In the early stages of LED hitting the lighting market, a common phrase came with the purchase of an LED bulb that colored the perception of buyers. “Lasts a lifetime”. This misnomer was created years ago by early manufacturers to entice shoppers to convert to LED, back when the cost of even a standard A19 LED bulb was astronomical. Were they really going to last a lifetime?
Even some current residential grade bulbs will specify that they are rated for 35+ years of usage. A closer look at the fine print shows that is based on 1-3 hours a day use. A commercial grade LED bulb rated for 50,000 hours with a 5 year manufacturer warranty operates under the expectation that the lamp is on constantly. First you must know your application and the quality of lamp that is needed to function.
So you bought an LED bulb with a 3-5 year warranty and it burns out prematurely. What gives? Most rush to blame the bulb itself, which in many cases turns out to be correct. But to ensure you are finding the true solution, it’s important to widen your scope and consider other variables within your application.
What are some possibilities for early burn out of an LED? Even with commercial grade LED bulbs, you will find some duds. Poor design with sub-optimal parts (particularly heat sink) can result in an LED bulb burning out. Despite it being pretty clear on the box when buying a bulb, end users often put LED lamps that are not rated for enclosed fixtures in an enclosed fixture. Nothing causes the premature failure of an LED bulb quite like excess heat. Even with an enclosed-rated LED bulb, pay close mind to the size of the fixture.
Other issues can arise within a fixture that have nothing to do with the LED bulb itself. The wiring could be shot and causing connectivity issues. Cheaper, residential-grade fixtures wear down over time. Sockets in particular can become an issue if the LED bulb cannot connect properly. This results in irregular build-up of heat, and then the driver burns out and the lamp is not functional.
Then there is dimming. With the prohibitive cost of dimming systems, many LED bulbs are now running on existing incandescent dimmers. In many instances they will work just as they normally do. Any flickering you might see will alert you to the fact that your dimmer is not compatible with LED bulbs. An LED bulb that does not function properly with incandescent leading-edge dimmers is likely causing a damaging current ripple to the LED power supply. Also make sure you are using the proper lamp for the voltage. 120V is most common (especially if dimming capability is present) but there are fixtures and LED lamps designed for 277V only.
As we often say, lighting is complicated and no longer as simple as screwing in a bulb. Take the time to analyze your application and the lamp you wish to use. If you still have questions, fill out our LED lighting questionnaire with information about your particular situation.