Why do LED's Fail?
What to Do When LED Lamps & Drivers Fail
Although for the most part LED lamps have proven themselves to be extremely resilient and long-lasting – both in terms of their light life and structure – that doesn't mean that an LED lamp will never fail.
If something happened during the manufacturing process to make the lamp faulty or not as strong, you could end up with an LED lamp that goes out well before its time. And there are other factors that can lead to LED lighting failing.
At ShineRetrofits.com, we want to make sure that you are fully educated about all aspects of our lighting products to ensure you can make the best decision about what lighting application is best for your project, and also to be prepared in case you run into an issue.
Here is a look at some of the reasons why an LED lamp or an LED driver may fail.
Why an LED Lamp May Fail
For the most part, when an LED lamp is nearing the end of its life, it will not just automatically go out -- generally the amount of light it emits will gradually lessen and it will not be as efficient as it once was. However, that's not to say LED lamps never fully go out -- it can happen, it's just not very frequent.
One reason why an LED lamp might expire before it's rated lifespan could have to do with the temperature of the environment it is in. If the temperature around it gets too hot and it does not have a proper heat sink, that can cause the LEDs in the lamp to overheat and then it will fail. That can happen, for instance, if you use an LED lamp that is not supposed to be used in an enclosed fixture, like a recessed can or downlight.
And although LEDs are generally rated to work at rather low temperatures, going lower than what is recommended can also have a bad impact on LEDs. It's always important to read the specs or contact the manufacturer to make sure whether or not an LED lamp can be used in an enclosed fixture, and what the minimum and maximum operating temperatures are to make sure it's the right fit for your project.
Another reason why an LED lamp might fail is due to something called efficiency droop. Basically every time the LED lamp is fired up and the electrical current that runs through the LEDs increases, the luminous efficacy of the LEDs drops up to 20%. So the higher amount of electricity you run your LED lamp on, the more of an impact it will have on the efficiency droop. To help combat this, an industry standard of operating at 350mA has been established. However, if your fixture needs to operate above that standard, you may find your LED lamp may not last as long.
Any issues within the structure of the LED lamp -- either the LEDs themselves, how they are connected, or the lamp -- can also be a reason why an LED lamp may fail. For example, if the LEDs themselves are not made of the highest caliber, you can already be setting yourself up to a problem. That is why in this case, many times you pay for what you get for -- more expensive LED lamps will generally include higher grade LEDs that offer a better light quality and efficacy.
Generally speaking, the better materials that are used in your LED lamp, the less likely you will run into any issues with the process needed for the LEDs to illuminate. For example, structural issues with an LED could cause the electrical flow to run both ways through the LED, rather than just the one way needed for the p-n junction between the semiconductor materials.
As for the lamp itself, normally an epoxy is used in the construction of the LED lamp. Sometimes this epoxy can begin to turn a yellow color when heated, which can then actually absorb some of the light being produced, lowering the lamp's efficiency. Additionally, the epoxy could also absorb moisture from the surrounding environment and transfer that to the LEDs, causing additional issues.
Why an LED Driver May Fail
Another reason why an LED lamp might have issues may have nothing to do with the lamp itself – it may be the LED driver is at fault. After all, an LED driver is an electronic device, and as we all know electronic devices are not flawless and do not last forever.
As we mentioned in a previous article, the LED driver is what manages the amount of power that is flowed through an LED lamp or LED lighting system. They are necessary because LEDs run on DC power at a low voltage, so something needs to be used to convert AC to DC and protect them from power surges.
So in this case, a bad LED driver could result in more power running through the LEDs, ultimately causing it to become overheated, which could hurt is lifespan or even just completely fry it. Or on the flip-side, if not enough power is getting to the LEDs, your light output and quality will suffer.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the LED driver may not be rated to last the same amount of time as the LED lamp. You would think manufacturers would try to make them last for a similar amount of time, but that's not necessarily the case. And although many manufacturers are trying to make that happen, right now chances are very good you may end up with a 100,000-hour rated LED lamp running on an LED driver that is expected to last much less than that. So it's important to note and ask the manufacturer for information on the lifespan of the LED driver so you have an idea on when that might need to be changed out down the line.
Some reasons why an LED driver might fail include:
When the LED driver is doing its job, the power that it is keeping from running through an LED lighting system end up becoming heat. That heat build-up can eventually take its tole on the driver's components, and over time can take a tole on the driver's reliability and how well it functions.
Just like with the LED lamp itself, LED drivers are also rated to work the best within a certain environmental temperature. The more you go outside of that realm, the more it will not work as efficiently. In fact, a good rule of thumb is for every 10C you go over or under its maximum or minimum operating temperature, you're reducing its efficiency by two. So it's always important to make sure you know the proper operating temperature for the LED driver you choose, and keep it protected from the sun and other heat sources.
Additionally, not all LED drivers are damp listed. If you will be using the LED driver in an application that requires it to be exposed to the elements, make sure it can take any type of moisture or you may find yourself with a driver that no longer works.
If you select an LED driver that is not made from the highest possible parts, you may find yourself with some issues. Make sure to purchase your LED driver from a manufacturer that uses only quality parts, and does rigorous testing on the LED driver to make sure it an hold up to the increase temperature and other stresses it may encounter.