacement produced by a major manufacturer in Germany’. Unlike existing lamps, this 40W replacement comes in the same size as its incandescent predecessors, so that it will fit into all luminaires previously equipped with standard incandescent light bulbs. This lamp is dimmable and boasts an average lifespan of 25,000 hours – far longer than for incandescents.”

2. “A new dimmable lamp contains a filament-shaped LED coated in graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, 200 times stronger than steel weight for weight and a conductivity 100 times better than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.

Graphene Lighting coats a lamp’s LED chips with graphene for greater heat removal, which results – it is claimed – in lower energy emissions, a longer lifetime, around 10% lower energy consumption and lower manufacturing costs.”


We should remember that although LEDs have been in use for many purposes for decades, LED lighting is relatively new, so hopefully as technology develops we can look forward to considerable improvements in the next few years, as we saw during the evolution of CFLs. The development that would interest me most is long guarantees to match the claimed lifetimes.

I wonder what ‘lower energy emissions are’. Perhaps whoever wrote that isn’t the brightest bulb.