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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
Profile photo of malcolm r
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A Luxeon data sheet http://www.luxeonstar.com/assets/downloads/rd07.pdf shows the effect on life of increasing junction temperatures – where the LED chip is mounted. In fact it seems that 25 deg C is the normal ambient for giving performance characteristics.

LEDs have life defined in two ways – the point at which a certain % of them fail (usually 10% and 50%) and the point at which the light output has fallen to an “unacceptable” level – usually 70%. This data sheets shows combinations of these two. although for coloured LEDs the principals are for LEDs in general.

Putting your LEDs in a ceiling below a loft seemingly increases the ambient by 10 deg C and as the graphs show this can halve their effective life. However, that means the LED was working right on its temperature limit in the first place in a normal ambient. It illustrates the need to use good quality LEDs that are not overstressed under normal operation and have good thermal management. Nevertheless, even halving the life for a decent LED still gives of the order of
20 – 30000hours (for most of us 20 years life) – so it does not explain the rubbish performance of the others.

Profile photo of wavechange
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My understanding is that the junction temperature of a LED relates to the semiconductor and not the interface with the mounting/heatsink, which will be considerably cooler.

I think it is unhelpful to rate the lifetime of LEDs or any other lighting in terms of years because this will vary according to use. Old fashioned bulbs were generally regarded as having an expected lifetime of 1000 hours, and if anyone wanted to work out what that corresponded to in years they could do that on the basis of their planned use.

Is there evidence that different brands of LEDs perform significantly better than others? I have seen evidence on Which? Conversation and elsewhere that even the well known brands are failing prematurely.

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The junction temperature is on the LED chip and cannot easily be measured directly. It is normally calculated by measuring the temperature on the thermal mounting pad and taking account of its thermal resistance. It is the temperature that determines the performance of the light-emitting chip (but not, of course, of the electronics used to operate it which will cause failure if they get too hot).

I’m not sure how many people relate thousands of hours to how long in months or years they might expect a lamp to last in normal use. Generally it is taken that in the home 1000 hours is about a year’s use. But it will depend where it is installed of course. The point about LEDs is tthat 20000 hours say might be 20 years to put it in perspective; but that takes no account of the life of the electronics used to run it – and their life, even with a good LED chip, might be much less..

Profile photo of wavechange
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I appreciate that the junction temperature is difficult to measure, but the lighting industry should have chosen a different term for the temperature of the mounting pad rather than hijacked an established expression. There are other examples of confusion being introduced in this way.

Expression of life of lamps in years became commonplace with CFL lighting, choosing some arbitrary daily use. Ask the public and I’m sure that they would prefer lifetime rated in terms of thousands of hours rather than based on years of operation based on 2.7 or 3.7 hours’ use per day (I cannot remember which).

It seems clear to me that current designs of LED lighting are overheating both the LEDs and the control electronics – hence we are seeing premature failures with both cheap and expensive brands. As we have agreed the best answer is to have separate LEDs and electronics, as in non-domestic lighting. I would have expected the well known brands not to produce direct replacements for existing lighting, but when there is a profit to be made, that takes priority.

Is there any brand of LED lamp (designed to replace halogen or old fashioned incandescent bulb) that can be relied on to achieve the claimed lifetime? I think not – but am prepared to be proved wrong.

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Phil - NSW Australia says:
17 January 2016

Linear flouresent tube lamps seem to soldier on in all kinds of heat but are terrible when cold until they warm up , and not as efficient as LED and use nasty heavy metals. We are having major issues with led’s overheating in Australia and failing. I am pushing suppliers for standards to advise consumers and installers the max ambient temperature and airflow recommedned to achieve the quoted lifespan .This allows for fitting design and installation locations to cater better to allow for the temperature rise at the LED itself and the electronics contained within the LED lamp or housing.

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With linear fluorescent lamps, the control electronics are not in a confined space and separate from the lamp, so that overheating is not a problem. The amount of mercury is small and the tubes generally have a long life. As you say, fluorescent lamps, including CFLs, don’t do well in low temperatures.

With LED and CFL bulbs it can a significant difference if they are operated cap-down or cap-up, the latter more likely to cook the electronics. I think you are right that we do need to be given advice about how to use lamps to reduce overheating. The real answer is to have the lamp separate from the control electronics, just like fixtures for fluorescent tubes.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Phil -if the Australian external ambient temperature is much higher than countries like the UK and in summer it is . Then exporters should increase the aluminum heat-sinks on the bulbs to cope with this . If it is a case of the driver section overheating -ie – capacitors drying up/ active components overheating then a re-design is required or a higher standard -ie- industrial quality used . I cannot believe that any industrial concern in Australia or anywhere else would put up with low quality lighting requiring frequent replacement . I think we are back to – built to a cost , do you have large imports from China as you are near to it geographically ?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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wavechange, the junction temperature is the key temperature in the performance of the LED chip and is therefore used by the chip manufacturers in their data sheets. It is not difficult to measure in the industry. So lighting manufacturers should make this measurement – the chip manufacturer gives the information on how to do this – to ensure under normal operating conditions the maximum junction temperature is not exceeded in their product. They will also need to check other electronic components of course.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I think we can agree that there is ‘rubbish’ on the market, as you put it. I question whether there are any brands of LED replacement bulbs that can be expected to last, on average, for the lifetime predicted by the manufacturer. The early LEDs were promising, but these were much lower power than many of today’s offerings.

Profile photo of Grums
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I expect the LED chip manufacturers do specify the reliability data based on junction temperature but it is up to the bulb manufacture to produce reliable products that take this data into account. On the few examples I have seen it is the LED’s themselves that have failed but I think this is because there is inadequate heatsinking to maintain a reasonable temperature on the LED junctions. Additionally the designs I looked at also produced a good deal of heat from the support circuitry which dissipated in the same heatsink as the LEDs.

