An In-Depth Guide on How to Deal With Common Problems of LED Lights
It is a fact:
LEDs have the longest lifespans than any other lighting technology in existence.
A standard fixture – if properly used – can last for up to 50,000 hours before failing.
Plus, the fact that these lights are made using quality and eco-friendly materials, means that they aren’t easily damaged; unlike glass bulbs that break as soon as they are dropped.
An LED light is designed to be strong and lasts longer than most fixtures; all thanks to its hard casing/housing, compact components, inability to heat-up, as well as low energy consumption.
That’s not always the case…
Even LED light fixtures can become problematic because of several reasons.
And while most of these issues may be minor and easy to rectify, failing to address them properly and in time can result in even bigger problems.
When that happens, you might be left with massive losses to deal with; sometimes, you may be forced to replace your fixtures altogether.
You don’t want that, do you?
If so, you are in the right place.
This post is all about shedding light on most – if not all – of the issues that can cause LED lighting failure; as well as how you should avoid them.
Then let’s get down to it.
Table of Contents
9 Common LED Lighting Problems You Should Avoid
Chapter 1: Improper LED Light Installation
Let’s face it:
A lot of the problems LED light fixtures usually exhibit are as a result of poor installation.
With a flawed lighting system connection, a lot of things can go wrong.
- Loose or exposed wires can cause short-circuits.
- Electrical supply overload.
- Poor or incorrect power distribution.
- Poor light distribution.
- Frequent breakdowns and so on.
And that’s why I always recommend planning prior to the actual installation.
I know what you are thinking;
Why is the planning phase necessary?
Well, it’s quite simple.
Knowing what to do and how to do it is the only way to execute a successful installation.
In this case, that includes:
- Knowing how many fixtures will be supported in by your space’s electrical supply.
- Determining where each light should be placed to achieve optimal illumination.
- Knowing which kind of LED lights will be needed.
- Figuring out the role each fixture plays in your overall lighting system.
- Plus, it will help you determine the cost to ensure you don’t over/underspend when shopping for LEDs.
A plan acts as a roadmap or blueprint for your project and it comes in handy during all stages of installation; from the buying of items needed to the testing of the complete setup.
If executed flawlessly, a plan can lead to a very successful and functional lighting system.
Chapter 2: Not Using the Fixture’s Recommended Voltage or Current
It is a fact:
An LED fixture – like all other electrical devices with circuit boards – is always very specific of how much current and volts it can comfortably accommodate.
This means that any fluctuations in the current – whether an increase or decrease – will definitely cause the fixture to malfunction; sometimes, even fail.
Supplying an LED light with a lower current than its manufacturer’s rating will cause the fixture to dim. As a result, it won’t be able to offer you the experience you were looking for when you bought it.
On the other hand:
A higher supply of current or voltage will quickly burn/damage the components or semiconductors of the fixture and may lead to premature failure.
You get the point, right?
Anyway, to avoid this:
You must always check the manufacturer’s ratings on the LED bulbs packaging to ensure that what you are buying will work with your current electrical setup.
You can decide to tailor your electrical setup and wiring to accommodate your new light fixtures.
The former option is always better and more cost-effective than the latter.
Chapter 3: Using LEDs Side-By-Side with Other Lighting Technologies
It’s always tempting, isn’t it?
Adopting a parallel transition from old lighting systems to new ones; because it’s cheaper and smoother than replacing all your light fixtures at a go.
You should note that this may have adverse effects on your new LED light fixtures.
Well, most traditional lighting systems – e.g. incandescent bulbs – are often very inefficient.
And as a result, they are prone to heating up due to poor heat dissipation.
Unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs thrive in cooler environments.
Therefore, using LED fixtures in the same room with heat-producing fixtures like incandescent bulbs might not bode well for your new fixtures.
The heat will start to accumulate around your fixture and without proper ventilation, air movement, or heat dissipation, your LEDs may start to malfunction.
And when that happens, you may find yourself dealing with things like:
- Wires shorting out.
- Permanent fixture damage.
What you need to understand is that traditional fixtures dissipate heat differently compared to modern-day LEDs that come fitted with highly efficient heat sinks.
Therefore, using these technologies together will definitely cause incompatibilities – one of them being heat.
At the end of it all, you may end up damaging or losing all your fixtures.
Chapter 4: Using Your LEDs in Hot Environments
From the previous point, it’s become clear that LED lights don’t do well in hot environments.
Heated surroundings could be baking factories, smelting industries, and nuclear plants just to mention a few.
And that begs the question:
What is the right ambient temperature for LED lights?
Well, research done by industry experts shows that maintaining a 25°C temperature level is ideal for optimal LED functioning.
Funny enough, reducing the temperature further results in even brighter lighting or an increase in luminous efficacy.
The opposite is also true.
High temperatures often affect your fixture’s brightness by reducing the output of white light.
