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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
Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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…

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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

Guest

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!

Guest
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?

Guest

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

Guest
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! 🙂

Guest

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.

Guest
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

Guest
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.

Guest
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

Guest

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.

Guest

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

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/forum/cd/discussion.html/ref=cm_cd_ecf_tft_tp?ie=UTF8&cdForum=FxX896DL34ZBBE&cdThread=Tx1TY8I4L1R5GDR

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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
Ken Arton says:
31 December 2014

Hello.
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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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.