What Is The Typical Lifespan Of An LED?

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Products, Technical
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When we get asked this question “How long do your LED products last?, I bought a pair of LEDs and they burnt out after 6 months.” we will ask a series of questions to help a customer understand how or why their LEDs burnt out. The number one cause of LED failure is heat. LEDs have a heat threshold that they need to stay below to maintain a long lifespan. There are many different types of LEDs, all of which have different heat thresholds. What causes LEDs to overheat and fail? A few things cause LEDs to overheat. We have found that if you install an LED bulb inside your headlight housing and it is placed relatively close to the headlamp bulb it will fail much faster than if the LED was installed in its own separate housing. The heat generated by the headlamp will heat up the circuit board and the LED to temperatures much higher than the LED was meant to operate at, this will cause the LED to fail. Other problems we have found is the LEDs can overheat themselves if they are installed in a small housing. Example; being installed into a  license plate light, most cars use a 194 style bulb to light up the license plate. If you install a High Power 194 LED for this application you will most likely have a product failure. If you install a standard LED it should last a long time. The small light housing does not allow for quick heat dissipation. The High Power LEDs generate a lot of heat, so they need some space to dissipate the heat so they do not fail.

Another source of LED failure is from overdriving the LEDs. Like most things in life, less is more or more is less. Example, turning up the level of boost on a turbocharged engine. This will gain more power from the engine, at the same time you will get less reliability out of the engine. Turning up the boost drastically increases stress on internal components of the engine. Over time the engine will fatigue and fail. The same principle applies to LEDs. A small increase in the amount of power delivered to the LEDs will increase the amount of light they produce. This is like turning up the boost on the turbocharged engine; you get higher levels of performance, but sacrifice on the lifespan of the LED. We see a lot of LED failures when cars have voltage spikes that increase the amount of voltage that powers the LEDs. This is why we do not simply “turn up the power” on our LEDs to make brighter products. When V-LEDS creates a brighter LED bulb we design it around a brighter LED. We then use power supplies capable of driving these LEDs to their full potential. That being said, we are still pushing these LEDs to their maximum power levels so they are extremely bright. This is necessary for brake lights or turn signal lights for safety. This also creates more heat that needs to be removed from the diodes. Upon inspection of our High Power Series of LEDs you will see that we have engineered proper heat management into our products. So instead of just turning up the power, we turn on the innovation. Every aspect of the LED bulb is considered to ensure the longest lifespan possible. However if you install a High Power LED next to a high source of heat like a headlamp or if installed into a small light housing there is a higher chance of premature failure. Other factors play into the lifespan of the LED as well. We have seen everything from moisture to abuse that will burn the LEDs out prematurely. The power supply that controls the power to the LEDs is susceptible to failure as well. The LEDs may be just fine, its just the power supply has failed.

For a more in depth, technical understanding of the causes of LED failures you can read this bullet list on Wikipedia.

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