This means that as your room temperature rises above 25°C, your light fixtures will begin to dim gradually.
Sometimes, you may not even notice this effect; but if you place two of the same fixture in different extreme ambient temperatures side by side, you’ll easily spot the difference.
LED fixtures in hot environments – say between 40°C to 60°C in temperature – will exhibit a white light reduction of between 20% and 35%.
Quite significant, don’t you agree.
Therefore, it is always recommended that you strongly reinforce and shield LEDs used in any environment that has an ambient temperature of over 80°C to limit the risks of damage by heat.
High temperatures aren’t the only things that can cause your fixtures to dim or become dull.
There are other factors that can lead to such problems including:
- Aging– LED lights have impressively long lifespans. But once they’ve outlived their permanency, the first thing you’ll notice is that they’ll gradually lose their brightness and become dull. Thereafter, the fixture will begin to flicker.
- Poor Wiring – This is yet another thing that can cause fixtures to lose their brightness. Loose wire connections can lead to some LED chips not turning ON. And when that happens, the overall lumen output will be lower than expected.
- Incorrect Power Supply – When LED chips receive less power than the manufacturer’s rating, it becomes impossible for them to achieve maximum lumen output. That means less brightness or an unusual dimming effect.
Chapter 5: Buying Cheap LED Lights
One of the biggest problems with modern lighting systems is buying and using the wrong LED lights.
However, it is understandable for a newbie to make such a mistake.
There are thousands of products available on the market today.
And in most cases, price is always a determining factor since smart shopping tips dictate that you should buy something that’s affordable and within your budget.
In most cases, cheap LED bulbs are often not as reliable as other fixtures.
You’ll find that the manufacturer used inferior and cheap materials to make such a product so that they can make a decent profit out of the sale.
Essentially, these fixtures usually get problematic within a very short time exhibiting issues like:
- Unusual heating.
- Spontaneous dimming.
- And even premature failure.
You might be wondering; how can I ensure I buy a quality and affordable LED light?
Well, there are several things you can do including:
- Doing a little bit of research– The first thing you need to do is determine what kind of LED light you want. That way it will be easy for you to look for the best manufacturers that offer that specific product.
- Finding a reputable manufacturer – There are hundreds of manufacturers out there today. Therefore, you have to be very meticulous when looking for one. The best place to start is often the reviews and rating section. Feedback from other clients is always useful because it helps you paint a clearer picture as to what you should expect. Also, find out whether they are reputable, competent, trustworthy, innovative, and focused on improving your experience using their product.
- Compare their LED fixture with other alternatives – Regardless of how sweet a deal sounds, always make comparisons to ensure that the price on offer isn’t too low as per the market average. Occasionally, brands will run promotions and make offers, however, the prices they offer need to be reasonable.
Chapter 6: Using Faulty Current Drivers
One of the most important parts of an LED light fixture is often the driver.
What does it do?
Well, its main purpose is to regulate the power required or being used in these fixtures; therefore, it’s responsible for some of the most common problems of LED lights.
Most of these current drivers are not only essential for power regulation but also play a very important role in ensuring the longevity of the fixture.
This means that getting a faulty driver can result in so many problems with your lighting fixtures including premature failure.
You don’t want that, do you?
Of course, not.
So, how and where can you find an LED light with a quality current driver?
A good quality driver is characterized by a number of things.
- It should be a low voltage DC driver because they are more reliable and efficient.
- It should efficiently convert Ac to DC current to ensure that the fixture receives a continuous and constant stream of power at all times.
- Has measures put in place to handle power surges and brownouts so as to protect the LED light fixture against damages.
With that in mind, you might also be wondering…
How can I tell that a current driver is bad and not worth buying?
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Frequent heating and premature failure. If your LED light experiences frequent heating or even fail before reaching its lifetime rating, it could be because it was fitted with a faulty driver.
- Cheap and inferior quality drivers. Trying to save costs is a natural thing to do. However, with LED drivers, this can be expensive in the long run. Why? Poor quality drivers tend to allow more power than what’s recommended to pass through resulting in heat, damage, and gradual failure of the fixture’s circuit board components.
You should note that your LED light fixture will only be as good as the driver it uses.
Hence, you should make it your goal to look for LEDs that come fitted with the best and highest quality current drivers.
Chapter 7: Failing to Consider Your Fixtures’ IP Requirements
Without a doubt:
The wrong IP rating is one of the biggest factors contributing to the common problems of LED lights.
So, what is an IP rating and how does it affect your fixtures?
The Ingress Protection (IP) Rating is an electronics industry standard used to measure a device’s protection against intrusion by objects, dust, water, and moisture.
IP ratings are denoted in the form of IPXY, where:
- “IP” is an abbreviation of the words Ingress Protection.
- “X” is the device’s protection against intrusion by objects and dust.
- And “Y” is its protections against intrusion by water and moisture.
So, why is this important and how does it affect your LED lights?