A major factor is also that the whole bulbs, when used as an incandescent bulb replacement, are often used in a poorly ventillated place (e.g. surrounded by a glass lampshade) that prevents good air circulation. Of course the ventillation requirement is never stated when marketing the bulbs and most people would think that replacing a 60W incandescent with an equivalent LED bulb that only dissipates about 9W would not be problematic. However this is important. An incandescent bulb fails because of the life of the filament, which can be at around 2500C, eventually fails. Because the temperature is so high, the surrounding ambient varying by a few tens of degrees does not matter too much. With an LED the life falls off significantly above 85C and rapidly above 125C. It is quite likely that many lamp fixtures that do not allow good ventillation will cause a temperature rise at the LED to exceed these temperatures. Their life will also be affected by the ambient room temperature. A few tens of degrees can be very significant.

Examples I looked at had poor heat sinking to start with and “heat conductive plastic” surrounding the aluminium heatsink though not bonded to it. I doubt these bulbs would meet the stated life requirement in any surroundings.

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Grums – I am still using a light fixture with 60W golf ball bulbs because of the risk of overheating either CFL or LED lamps in the small shades. It’s not used much and I have a few spare bulbs, so I will carry on using them, though it would be good to switch to low energy lighting.

I have read about poorly constructed LED lamps where thermal paste has been poorly applied or absent, so that the efficiency of the heatsink is compromised.

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allen says:
30 July 2015

Just had two Cree 3 way LEDs burn out after a few months use. Purchased at Home Depot. This looks like very poor quality and warranty is a sham. Don’t purchase this brand.

Member

I measured 94-97C on the plastic body of Philips bulbs. Junction temperatures are much higher. Max junction temperatures in datasheets range from 130C to 150C and I bet these bulbs are getting close to that. Plus i think your bulbs are brighter right after turning them on opposed to 15 minutes later as LEDs drop in efficiency the hotter they are. Current LED technology is pushed over its limits.

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Yes Mark – the hotter they get the lower the efficiency but some of that is down to the pushing of the limits of the actual LED in terms of supply current . In other words ,to get the most profit cheaply each LED is run on its maximum current rather than under run . As in electronics a diode is only limited in its current carrying capacity but LEDs used for consumer lighting have a limited current capacity, unless we are talking expensive industrial types for specialised applications.

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AggieGreg says:
11 June 2015

I put an Osram 8.5W LED bulb in a table lamp in my living room on 10/1/14. It burned out on 6/10/15. I keep this lamp on in the evenings, but it’s always off by bedtime, so it couldn’t have had more than 1,200 hours, just shy of its promised 25,000 hours.

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Another example of a well known brand failing prematurely.

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But is it statistically significant? One swallow does not make a summer 🙂 If we are to rate brands for durability – and someone should – then you need to take larger samples to begin to sort out those that are likely to last well from those that won’t. I’d like to have confidence in durability before I think of investing in a currently shaky energy-saving technology.

I imagine other consumer organisations throughout Europe are looking at LEDs. Have Which? co-operated with them to get a larger pool of more meaningful data?

Profile photo of wavechange
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That’s the problem Malcolm. We don’t know. People are more likely to post if their expensive LED bulbs fail. What I object to is the extravagant claims that are currently being made for the lifetime of LED bulbs. I keep seeing examples of premature of with well known brands, for example: amazon.co.uk/Philips-MyVision-929000200801-Watt-Shape/dp/B005OYW6SG Philips LED bulbs generally do better than this for reliability, but it provides an example of why buying a particular brand might not be a clever thing to do.

I recall you mentioned that you had under-cupboard LED lighting. Here the control electronics is separated from the heat-generating LEDs, though there is a greater risk of radio interference if the wiring is not shielded.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The way the LEDs are arranged in a strip keeps them cool. I checked for both FM and DAB interference and there was none even when the receiver was very close. I’d still choose mainstream brands if I was going to purchase, or maybe high street retailers own brands like Diall, simply because if I had a problem I could contact them directly and persistently if necessary. I don’t know how well Amazon would deal with this for example.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I prefer to buy in local shops because it is easier to take faulty goods back and explain problems. I generally buy well known brands but larger retailers are selling some respectable products at affordable prices. You are not paying as much for advertising and fancy packaging. I have been impressed by Tesco spiral CFLs.

Many of the products on the Amazon website are sold by their Marketplace traders, often unheard of companies that few would go near if it was not for the Amazon name. I have not bought electrical goods from Amazon for some time, but as part of an experiment, I bought a travel adaptor costing about £1.90 and was sent an item that looked nothing like the photo on the Amazon website. After exchange of correspondence, including photos, I sent it back and received a refund, but was out of pocket by £2.80, the cost of return postage. The Marketplace trader ignored my requests and Amazon would not provide a refund because I was not buying directly from Amazon.

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allen says:
30 July 2015

sound like two 3 way Cree LEDs used a little in lamps since 11/14. Poor quality in more than one brand.

Member
Paul Vivash says:
10 May 2016

According to “Which” Diall LED bulbs top the list. One of mine lasted less than a month.

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EL CHEAPO says:
25 July 2016

My OSRAM 8.5W LED bulb from Home Depot was over the stove in the vent fan. It lasted 279 days. Used about 10 hours a day ….. or 2,800~3,000 hours. Longevity and economies were the reason I shelled out more money for the bulb. Received neither. Always write the start date on the bulb. Even fluorescent bulbs don’t last their 5-7 year claims.

If you place a small solar yard lamp near the bulb you get a nice interior night light. One is on a lamp shade hoop and lights up the ceiling all night.

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Buchu says:
13 July 2015

Cree bulbs are horrible. They are supposed to last 10 years – I have several that went out after a week. The replacements I received aren’t any better as they are failing too.

