I thought the idea of LED is, that the light bulb has a very long life and uses very little electricity.

I have not invested in full LED lighting but tried the LED bulbs, you screw in your normal sockets and I have to replace them pretty frequently.

They also tend to lose a lot of their performance over time.

Specifically, I have had something like that in my house:

enter image description here

But I have also tried a lot of other bulbs, some of which were LED. I always have the same problems with all new school bulbs:

  • When you switch the light on, it takes time to reach its full brightness (this problem seems to occur less in recent times)
  • The light gradually loses its brightness, which is maddening and forces you to replace the bulb, before its broken. The maddening part is, that it is never the same level of brightness, you are either on a continuous progress to less bright, or make a big jump in brightness when you replace the bulb.
  • They cost a ton of money. I could live with that if they'd perform better.
  • They never seem to achieve the warm light of a 100W old school bulb, even if you buy the expensive stuff.

So, what am I doing wrong here? Do I have wrong expectations or am I buying the wrong equipment?

  • 1
    Welcome to Sustainable Living! I have completely different experiences with LED. All LED bulbs we bought are still working fine; light is at full brightness instantaneous and no noticeable performance loss over time (oldest bulb is about 9 years old now). One cheap dimmable LED we bought does give blueish, cold light, but the brand bulbs give warm light.
    – THelper
    Dec 9, 2018 at 7:29
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    Can you back up the anecdotes in the question with any data? Do you have evidence supporting a particular claim of the useful lifespan of some line of LED products (or LED products in general)? There's really no answer to the question as written now - your anecdotes are your anecdotes and the conditions you describe are relative and unquantified. Dec 9, 2018 at 12:18
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    Are you purchasing mostly dimmable LED's? These can be hit or miss. I purchased some yesterday that take a moment to start up. Others I've had make terrible buzzing sounds.
    – LShaver
    Dec 9, 2018 at 15:36
  • I am not sure about that, I have tried out the ones with the orange sticks inside and some with milky glass. No idea if they are dimmable as I don't have dimmable light switches. Is there a model, which is a sure bet? I don't mind spending money on more expensive products. Dec 9, 2018 at 20:10

5 Answers 5


Consumer tests have shown that there are good and bad LED lights; indeed some of them do not reach their advertized life span.
I also have some bad experiences with LEDs dying long before their advertised end-of life, but that's anecdotes, not evidence.

You can imagine that actually testing these is hard, it takes a long time!
A major Dutch consumer organization has been testing LEDs since at least 2013 and they report:

Our latest extra long life test shows that 75% of the LED lamps from a sample reach 20,000 burning hours. At the end of 2014, we reported that 80% of the lamps from that sample achieved 15,000 burning hours.

So, 20% die before 15000 hours, 25% before 20000 hours.

A detailed 2015 breakdown of brands and models is here.
I would add: buy from regular well-known brands and avoid cheap non-name products.

As for diminishing intensity they state:

Our test shows that there is often some deterioration of the amount of light, but usually it remains limited. If a lamp emits 80% of the initial quantity after 15,000 hours, we consider it as: still working well.

Some tips they give:

Preferably do not use a LED lamp in a closed luminaire. It won't be able to get rid of its warmth and will soon be broken.

So this may be something specifically to watch out for. Also:

Because there can be a lower quality lights in a batch (for any brand), our advice remains: keep the proof of purchase and the box of LED lights.

Whether that last thing helps you depends on the consumer laws in your country.

Note also that irregular voltages and spikes can have an impact:

... these high-tech lights have very sensitive electronics in them that can be damaged permanently by a spike in electricity.

Finally, LED lights often do not only show a guaranteed number of hours on the packaging, but also a number of on/off switches. Excessive (automatic?) switching may reduce their life time.

  • 1
    15000 hours are about 2 years. I am pretty sure I had to replace more often than that. However I do use "closed luminaire", so maybe this is the problem! Didn't figure heat would be a problem with lights. Dec 10, 2018 at 13:37
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    I also recommend keeping the proof of purchase and not hesitating to go back to the shop to ask for a replacement, even if the product doesn't include a warranty or your country doesn't have a law that gives consumers more rights: I have been able to get a few replacement for LED bulbs that have not lasted more than a few months. They are expensive, and brands / resellers should be told that it's not acceptable to sell poor quality products, especially when they are touted as more "environmentally friendly".
    – stragu
    Dec 12, 2018 at 4:56

We've been using CFL bulbs for more than 15 years & LEDs for about 5, and have so far had great results with most. The few we've had difficulty with early demise were either:

  • cheapies

  • in challenging conditions (ie enclosed fixtures, dimming without changing to appropriate for LED dimmer switches), or

  • bought from retailers where items are more likely to get banged around (ie grocery or big box stores) & thus damaged in hard-to-detect ways that may decrease lifespan.

