I know regular light bulbs burn out, and so do CFLs. but do LED lights burn out too? And do they provide the same level of light throughout their life, or fade like incandescent lights do?
Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes
LED lights do burn out, but at least in theory they should last far longer than incandescent or fluorescent lights. All lights are rated in terms of the average hours they can be left on before the bulb burns out. While the cheapest incandescent bulbs are rated around 500 hours, and better ones around 800-1,000 hours (and in many locations, standard incandescent light bulbs are not even available for sale any more), fluorescent lights are typically rated at 8,000 hours, or ten times longer than incandescent bulbs.
LED house lights meanwhile are supposed to last up to 100,000 hours, although the claims on product packaging are typically much lower, in the 25,000 to 50,000 range. I’m not sure if that is because manufacturers are hedging their bets, or if it’s that there are occasional quality problems that bring a percentage of bulbs down into this lower range, but still, even assuming a typical life of 25,000 hours, your LED lights would last you about 34 years if you use them an average of 2 hours a day. Even if you leave them on 24 hours a day, they should in theory last you almost three years!
One other consideration when considering how fast LED lights burn out is that an LED light bulb is made up of a number of individual Light Emitting Diodes. An individual LED may well last 100,000 hours, but it only takes one of those diodes failing before the bulb can be considered to no longer be working properly.
Compact fluorescent lights are typically rated at 8,000 hours but I have seen CFLs burn out much faster than that. One factor that leads to faster burnout of CFLs is their use in ceiling fixtures. CFLs are not ideally suited to ceiling fixtures, and tend to burn out faster there, for two reasons. First, they are meant to be positioned vertically, with the screw-on base either directly below or above the spiral coils of the bulb. In most ceiling fixtures they are positioned horizontally. Second,their life is shortened by heat, and an enclosed ceiling fixture will allow the heat to build up faster. The other thing contributing to CFL burnout is, as off-brands (meaning ones you’ve never heard of) proliferate, the quality of these off-brands is lower and therefore they burn out more quickly.
For LED bulbs, I’ve seen the reverse – early LED light bulbs tended to be made by companies you’d never heard of, they were clunky and dim and burnt out relatively quickly. But now major players like GE, Sylvana, and Phillips are making LED light bulbs, they’ve standardized on appearance, the quality of the light is very good, and durability is excellent. I’ve used LED pot lights (to replcae halogen lights) in my living room, dining room, kitchen and rec room for at least ten years, and some of those bulbs are still the originals.
I encourage you to always keep the receipts for any lights you buy – whether fluorescent, LED, or incandescent. If your incandescent or CFL or LED lights burn out well before their expected lifetime, you should take them back and demand a refund. (Or contact the manufacturer for instructions on how to get a refund.) The quality of any given bulb technology will only improve if people fight back against cheap but poor quality products.
LED lights do burn out, but as I explain in my main LED house lights article, they typically start to fade long before that. In fact LED lights can dip down to less than 80% of their original brightness within 20,000 hours; the drop-off rate may be part of the reason manufacturers are toning down their claims of bulb life. I would submit that in almost every application, LED lights will fade to the point that they are no longer suited to their lighting task, and will be replaced for that reason before the burn out.
One bright point here is that LED lights are much less prone to wear and tear from frequent switching on and off, than are fluorescent lights, so if you do turn off lights whenever you leave a room (even if you might return very soon after), you’ll save energy while not damaging the lights.