Member
allen says:
30 July 2015

Same here. They are junk and a sham. Home Depot store in Palatka, FL acted like they could care less. I have returned one to Cree so far no response. $4 to mail plus a $21 bulb-this is light robbery!

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Jen woodrow says:
16 July 2015

I’ve replaced almost all of the light bulbs in my house with LED. The kitchen has 5 canned lights, 2 of which are the original “junk” bulbs. Well, one just died and it wasn’t one of the remaining “junk” bulbs, it was one of the new $15 each LED, it didn’t even outlast the builder grade bulb! I’ve spent a small fortune getting rid of these bulbs that seem to last longer than the original. Oh yeah, one has died already in the bathroom too. I’m thinking it’s all just a scam for an increase in charges!!!

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allen says:
30 July 2015

Had two Cree 3 ways die in lamps after a few months service. Bases were very hot. Strange! We have a consumer sham on our hands sponsored and encouraged by gov law. We need to let the firms selling this junk know the results. Home Depot folks just passed me off when I told them about the poor quality.

Member
Buchu says:
2 August 2015

Flee from Cree! They have a 10 year warranty but YOU have to pay shipping to send them their dead bulbs. What good is that?

They also have a T8 bulb recall – these are sold at Home Depot:

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2015/Cree-Recalls-LED-Lamps/

I’ll NEVER buy anything with the Cree name on it again!

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easypayment says:
9 August 2015

I bought an OSRAM 60 watt A19 less than 6 months ago and it burnt out a few days ago. It says 22+ years life on the box! I got a new one that I’m going to return. I’m giving up and letting everyone else be the Guinea pigs on LED light bulbs.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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An update for you: Ikea has announced that it will sell only LED bulbs by September. The first major retailer to stock only LED bulbs, Ikea says that the decision is based on helping customers live more sustainably, without sacrificing style.

http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/08/ikea-to-sell-only-led-light-bulbs-413603/

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I wonder whether they will give proper guaranteed life and freedom from interference (radio) from LEDs? I have a mixture of LEDs, halogen and CFLs for appropriate lighting in appropriate places for good reasons and I’ll be sustaining that policy.

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hafsa says:
29 August 2015

good your totaly write

Member
Mike says:
25 August 2015

I’m an engineer, electronic bias.

In my own personal tests, I have found that it’s the watt consumption of the LED direct replacement which seems to impact most on the lifetime of the fixture as a whole.

The standard blueish white to warm white LEDs, require somewhere in the region of 3 volts each to illuminate fully, drive circuits and limiting resistors, plus the series configuration of multi-LED fixtures leads to a voltage of 3 x (number of LEDs) + 3. For a 3 LED GU10 replacement this is about 12 volts.

So there is a tiny PCB in the back of this fixture taking some 230VAC, converting that to DC by way of a bridge rectifier and outputting 12VDC, So the circuit must waste some 218 volts, it does this as heat.

How does this relate? More power, more heat.

I found that the 3W LED lights I bought cheaply on eBay have lasted for almost 2 years. Saving not only electricity but also the cost of replacing the halogen lights multiple times. They have saved more than they cost, so if they fail I’m not going to be concerned.

However, the 8W LEDs I bought for the kitchen, 7 out of the 10 failed within 6 months. The LEDs themselves were all fine, I rescued them and made some battery powered torches with them, re-wired them in parallel and put the fixture in a Maglite D-cell. It was only the electronics in the base which failed.

So in short, my solution was to use low power LEDs everywhere I could, 3 off in the bathroom, 3 off in the bedroom, 2 off in the living room and where I needed more light, incandescent lights.

Mike

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Mike says:
25 August 2015

To add, I wholeheartedly agree that the best way to fit LEDs is to have an AC/DC power supply in a box on the wall and supply all the fittings with DC from the switch.

The plug ins just do not have the surface area to stay cool. Add to that, that they are usually in a fixture of somesort.

Member
M Fernd says:
1 July 2016

Awesome Idea to make a torch. I consider myself an electrical technician and recycled various LED-bulbs one of which (3W directional – cheep chinese brand – I am living in a third world country so no serious brands available) was never switched off for now almost 3 Years (except for some hours of power blackouts) it definitely paid itself off and probably its buddy too which failed after the first year which I then repaired (bought some 1W SMD LEDs in bulk for repairs and experiments) and is working again now for almost 2 Years (not constantly on like the first one though).
Since I enjoy playing with electronics I’m replacing every incandescent and CFL bulb with LEDs now, especially because I could always repair them or at least exchange parts and driving circuits. All that while having fun in my sparetime.
Your post gave me the Idea to wire some old 300W PSUs from very old PCs into every floors Lighting circuit (which in my house are conveniently separated from the wall sockets) and ditch all the driving circuits inside the LED-bulbs to hopefully prolong their lifetime and maybe save even more energy.

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Hampsterblade says:
29 August 2015

Had a GE bulb die after just over 1000 hours. My whole house is using these bulbs although I don’t use the rest of my lights as much. I’m hoping it was just a bad in the bunch, but with these bulbs being 8$ a pop I’d rather pay for a little quality. I’m switching to Phillips or cree when they go.

Member
Nige S says:
31 August 2015

I have recently replaced all the filaments in my house with LEDs (22 Aug). Of the 6 LED GU10’s in my kitchen, I have replaced all 6 in a week. I have spoken with the supplier who imports them from China. He says this batch has been poor; no excuse I know. Interestingly, he says he has no redress to his supplier as the cost of shipping and return is prohibitive. However, he has honoured his agreement and replacement the filaments as they have failed.

