LED Tip 7: Understanding the Lifespan of LED

So how long does LED last? Well, that's a bit of a loaded question. Theoretically, a long time. But wait, there's more to this than just the life of the LEDs.

1. The Life of LED

LED, and specifically the diodes, are rated in terms of L70, or L50. But generally speaking, L70 is the standard that most manufacturers test for and display. What does it mean? It is the number of hours it takes for the LED diode to degrade to 70% of its initial lumens. Is a LED dead at L70? Absolutely not. What are common hours for L70? 50,000 to 100,000 hours.

What affects this life? A lot - how hard the manufacturer decides to drive the LED. Full Power? Half Power? Generally speaking, a diode will last longer if you don't drive it at full capacity. Akin to this is heat. The harder you drive it, the more heat is generated, and heat is generally the 'killer' of all thing electronics.

So why don't all manufacturers step things back to 50% output? Because it would require more LEDs to make up for the reduced output per diode, and this adds cost. So do you build a LED fixture to last, or sell at a cheap price? That is the trade off. (if you were ever wondering why some LED fixtures are cheaper than others, this is part of the story).

So 'cheaper' solutions use less LEDs, but have a shorter life, as they are driven harder to produce lumens out of fewer LEDs.

2. The Life of Drivers

What is a driver? A driver accepts native AC power and converts it to DC power, at the proper voltage, to power the LED diode. It also has a life. And most name brand drivers, such as Meanwell or Philips, claim their drivers will last for 50,000 hours.

So what does this mean? If you have a LED product with an L70 of 100,000 hours but a driver with a lifespan of 50,000 hours, there is a good chance you will be replacing drivers over the life span of the LED product.

But here is where marketing trickery comes in. Some will claim an L70 of 200,000 hours, but never talk about the lifespan of their driver. Even worse, their drivers are hard to replace, therefore, at 50,000 hours, you may have a dead LED product with a failed driver and good LEDs.

3. Putting it all together - What should you believe?

These numbers conflict, and so you always have to take into account the life of the weakest link. However, replacing drivers is relatively simple, as long as you can easily get at them. But there is no reason to believe you can't get 10 years plus of life out of a LED product and even longer if you are prepared to change the driver.

MyLEDLightingGuide is a provider of retrofit solutions and new fixtures, like UFO HighBays, Flood Lights, Area Lights and High Mast Lights.

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