Why LEDs Burn Out Too Fast

Why LEDs Burn Out Too Fast

Did you know that normal LED bulbs can burn out quickly – more quickly than incandescents – when connected to dimmer switches or old wiring? I sure didn’t, until all the expensive LEDs in my living room sputtered out!

“Now why the hell are they blinking?”

If you want your LEDs to dim, you need dimmable bulbs and LED-friendly dimmer switches. Finance site Money says that even dimmable LEDs might not work in old dimmer switches. Lighting site Lux says LED-ready dimmer switches might not work with regular LEDs. (Even CFLs can burn out fast if you connect them to dimmer switches, or if you turn them on and off too frequently.)

To switch your ceiling and wall fixtures to LEDs, you might need to replace the wiring by hiring an electrician which obviously isn’t going to be cheap. Depending on how much you use your LED bulbs, you only save around $4 a year per bulb. At that rate, it would take you a lifetime to recover your costs. So don’t do it for the money alone.

There are plenty of other reasons to use LEDs, like cool lighting effects, remote-controlled smart bulbs, or so you don’t have to change bulbs so often. Just keep in mind that even in the right wiring, LEDs don’t necessarily last as long as they claim on the package. Kitchen designer Dave Alderman tells Money that bulbs can come with bad built-in electronic drivers, which could lower a bulb’s lifespan from 40 years to five.

So you can replace your standing lamps and table lamps with new LED-friendly ones. But if the new bulbs keep burning out in your ceiling fixture, you might want to consider going back to incandescents. While these have been phased out in Australia, their private use is not illegal. You can still buy high-efficiency incandescent bulbs that meet Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) in some hardware shops and all kinds are readily available from overseas sellers.

Newer efficient incandescents can last up to three times as long and use 75% as much electricity as old ones. That’s only a third of the savings you get with LEDs, but you can get it without changing your wiring. And you won’t have to make a humiliating climb up a ladder to replace five dead LEDs.


  • But if the new bulbs keep burning out in your ceiling fixture, you might want to consider going back to incandescents

    Surely it would be better to go back to fluorescent tubes before turning to incandescent bulbs?

    • Even though the main image of this article is a downlight LED, I think we are talking about general lights here – not tubes. Compact fluro lights (the twirly fluros) aren’t really dimmable.

  • Why LEDs Burn Out Too Fast

    Don’t put that in the actual article or anything. That would be silly. Let’s just link offsite and then tell a story about how your bulbs died without explaining why. Despite the headline.

    For anyone who actually came for an answer without following links, basically AC dimmer switches function by lighting intermittently or cutting power intermittently, depending on your perspective. This works just fine for AC-powered bulbs, but LEDs do not like being powered on and off a few dozen times a second.

    • LED’s don’t mind being turned on and off though. In most power efficient products that use LED’s they save power by high frequency switching of the LED’s at a rate you can’t see them turn on and off. So they appear on all the time.
      How do you think remote controls of fibre optics work? By switching and led on and off really fast to send data.

      The power supply circuit in the bulb is what doesn’t like it. I’ve seen both switchmode and linear supplies in bulbs and the switch mode supplies will not last with older triac based dimmers.

      • This works just fine for AC-powered bulbs, but [LED Bulbs] do not like being powered on and off a few dozen times a second.

        Context didn’t carry over in that sentence as neatly as I’d like.

        • LED’s love being turned on and off.
          The problem is most dimmers are triac based, which work by just chopping the A.C. wave form off but as LED’s are either on or off (with respect to voltage) triac based dimmers can lead to strange anomalies in dimming (bulb will get dinner than brighter) of if the dimmer is switching near the diodes breakdown voltage it cam create 100hz flickering. These do shorten the life of an LED.
          Dimmers designed for LED’s use PWM (Pulse width modulation) it is a frequency switching but unlike triac which gives a varying current output as it just chops up the AC waveform a PWM out puts DC current but varies the duration of on and off periods, turning the bulb on and off to create a lower average light.

          Example PWM output.

          Example triac output
          https://www.digikey.com.au/en/articles/techzone/2011/jul/~/media/Images/Article Library/TechZone Articles/2011/July/Dimming LEDs with Traditional TRIAC Dimmers/article-2011july-dimming-leds-fig2.jpg

          The problem is compounded further by the fact LED globes have internal power supplies and rectification. Which especially triac based dimmers can damage over time, generally a LED fails by dimming over time and abrupt stoppage of function is extremely rare and in a globe would be a power supply failure or a manufacturing defect.

          In the end an LED bulb can be dimmed by PWM (turning on and off really fast) with out failure as long as it is a PWM dimmer. 99% of houses that have dimmers will not be PWM, as for light dimming it is a fairly new usage and the cost is exponentially higher than triac based dimmers. Some companies such as Phillips do make power supplies for LED bulbs that are triac suitable but these are still rare on the market.

  • bulbs can come with bad built-in electronic drivers, which could lower a bulb’s lifespan from 40 years to five.

    its not a mistake that they come with these crappy drivers… its a design “feature”.
    these bulbs are sold by companies that like to make money, so selling products you don’t have to replace for 40 years isn’t in their best interest.
    why sell you 1 bulb, when they can sell you 8 … its planned obsolescence simple as that

  • I switched my light bulbs and TV to LED variants and save around $100 a month in electricity costs. To repay the bulbs, the tv and the electrician to rewire four downlights will take me 8 months. This does not include the savings in CO2 emissions that my use will not be contributing to.

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