Like Mike above, I am an engineer with an electrical bias and I concur with his findings. My intent will be to fit lower wattage GU10’s in the kitchen. This appears to be a well documented occurrence on the internet – GU 10 LED filaments appear to not be as reliable as other fittings. To underline this, I have had no issues with any of the other LED lamps that I have installed. I have changed over to LED lighting in my house to save electricity and money, initial outlay has been approx £125.00 for 30 lamps. My patience is starting to wear thin now as I have been back to the shop 3-4 times.

I will watch developments with interest. The GU10’s in my kitchen are direct 240V replacements. There have been posts on the internet from people who have fitted 12 V GU10’s that have had failures. I am wondering if it is the initial power spike on switching on that is causing the failure. I have inspected the failed GU10 LED lamps on removal and there is a ‘Flash’ mark between the two connections. There were no issues with the previously fitted halogen lamps.

Like Mike, I also have a GU10 in a bathroom, this has shown no signs of failure.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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A little update for you: LED light bulb manufacturer Verbatim (owned by the Mitsubishi Group) has withdrawn stock of its Classic A 6W and 9W LED light bulbs after Which? tests revealed that some bulbs failed to conform to EU safety regulations.

http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/09/verbatim-led-light-bulbs-fail-which-safety-tests-413993/

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Just to comment further on the failure mechanisms in LED bulbs. I am a semiconducto design engineer who has worked in the indudtry for over 40 years. LED bulbs are the way forward but the market seems dominated by poorly designed and aggressively marketed devices. I have revered engineered a couple of designs and they did not even meet their own power specifications. To summarise the technical issues:
1. They need to be cooled by a free flow of air. As I pointed out in a earlier post and also was pointed out by Dave, LED bulbs are based on semiconductor devices with a maximum operating temperature of 175C at the most (most will be 125C or lower). Filaments in incandescent lamps run at 2500C to 3500C. It is easy to see that a rise in ambient temprature has a huge effect on and LED lamp but may be insignificant to a filament lamp.
2. The electronics in some bulbs is highly simplistic. Worst designs will just use resistive droppers but the majority of cheap designs use a capacitive dropper in series with a resistor. The heat dissipation in the electronics can still be a significant part of the total heat however and it is often on the same inadequte heatsink as the LEDs. On the bulbs I looked at in was the LEDs that failed. As they are often connected in a series/parallel combination of many LED chips it is usually just one LED that fails (this can then cause another to fail in a parallel path) which then stops all the series conected LEDs to be unconnected.
Basically fittings suitable for incandescent bulbs are often unsuited to LED lamps even though the wattage maybe going from 60W to 8W.
3. Best designed bulbs will use a switch mode power supply. This makes them more expensive. You may be able to tell because they will have Power Factor close to 1 whereas those with a capacitive dropper have a much lower PF. This still does not get around the need to keep the ambient temperature as low as possible but they are more power efficient and these designs show signs of being engineered properly!

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It seems that we do have a major problem in consumers being sold duff cheap LED. Judging from the comments here it is also obvious that it is an engineering issue as the the root cause.

Perhaps some serious effort should be made to make sure vendors suffer costs if they sell flaky LED. That is over and above replacement of the failed item as they will be paying for an electrical engineer to review the fault “bulbs”.

Sounds draconian but unless this is dealt with quickly all the benefits that are meant to accrue are being wasted with people reverting to more reliable methods.

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Dieseltaylor – In the past, buying well known brands was a fairly good way of buying reasonable quality products, although there were exceptions. I have been following the evolution of LED lighting with interest and have seen numerous examples of well known brands that suffer from premature failures or cause radio interference. Have a look at the reviews for this Philips LED lamp: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-MyVision-929000200801-Watt-Shape/dp/B005OYW6SG

I don’t know why well known companies are damaging their reputation by turning out second rate products. From the recent discussion about washing machines it looks as if Bosch is moving downmarket by selling machines that will be difficult and expensive to repair. We have seen plenty of this in the past, where respected names of the 60s and 70s now being used to market poor quality products.

If I was in charge of Philips lighting I would have focused on fixtures in which the LEDs were separated from the control electronics and the whole lot screened and filtered adequately to avoid causing radio interference.

Member

screwfix direct own a company lap electrical. after some reserch i purchased 5 packs {25 lamps } at a cost of £99.90 claims on the box said’ true gu10 retro fit 240v, pay back time would be 2 years, finally 30000 hours , should last on average 25 years . After 4 weeks 8 lamps have failed , i’ve been told by screwfix no other customers have reported a problem?

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I’m with you on this. Bought the same GU10s from screwfix and four have died in a week or so. Kept them to return em!!

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I fitted 12 of these LAP GU10 5W warm white dimmable bulbs from Screwfix in our kitchen just a week ago. We had one go last night, with a pop that tripped the circuit breaker, but the bulb also gave off a fair amount of acrid smoke, frightening the life out of my wife!

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If there is melted plastic or other visible evidence of overheating or burning it is worth reporting to Electrical Safety First. ESF has a list of past recalls on LED lighting products. There is a searchable database here: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/ Select ‘Lighting’ and search.

I once switched on an Energizer battery charger that had been used many times and there was a frightening bang. I was amazed by the internal damage but nothing was visible on the outside and I concluded that it had actually failed in a safe way, so I did not report it.

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I had the same problem one of the lap led gu10 from screwfix blu tripping the circuit and a lot of smoke came off it the plastic around the Base of the lamp had began to melt and there was a horrible burning smell . scary not sure how to report there should be a product recall! !

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I suggest you contact Electrical Safety First and they will be able to advise on how to report the problem. I hope they don’t suggest contacting Trading Standards because my own experience and that of some other users of this site has not been good.

When I contacted ESF over a LED lamp recall they promptly changed the information on the website to include additional types of lamp with the same fault.

