LED lighting early failure

2 minute read

I would be happy to add a quantitative analysis. This article just notes my experience with ongoing early failure across LED brands and fixture types.

I was an early adopter of fluorescent and then LED lighting throughout home and lab lighting fixtures. However, I made the changeover progressively, where the ROI is balanced. I saw a decade ago people dumping several thousand dollars in relamping their home with LEDs, with poor ROI because they went overboard and didn’t balance carbon vs. ROI. A startling downside I experienced across the years and fixture types, through today is high early failure rate of 120 Vac LED lighting.

Fluorescent → LED

I do not have the penultimate lighting, the low-voltage LED lighting. I have the dimmable 120 Vac LEDs, which do not dim nearly as low as incandescent, low-voltage LEDs, or smart LED luminaires. I have obtained a few inexpensive brands, as well as the leading brands like Cree and Phillips. About 15 % of these bulbs have failed within the first 4 hours of use. The rest have not failed.

Incandescent → fluorescent

In the early 2000s, first in my parent’s home and then in my own house, I put CFLs only in the most used light fixtures. I put in the well-regarded lamps from companies like Phillips that had a decent spectrum, not the bluish / garish cheap lamps. My goal was a six-month ROI, as I believed efficiencies would improve and that better dimmability via low-voltage LEDs would eventually come about.

I knew not to put CFLs in places of infrequent use or short use associated with excessive on/off cycles. I put them in places I spent a lot of hours like my dining room, workshop, garage and for exterior lighting. About 1/3 of these CFLs still work and they are being used by me today, in infrequent use applications. Only one of them smoked on failure, the others just quit working after years. I don’t recall any early failure of the few dozen CFLs I had.

The well-known CFL penalty in cold weather certainly applied for the exterior CFLs. They were not rated for below-zero Fahrenheit starts and so during the very coldest weather I would leave them on continuously (during the day too). Since there was less than 10 hours of daylight, I didn’t figure it too wasteful averaged over the month or year.

Perhaps because of my use case (long hours and 1-3 times/day on/off cycle) my CFLs lasted well beyond the warranty period. I have nearly twenty year old CFLs still working in infrequently used luminaires. I have replaced all CFLs used more a few hours/week for energy savings.

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