Why do LED bulbs burn out?

LED light bulbs are a highly efficient, energy saving alternative to incandescent light bulbs. Their technology is completely different, and as a result they last far longer than older types of light bulb. All light bulbs eventually break due to prolonged heat exposure, and LEDs are no different in this respect. However, the exact way in which they fail is different – and so is the length of time they last for.

What is the difference between LEDs and traditional light bulbs?

The incandescents that LED bulbs are generally replacing these days give off 90% of their energy as heat, rather than light. These bulbs work because of a filament that heats up enough to glow, giving off light. These filaments are very delicate and eventually break or burn out. Even being turned on and off damages normal bulbs, but not LEDs. LED bulbs have no filament and work in a completely different way, meaning they don’t reach such high temperatures.

Why do LEDs eventually burn out?

Instead of burning out suddenly like traditional bulbs, LEDs get gradually dimmer, as the individual light emitting diodes that make up the bulb fail one by one. LEDs are far more efficient than older types of light bulb. However, they are still not 100% efficient in turning electrons into light; some of the power still comes out as heat. This waste heat collects in the neck of the bulb above the socket. Because this is such a small space, the heat builds to a pretty high temperature and raises the temperature of the air trapped inside the bulb. The electronic components (such as chips and capacitors) inside LED bulbs can struggle under these temperatures. Depending on the amount of ventilation around the bulb, this can eventually cause them to fail.

So LEDs won’t suddenly break and stop emitting light – they will eventually just not be bright enough to be useful any more. You can choose to replace them once they have dipped to a level that is no longer enough for your needs.

Are LEDs worth the extra money?

LEDs are more expensive than traditional bulbs, and they won’t last forever – but they will last 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen, and 8-10 times longer than a typical CFL! Some will work for more than 10 years. It’s worth buying good quality ones too – buying super cheap LEDs is a false economy. You should notice a real drop in your energy bills when you switch to LEDs, and you’ll know that you’re reducing your carbon footprint at the same time! You will soon have no choice but to swap to LEDs, as UK shops are now banned from selling other types of bulb once current stocks run out. This is no bad thing; contrary to rumours, there are no real downsides to LEDs, and you can now get them in pretty much any shape or size you would like!