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I have just had my first LED lamp failure: 13 months after installation, about 3000 hours use. This was a 3W mini candle style bulb, standard BC22 plug in. Being an electronics engineer, I had to look inside, of course. And found that the level of good design and care in manufacture was just what I expected: almost zero.

It had a heavy ceramic base, which would have been good for heat dissipation if any of the LEDs or the driver electronics were in contact with it, but they were not. It had a (not cheap) aluminium pcb for the actual LEDs, but this was covered on one side by insulating plastic, and was well away from the ceramic base, glued to it by insulating sealant (possibly silicone). So it was a waste really, not helping with all important cooling.

The heat build up in the driver electronics and in the LEDs must have been horrific. It was a failure waiting to happen really. However, the entire concept of replacing filament bulbs, or compact flourescents, with LEDs in the same format, is a bad idea. LEDs need much more attention paid to cooling if they are to achieve anything even remotely resembling the predicted lifespans. Those low voltage stick-on strips of LEDs look a much better idea, though I expect quality issues may be a problem. I plan to try some next.

Peter Warren
BA in Physics, & Electronics engineer for over 30 years.

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I have bought 3 LAP golf ball cob bulbs in June from Screwfix for a new fitting.

So far 3 have failed, only 1 is still working of the original bought in June.

A single LED lamp had been in the previous fitting which is still working else where.

Are these LED COB bulbs really unreliable?

Member
Alistair May says:
20 October 2015

I bought a set of gu10 led Philips bulbs for the kitchen a couple of months ago. I can hardly believe it but one has blown already. So much for value for money.

Member
Patters says:
27 September 2016

I also bought Philips GU10 LED replacements for halogens. In six months 6 out of the 8 have failed – absolute garbage and unfit for purpose. All GU10 spotlight fittings by definition have limited airflow considering the electrical regulations mandate fire bags/hoods above. The company I bought them from has stopped responding to my emails and calls after the first few replacements, despite the 3 year guarantee.

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My tuppence worth
This another pet hate or pet like if I could get the product I want
I like the idea of low energy lighting so much so I dont have big windows because light is cheaper than heat
I dont have a recessed fitting anywhere in the house so heat should not be a problem.
They are either hanging pendants of 2D type fittings.
I never tried a 2D conversion.
I tried a few 240v ones seversal years ago and rubbish is what they were. No light. No spread and short lived.
I decided last year to try a few again
I bought 6 Phillips and 6 other brand from S/fix because of conflicting reports plus while I was there I seen unbranded or unknown named floodlights so I brought 3 of those
Neither done anything like the claims, neither for real current/volts drawn or life
By the end of 2014 the were equal, 3 of each had simply failed. They just stopped working
2 of them made a smell when they died. Maybe they all did but I was there for 2 of them failing.
At this point I have 1 out of 6 still operating and it isnt Phillips
Some will say, take them back. I cant be assed with that. The thing should work as it said on the tin
As to temperature. Even hanging on pendants they were hot. This obviously being the ac type with built in psu but if something marked at 5 or 10w has a warm to near hot base 55c on the probe 5 or 10w doesnt add up does it because of the base is warm how much of the 10w is going to light
So out with the meters. 10w My bit toe. They were as near 25w as makes no difference which would be about right in comparison to a electronics item losing 15w through a small heat sink.
I also had a go at 12v ones in our motorhome. Because of the silly over estimated value of these vehicles I bought ones from a reputable dealer.
In a few weeks one went on fire and the black stain is still on the roof and before we were home another went pop.
I contacted the retailer and they said it was a voltage issue. Your charger is too high Sir. I replied the charger couldnt be working as I had no hookup. Your alternator must be over charging Sir. I replied that I dont normally drive with the interior lighting on. Have you a solar panel Sir. Yes I do. That will be the cause Sir Your regulator is faulty. I replied that I had rather a lot of experience in battery charging and i can assure you the battery voltage is well within the normal 12 to 14ish range
He then said to drop them in and they would sent them back to have them examined.
At that point I said as nice a Goodbye as was possible.
So a large UK motorhome sealer sells bulbs but it seems they are not that suitable for a motorhome??
I threw the rest in the bin went online and bought the cheapest 5w halogen I could find. 2 boxes of 10. with a little luck they’ll do me my lifetime.
Back to LEDs for houses that most folk have
LEDs will come good but I dont think they are quite there yet.
I do have 3 LED flood lights mounted on a small turbine. Handy lamp post really and they are over 1 year old. They burn from 11pm to day break every night. They draw about 50% more power than is on the label but I kinda expect that. I put meters and kwh meters on everything for a while after it arrives
All I used hear is the label/plate must be right, its been tested and approved. No one in this house believes any label or such info any longer.
Every item we have bought to date does not do what it says on the tin.
They all seem to consume more peak power and kwh than the plate suggests and they are no better after 4 weeks.
Having said that dont be put off and buy rubbish
An A grade or A***** is still way better than a B or C.
Like vehicle emissions the info may not be quite correct but its relevant.
Now I’m turning into someone who is not an expert on this one. I know nothing about LEDs. I do know about volts and amps and heat though.
But this is exactly what people feel like when they have been told a load of lies just like emissions and mpg.
I dont care about what bit heats or why it heats or that there is heat at all and most buyers of most things are the same and that s why I sympathise and take time and write a few words of sympathy now and again to some buyers sometimes referred to as naive but I now they are most likely just let down.
I dont go for the theory that everyone knows the numbers are wrong. No they dont.
Seems a bit of a lie to say that old fashioned and cfl type wasted power in heat and to advertise LEDs as wasting less energy in heat and turning more of the energy into light and then turn to toast because of overheating
What I want is a bulb that will last the 50.000 hours or at minimum half of that and it will have a good spread of light into the bargain
In wholesalers the electricians are still discussing the quality and reliability of LEDs and my thinking, is that until LEDs become normal everyday items that we take for-granted and dont need discussing I dont want them and believe you me I’m up for anything that uses less energy.
I’ll probably move to LEDs in the near future but carefully. I’ll buy a good branded one and if it heats I’ll wait a while again
Forgot. our outside unbranded floodlight ones I have remained good but obviously they get well cooled.
I know enough about electronics to know that heat is its enemy. If electronics remain cool they will last a long time. So either quality control, heat sinks or technology needs to come a little bit yet before I’ll be voting with my feet again.