For starters, you should note that unlike other light technologies, LED lights use circuit boards instead of the simple glass-enclosed setup you find in Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
This simply means that dust and water can easily damage your LEDs.
Buying the right kind of light with an IP rating that fits its intended purpose means that you won’t have to worry about any of this.
However, failure to consider your fixture’s IP requirements could result in the untimely death of your light fixtures due to water or dust damage.
So, how can you determine what IP rating will work best to meet your fixture’s purpose?
Well, there’s no specific way to determine this.
However, as a rule of thumb, the higher the “X” and “Y” rating, the more protected the fixture is.
An IP68 LED light is far more superior and well-protected than an IP14 fixture.
This means that you can use the former in dusty environments and even for outdoor lighting regardless of how wet, humid, or dusty it gets.
An IP14 light is meant for indoor use in places that do not have a lot of dust or moisture.
Otherwise, using such a fixture in a wet and dusty environment will definitely shorten its efficiency and lifespan.
So, what’s the takeaway here?
Always use LEDs that are tailored to work in the environment or for the purpose you intend to use them for.
Therefore, if you are looking for a nice indoor, office space fixture, any fixture with a lower IP rating (e.g. IP40) will suffice.
If the fixture is for exterior illumination, you might want to get a much stronger and highly rated (e.g. an IP65/68/69K) fixture for that purpose. These high IP ratings allow fixtures to withstand any type of weather without affecting their lifespans and performance.
Chapter 8: Using Old or Incompatible Dimmers
Dimming is arguably one of the biggest features LED fixtures have to offer because these lights are solid-state-devices (SSDs).
Simply put, a dimmer allows you to easily regulate/control how much light/lumens a fixture gives out.
This means that you can adjust your room’s illumination quickly and effortlessly to match any mood or décor you want.
I know, it’s pretty awesome, right?
You might be wondering; if dimmers are so good, why does my fixture have a blinking LED lights problem?
The answer is quite simple – these fixtures are very specific when it comes to dimmers.
Obviously, technology keeps changing by the day.
And that means we get better and more efficient dimmers as time goes by; which also prompts the development of fixtures that work seamlessly with the new technologies.
This might be good for some, but for anyone still using old technologies, incompatibility becomes an issue.
Dimmer incompatibility comes with numerous disadvantages; one of them being incessant flickering.
For anyone wondering; how does an LED light dimmer work?
Generally, dimmers allow you to manipulate the power going into the fixture.
This means that you can dim the lights by decreasing its electrical voltage whenever you want to or leave the fixture running at full power for maximum brightness.
From this, it’s clear that dimmers and drivers carry out almost similar duties since they both regulate power supply into the fixture.
This begs the question:
What’s the difference between the two?
A dimmer allows you to manipulate the power supply by increasing or decreasing it to achieve temporary dimming. However, drivers don’t offer you any control. Their work is to ensure that your fixture receives the right amount of power as specified by the manufacturer.
Basically, you don’t have any control/say over how a driver works.
What happens when you use an old or incompatible dimmer?
The first and most obvious symptom is usually flickering.
You may also experience light drop-outs as well as varying brightness levels within the same fixture.
All these symptoms are usually a result of varying power supply due to incompatibility and too much of this can result in the damage or complete failure of your LED light.
To avoid this, it’s always prudent to look for a dimmer that’s designed for your fixture.
You should only use dimmers that have been endorsed by your fixture’s manufacturer.
On the plus side, many modern LEDs come pre-fitted with dimmers; hence, sparing you the agony of having to comb through hundreds of products trying to find the right one.
Chapter 9: Complex Circuit Boards
The last thing that can cause LED light problems is the complexity of its circuitry.
As I’ve said before, the LED industry is experiencing rapid technological advancements. And while that might be good for many, it comes with several setbacks including complex circuit boards.
We can all agree:
These complexities don’t always matter as long as the new product is better, more efficient, cost-effective, and affordable than the old ones, right?
The more complex a circuit board is, the more points of weakness and possible causes of damage it will have.
Basically, a complex LED fixture is more likely to fail prematurely than an old and simple one.
So, why are these lights becoming so complicated?
Well, unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs often come with tons of features and functionalities.
It’s obvious that more features increase the number of modules parts needed in one circuit board, hence, the increase in complexity; which, on very rare occasions, can cause damage and premature failure.
There are so many things that can cause LED lights problems.
And while some of them are avoidable, others may just be beyond your control.
One thing is for sure, LEDs will always last longer than any other lighting technology regardless of harsh environments, poor drivers, incompatible dimmers, and so on.
Because they are simply built to offer you great value for your money.
I hope this post proves useful to you.
Before you go shopping for LED light fixtures, ensure that you’ve read and understood each of these points to ensure you buy a fixture that will serve you for years to come.
Do you have any questions? Or would you like to contribute to the topic?
If so, feel free to say something in the comments section below.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thank you.