As the lamp of the future, the LED has meanwhile outstripped many light sources – and for good reasons: It is energy-efficient, has a high degree of efficiency, saves electricity costs, and has a particularly long service life. But how long does an LED lamp actually last? On what factors does the concrete service life actually depend? We answer these and other questions in the following article.

Excursus: General information about the structure of an LED

The actual light source in the LED lamp is the LED itself. The abbreviation stands for “light-emitting diode” – in German “light-emitting diode” or “light-emitting diode”. This powerful semiconductor light source can be equipped with a service life of around 50,000 operating hours thanks to modern manufacturing processes and manufacturing materials.

In addition to the diode, LEDs also have an electronic circuit – consisting of a transformer, capacitors, rectifiers, and the like – which is often referred to as a “driver”. This driver has the task of converting the alternating current from the socket into a direct current with a constant operating current.

If an LED stops working, this is often due to a defect in the driver. For this reason, with good LEDs, this component is made of durable components that effectively prevent premature failure of the lamp.

LED Lifespan – The durability compared to other bulbs

While conventional light sources such as light bulbs, halogen, or energy-saving lamps burn out or fail from one moment to the next and have to be replaced, this usually does not happen with LEDs. Only the brightness of the emitted light decreases over time.

However, regardless of their extremely low risk of failure, LED lamps also offer decisive advantages in terms of burning life and service life. In the table below you will find a comparison of the four most common forms of light sources today.

bulbsService life (in operating hours)Total burning time (at 4 hours of operation per day)
LED50.000 about 34 years
energy saving lamp10.000 about 6 years
halogen lamp4.000 about 3 years
lightbulb1.000 approx. 250 Roofs

What is the actual service life of LEDs?

As already mentioned, a light-emitting diode with a specified service life of 50,000 operating hours is theoretically extremely durable. However, the actual durability of the lamps depends on other factors. In addition to the possible operating hours, these are the ambient temperature and the switching cycles of the LEDs.

The number of operating hours

Instead of operating hours, lighting hours are often used when talking about the potentially possible burning time. Both specifications inform the consumer equally about how long a lamp remains functional when it is switched on. Most LEDs are rated for around 10,000 to 50,000 hours of use. The specific hours must be clearly visible on the product packaging.

The ambient temperature

Compared to other light sources, LEDs have a particularly high level of efficiency. This means that the energy supplied is almost completely converted into light and not into waste heat. However, there is of course also a certain power loss here.

If an LED is installed in an environment in which constantly high temperatures prevail, this accelerates the “aging process” or wear and tear. Because both the diode and the electronics built into the driver suffer from excessive heat. In principle, LEDs are designed to operate at room temperature, i.e. around 20 °C to 25 °C.

The switching cycles

The number of switching cycles of a lamp indicates how often it is switched on and off. With the lighting in the living room, kitchen or bathroom, there are usually only a few switching cycles every day. In outdoor areas, driveways or stairwells, on the other hand, there can be significantly more cycles – especially if a motion detector is installed.

As in the case of the operating or lighting hours, the information on the number of switching cycles can be found on the product packaging. LEDs typically have a lifespan of between 20,000 and 100,000 cycles. In order to ultimately be able to determine the actual service life of an LED, all three factors mentioned must be taken into account.

The most common causes of defective LED lamps

With high-quality LED lamps, you are buying products that, thanks to their outstanding service life, will provide atmospheric lighting in your home for a long time. If the specified number of lighting hours is exceeded, the diode usually gradually darkens a little.

However, it rarely happens that the lights give up their functionality before their time. Such premature failures are usually due to two factors:

  • too high an ambient temperature
  • too many/unnecessary switching cycles

So if you pay attention to a few points during installation, you save material and money.

Avoid high ambient temperatures

LEDs are generally designed and manufactured in such a way that they have sufficient cooling surfaces all around. In addition, considering their extremely low heat generation, it becomes clear that installation in most locations is possible without any problems and without affecting the service life of the luminaire.

However, if the LED is installed in small corners or narrow lamp glasses, the waste heat has little opportunity to escape. In such cases, heat can build up, which can shorten the life of the lamp.

Optimize switching cycles

Another reason for the reduced service life of LEDs is an unnecessarily high number of switching cycles. This often happens in combination with a poorly adjusted motion detector. If this reacts too sensitively and with a short lighting duration, the lamp is switched on and off unreasonably often. The actual operating hours are only a few, but there are many cycles within a short time.

An initially generous specification of 20,000 possible switching cycles, for example, would be exceeded after just under three years if the setting were incorrect and 20 one-minute switching cycles per night.

In such cases, it definitely makes sense to regulate the sensitivity of the motion detector downwards and set a longer lighting duration of several minutes. If the LED is switched on and off only 7 times instead of 20 times per night, this results in a service life that is three times longer – in our example nine years instead of just three.

How to properly dispose of defective LEDs

However, since the service life of permanent light-emitting diodes also comes to an end at some point, they must then be disposed of accordingly. Due to the electronic components in the driver, an LED is electronic waste and cannot simply be thrown in the household waste. You can often find free disposal options for structurally smaller electronic waste in specialist shops, drugstores, or hardware stores. Further information on the proper disposal of LEDs can be found here.

The summary of the service life: long, longer, LED

The service life of modern LEDs easily exceeds that of conventional light sources such as halogen or energy-saving lamps many times over. With a possible 50,000 operating hours, 100,000 switching cycles, and their particularly low heat generation, they offer everything that is needed to ensure resilient, long-lasting lighting concepts. On top of that, modern bulbs are easy on the wallet and the environment, as they only use very little electricity and are extremely energy-efficient. Anyone who buys high-quality LEDs equips their home sustainably and will enjoy atmospheric lighting for many years to come.