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Bravo ! Bravo !
Bravo ! Bravissimo
Jolly well done
Bravo ! Bravissimo
Bravo ! Bravissimo
Bravo ! Bravissimo
Jolly well done

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It takes a fair bit of organisation to use LEDs. First off you need to keep, date and label all your receipts. Secondly, you then have to log exactly where each bulb is used, when you started it in use and how long it lasted. Finally, you have to return them when they fail prematurely. But we do have some in use 24/7 since 2001 which are still working perfectly.

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Funny peculiar you should say about the ones in continues use
I have had a CLF burn 24/7 since about 2005. I dont know the make or wattage but the more they burn the better they last
We have the remaining led burn in a hallway again 24/7 It doesnt even have a wall switch and it seems to last forever in comparison to the other 5.
The bathroom/shower cfl is the least used but obviously its switched on and off many times per day and it s the biggest pain in the rear.
I have no notion of keeping such details to get a return. Why do you think I didn’t bother trying to return them.
The motorhome ones though were silly priced in comparison to the domestic ones and thats why I phoned but as usual it started to turn into a faff.
Thats why next time I’ll dip my toes in gently before I jump
I must say though that I was off the mark quickly when cfls came out and although they were not so good to begin with they quickly got there.
LEDs seem to have taken forever to get anywhere with big promises. They’ll come good and at a price I’ll pay.
Maybe if I’d have pushed the boat out a few years ago I’d have better results but I put my money into RE and the cfls will do until this LED lot come good and come cheap.
Thanks for your reply, every bit of info help everyone

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The power of the LEDs may be a factor. The early ones were lower power and would not produce as much heat in the confined space as modern higher power LEDs. As has been discussed at length in this and other Conversations, heat can shorten the life of the electronic components used to drive the LEDs.

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Hi Wave, Thanks
Yes heat is the enemy of electronics.
I have a load of power electronics and I run everything around 50% rated amps and they last forever.
Run them at or near the rated power and heat rating and the lifetime can be a couple of years.

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Absolutely. Look at street lights and other non-domestic lighting where the LEDs are separate from the control electronics. We need to move away from LEDs that are direct replacements for bulbs.

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Even in commercial LEDs some electronics may be included near the chip. it is all about suitably rated components and proper heat sinks. CFLs these days last very well with integrated electronics – although, to me, it makes more economic and environmental sense to have a separate lamp electronic controller.

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Suitably rated components and heatsinks ensure that the circuitry operates at a sensible temperature, and providing that voltage spike suppression is provided, electronic circuitry can last for decades.

I have had great success with CFLs by keeping them cool. It’s important to avoid enclosed and semi-enclosed fixtures. Not surprisingly, using them ‘cap down’ helps keep the electronics cool.

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I have no lamp shade and all interior lights are on pendants. Not pretty but we dont see them any more per se.
Still the ones that get switched on and off endlessly are the troublesome ones. The ones that are on 24/7 or 12/7 last every but as long and longer in real time months and years. if we were to go to hours of operation the intermittent use ones would fail miserably.
I would still rather have cfl as old filament types. Boy they were bad animals

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Indeed florescent lamps with separate electronics are best but only if the user can sort them out when they fail.
It is not financially viable to call in an electrician when a lamp goes out.
That is why I see people with halogen fitting in their kitchen instead of a tube. They went to the trouble to get rid of the tube fitting because all they could do was swap the tube or starter. Anything more was beyond them.
So with cfl’s and some 2d fittings they can keep relatively cheap replacements in the cupboard and swap them out easily at any time.
Thats why I stuck with the ugly duckling the cfl because I used to be away from home and anyone could fix a light
I suppose its the same for mbc’s versus fuses. Fuses are more accurate and are perfect for the purpose but many people wouldnt have a clue and we’ll not even bother about fuse wire which was an invitation for disaster. Mcb’s do the job well enough to do, of course if the correct type was used in the first place.
So for everyday Joe or Jane today basic throw away units work better I think

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Electronics for fluorescent (if you buy a decent brand) will outlast a few lamps. No starter. Far better than throwing away a lamp with its (less good) electronics every time.

The problem with rewireable fuses is replacing them with the correct rating.

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Yes I seen copper out of 2.5 t&e shoved into old fuse carriers.
There are those for that matter who bypass RCDs instead of either looking for a leak or replacing the unit.
Terribly silly things go on.

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Despite my earlier posts regarding the unreliability of LED bulbs, especially if not kept cool, I was surprised to learn of your problems with free hanging bulbs DeeKay. There are a lot of dodgy designs out there, but not so much from respectable and well known companies. Some of the manufacturers lie about the actual power consumption (as I found out when I checked via measurement and simulation of the circuitry) but you have to be careful with the measurements. For mains operated bulbs you cannot simply put an ammeter in series and measure the AC current then multiply it by the AC voltage (240V) because most of these bulbs have circuits which operate with a power factor that is not close to 1. This means that the phase of the AC current is not in line with the AC voltage so the actual power used is much less that you would calculate from that form of measurement and just multiplying the RMS volts with the RMS amps. You need to use a good quality power meter or complicated graphical analysis based on the shape and phase of the currents waveform.