So, I second the first Answer about reliable manufacturers/brands & choosing better fixtures and hardware. But, I further suggest that where you buy the bulbs can be an important factor, too. And, that learning a bit more about light bulbs & lighting can help you get a better fit & longer life.

We've gotten much better reliability by finding a specialty retailer because they do a great job helping you pick the right bulb AND in packing & shipping. We currently buy from Bulbs.com but there are others as well.

You mention the lack of "warmth" in your bulbs, which is a factor of light temp/color. Initially, we weren't always satisfied with light quality/color but since switching to a purchase source with lots of educational materials we've been able to get exactly the effects we want for each light. This may take some research and some trial & error but since you're not getting the result you want now a bit of investment is worth it, IMHO.


I haven't had this problem either. I've never even heard of it. Of the lighting that I use regularly, almost all of it is CFL or (lately) LED. I have almost no incandescent bulbs left. I prefer the incandescent light in terms of colour, but not worth it to me for their greater power consumption.

For warm light, find lights with lower Kelvin (K) numbers. 3000 K is pretty cold, white, blue light; 5000 K is very cold lighting, 2700 is warmer light (although I'd take these measurements with a bag of salt between manufactures, but they're better than nothing).

My bigger issue is flicker of the LED bulbs. I'd definitely avoid no-name brand bulbs. I also write the date of installation on the bulb with a sharpie marker (obviously not on the part that's lit, or the part that conducts electricity). Use the warranties, that's why they're there.

Addendum: The style of your pictured light is typically referred to as an "Edison light", in reference to its old-style characteristics (i.e. looks like an ancient incandescent light - apparently Edison originally used bamboo for filaments, according to the Edison museum down in Florida). Perhaps these style of lights don't last as long, or have more issues? I have similar Edison style "chandelier" lights in my bathroom (so higher than average moister) and outside (cold, winter weather). They've been there for around 18 months without issues. Both sets of bulbs are NOMA brand, but they're really just a re-packager. I like the Edison lights for their much warmer light and atmosphere, but they don't get bright enough (yet) for task or reading lighting for me.


It's usually not the diode.

It's poor components around the diode.

LEDs require a peculiar power supply, that provides constant current at slightly varying voltages.

These power supplies may use capacitors, such as electrolytic capacitors. They are short-lived if the LED produces lots of heat which the light fixture may not be efficient in distributing.

Note that in incandescent light bulbs, the waste heat is radiated away as infrared.

In LEDs, it is conducted away -- to the power supply capacitors!

Even buying LEDs from reputable brands may not work. I have used many Osrams which have had an extremely short lifetime.

I find it annoying that manufacturers put such weak components around the diode.

  • I don't think I have unstable power, but maybe it really was the enclosed fixture. However, there are many LED lights sold, with a fixture, that looks like a circle. Isn't that basically enclosed? Or do these have some way of disipating the heat? Apr 25, 2019 at 20:19
  • They often have air vents around the top. Apr 25, 2019 at 22:55

Some things to consider.

  • In the eternal trade off between cost and benefit, lower cost LEDs tend to be overdriven to get as many lumens out of the LEDs as possible. In my experience, it is better to go for established makes as they tend to consider reputation too.
  • If you want real longevity explore architectural lighting. Expect to pay much more for the reliability though.
  • The lifespan quoted for most LEDs is generally nonsense. Turning on and off stresses the LED and shortens life. Typically the hours quoted are continual run times. In addition at the end of those quoted hours it will be barely lit (so technically 'working' rather than a usable light. Serious manufacturers of LED lighting now quote far less time and it's much closer to 'usable' time.
  • It seems like reduction to 70% output is the standard definition of "lifetime" in the industry, according to this wikipedia article. I'm not sure about how power cycling is factored in the testing though.
    – LShaver
    Jul 2, 2021 at 14:00

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