It does seem that it is the higher power LED bulbs that are the worst for reliability and I guess this is not surprising given that it is the heat that is largely responsible for shortening the life.

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Of 30 LUMILIFE 6w GU10 LED bulbs installed September 2015 I have had 11 fail within three months. Three of the units had the lens and bezel detach and fall to the floor, one via the back of my customers hand causing a small burn. LED hut, who supplied the bulbs, are sending replacements for all bulbs as they no longer sell this LUMILIFE unit. Great customer service by LED hut, terrible product by LUMILIFE.

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From the homepage of the Led Hut website: “We only sell Lumilife branded bulbs who manufacture to the highest quality”

Member

yep all my led bulbs seem to blow out before the apparent life span and i have a few different ones some are from bnq other from sainsburys and the like

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LedHut are doing very well considering their Chinese based supplier provides such poor quality bulbs, at least in the higher power ranges or where in the applications the bulbs are not optimally ventillated – see http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/led-hut-in-18m-merger-7738959
They seem to have a good returns policy but clearly that is well costed in to their large profit margins that can be accomodated with low margins on reliable bulbs or high margins on cheap, unreliable bulbs.

Member
Alison says:
9 December 2015

I bought 11 5W GU10 LED lamps to replace the CFL down lights in my kitchen. I bouth them on 31/7/15. I’d had the CFLs in for about 6 years but as they were aging they were becoming less bright and taking longer to warm up. As the CFL lights were long I thought these LEDs would be a good replacement. When they arrived I was very pleased as the light was instant and very bright. Now however (9/12/16) two of the 11 lights have blown. When the first light went a few weeks ago I contacted Fastlec and they said that Megaman were no longer making the light in the ‘non-dimmable’ version so would send me a replacement dimmable bulb when they became available in early Decemeber – still not heard anything. Now with two blown I’m feeling pretty gutted that they could blow in the next month or so and so I’ve ended up spending £60 for less than 6 months of light!!!

[This comment has been tweaked in line with our community guidelines. Thanks, Mods]

Member

Very bad experience with verbatim LEDs. They all fail after a few months.
Model52043

Member
CR1945 says:
16 December 2015

I bought four Diall GU10 6.5W LED Reflector Spot Light Bulbs from B&Q. After 18 months of evening use, for about 2 hours per evening, three of the four bulbs have failed. Initial symptoms consist of a regular pattern flashing, often three flashes, then off for a few seconds, followed by another three flashes, then off again and so on!
Then after a few evenings of this behaviour … complete failure.
An expensive purchase, and one which I regret making.

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I bought 4 “3975 Crompton – Non Dimmable LED – 3W GU10 SMD Warm White” bulbs to try out in our house as a replacement test for the usual halogen bulb ceiling spots our house (unfortunately) came with when we moved in.

So far they seem to be failing FASTER than the much cheaper halogens! Just now one ‘exploded’ above my 3-year old son while he was on the toilet, ejecting glass casing onto the floor and blowing the lighting circuit fuse for that part of the house… One other has simply died for no reason , and these were installed less than 4 months ago in rooms with not-very-heavy usage. So 50% failure rate already….

Until there is a reliable source of LED bulbs (come on WHICH!) I can’t see how people will end up using them…

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An evaluation of records kept following a purchase of LED bulbs on eBay.

Start of service life date: 12/06/15
End of evaluation date: 02/01/16
Length of evaluation period: 204 Days.

The bulbs were ordered from eBay as a batch of ten followed by two batches of twenty.

10 Bulbs @ £9.89
20 Bulbs @ £18.78
20 Bulbs @ £16.98
Total £45.65

The bulbs were delivered between 12/06/15 and 11/07/15
The first ten were put into two light fittings in the hallway which each held 5 bulbs. When more arrived a couple of weeks later 5 were put into an identical fitting on the landing.

Defective Bulbs Bulbs in Service Unused Spare Bulbs
The start state was: 0 15 35
The end evaluation state is: 23 15 12

The hall and landing are well lit by natural light during the daytime and the hall has adequate illumination from a table lamp after dark. The bulbs in question have had very low usage but I am making a generous allowance for them being used for 3 hours per day. There are no children in the house so they only get switched on and off as required.

Average bulb replacement interval 204 days / 23 bulbs: 9 Days

Average replacement interval days x 3 hours: 27 Hours, bulb service life.

Potential total service life of ALL 50 bulbs: 1350 Hours.

Projection:
With twelve spares left, on the thirteenth failure I shall need to begin replacing all the existing bulbs because they will not be visually compatible with new ones.
The projected approximate date for that would seem to be the current date plus thirteen average replacement intervals.

Today plus 117 days = 28 April 2016

Failure Modes:
Most simply reduce very significantly in brightness.
About 30% of them reduce in brightness and flicker.
One exploded and burned the light shade. Had it been a combustible fitting there would have been a serious fire risk.

Where the lights are used in circuits with 2 way switching, in one of the on/off conditions there can be a long live path in the wiring that can result in an inductive coupling that causes the bulbs to glow dimly when switched off.

I have had long and amicable communication with the suppliers and have continued monitoring this out of curiosity. I am slightly concerned that another might go with a bang though.

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In spite of having a very poor experience with the inexpensive LED bulbs I bought on eBay from the Far East, I have had a perfectly acceptable experience buying LED bulbs in the UK. The suppliers, LEDLAM give a substantial guarantee on their bulbs and in my experience honour it. I purchased 5 x 3W GU9 bulbs about a year ago that had a 5 year guarantee. Within a month or so I had a failure and phoned them. They put a replacement in the post the same day. Shortly after another one failed. They apologised and said that they’d had an unacceptable number of fails from that batch and offered me a refund or a full replacement set once they had a new delivery. They said the new delivery might be a while because they wanted to be sure that production issues had been resolved before supplying more to customers. I agreed to wait for the new shipment because they were a pleasing looking product. They came and after about 9 months of regular usage in the dining room one failed. Again it was replaced by post immediately. Shortly after, another failed. This time they said they were concerned because they’d not had any other fails reported from the new batch. They sent me two replacements for that one and an SAE so that I could return the failing unit so that it could be inspected in the labs for the cause of failure. I was able to send both failed bulbs back as I had not disposed of the old one.

It would have been nice not to have had any failures but given the dubious state of the market having a supplier who takes the pain away is certainly a plus point. I previously bought a number of lower wattage LED bulbs from them and none of them have failed. I makes me wonder if it is possibly the leading edge of the technology that is problematic as manufacturers rush to get nominally more competitive products out before they are fully developed.

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Loftanks, a 45% early failure rate suggests poor quality and/or poor design. It’s good that they replace them but for someone who is unable to change the lamps and needs to pay an installer this seems a supplier to avoid. In your case you’ve spent time in getting them replaced – I’d not be happy. Unless they are fitted in inappropriate lights – getting overheated perhaps.

Have Which? tested this product?

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I concur with Malcolm R that this performance is unacceptable even if the supplier does his best regarding replacements. In general I would say that the traditional, well known companies’ products are usually the most reliable but that, in general, the technology cannot, at present, produce reliable bulbs at high wattage, particularly if there is not free flowing air ventilation around the bulb. A rough guide to reliability with the current technology:
1. The bulb should be rated at significantly less than 7 watts so this means less than 60W equivalence to an incandescent bulb.
2. The bulbs need free airflow around them.
3. The dimmable bulbs (even if dimming is not required) are better because the electronics is more complex and better designed.
4. Well known maufacturers tend to consider their reputation as important. Retailers, even those of good repute, are not all experts and can make mistakes. Many start-up retailers/distributors have specialised in this field and not all are so concerned about these issues so much as their balance sheet in the short term and the rapid growth of their company’s value.

These are not hard and fast rules but just a guide. I am sure the technology will improve though the thermal problem remains an issue even on well made bulbs, if to a lesser degree. Traditional bulb enclosures designed for incandescent bulbs are frequently just not suitable for LED bulbs. A fact not well advertised by those selling these bulbs. They need free air flow, especially around the base of the bulb where the heat is mostly dissipated.

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As Grums says, heat is a problem for even the better made lamps. It’s why we the equivalent of the 100 watt old fashioned light bulb remains expensive and requires an efficient heatsink.

With physically larger LED lamps there are some ingenious designs that keep the LEDs separate from the control electronics, which will help prevent overheating of the latter. That’s not easy with more compact designs.

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I have noticed that the development of LED lamps continues to evolve with some more sensible shapes now available and better colour rendering.

In a pendant ceiling fitting where an incandescent lamp was the traditional light source, the bulb shape cast some light upwards onto the ceiling which gave a diffused light spread softening the direct downward light from the lamp. It was never possible to replicate this with halogen downlighters and early LED lamps were not much better as the shape of the base meant that the lamp did not have a sufficiently ‘mushroom-like’ profile. This is now being corrected. I haven’t tried any yet because I am waiting for CFL’s to die – they seem to last longer than LED’s!

I also want the economical benefits of LED’s to replace a number of halogen GU10 spotlights but am wary of committing a large sum of money if (a) they are going to blow within a few months, and (b) are going to knock out the DAB radio signal. I would normally buy Philips, Osram, GEC or Sylvania lamps but there is no reliable independent information on their endurance. I have bought some Tesco LED candle bulbs for wall lights and they have been satisfactory but they haven’t been switched on much since they replaced the incandescent lamps.

Member
AB321 says:
22 January 2016

Both rear LED indicator bulbs failed onmy BMW, after 42000 and 52000 miles – and the cost to replace? Over £400 – yes, £440!!! (BMW wanted labour costs on top but I replaced them myself). A regular incandescent bulb is approx. £3 . Despite the low usage of an indicator bulb, and the LED life being far less than a regular bulb, BMW are not willing to accept they are faulty…
Even if I’m generous, saying both sides are illuminated for 10 minutes per day, every day of the year, the units have only lasted less than 360 hours! I thought they should last several thousand hours and would likely out-live the car. Apparently not, so be prepared for the expense, and for your car being immediately unroadworthy until fixed. 😒

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Try -getbmwparts.com ,this is a common complaint in the US for BMW cars ,they wont cover it there either and its just as dear ,a set of lights for a BMW (led ) can amount to several $1000 . In many cases it was down to corrosion but BMW still wouldnt cover it . That URL supplies genuine BMW parts. There are OEM parts on the market but you pay your money and take your chance .

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AB321 I sympathise with you and if I go at a rant its not directed at you but the car industry
I was in and around it for most of my life and I’m free now to sit back and complain
I’ve watched many injustices but I eventually walked away

Aside from LEDs
Car manufacturers take advantage at ever turn
They are not interested in service parts or service………….Those things are an inconvenience they could do without
If they could make you a car that did not need the oil changed the would and I’ll tell you first hand they have spent a fortune on that very subject

However we fall for everything
BMW are a tin box as is VW, Merc,Renaults,and so on but they sell you an image

When you buy a car you are not buying a product you are buying a liability and the more parts they can have made that only fit their car the better

The more they can make you feel that you must fit genuine parts the better for them
I had a KIA
Headlights failed out of warranty,,,,,,,,,just……….56,000miles but out of warranty
Chrome/silver coating came off of the inside of the dip units
You may as well have drove on side lights
£360 each…………I got 1800 as trade in value so 360 is bonkers
Readily available in Korea and for all LHD markets if you wanted to buy them online were LHD genuine parts headlamps complete for £68 including carriage e