Why do my new LED/CFL lightbulbs not last as long as the package says?

We hear complaints all the time about new “long life” bulbs needing to be replaced or burning our prematurely. A couple of factors come into play here:

First the claims made on packaging are often for a 3 hour per day usage. A bulb that claims a 10 year life may burn out much quicker if it is being used for a kitchen or living room light that is on most of the time. If the bulb is on for 8-9 hours a day then the manufacture would estimate a 3 year lifespan based on the number of hours. It is always an estimate at best and individual bulbs when combined with fixtures/especially older ones may not meet the average as determined under laboratory settings by the manufacturer.

A second factor is the cost/quality of the bulb. With CFL and LED technology being relatively new there is a wide range of quality vs cost as these bulbs become more accessible to the public at a relative price range.  Components other than the bulb itself may fail and cause the bulb to “blow”, with CFL this is commonly the ballast and with LED it is a driver, both these parts regulate voltage to the bulb and can be affected by heat, vibration or other external factors and become the weak link in the functioning of the bulb.

A third factor in overall bulb life is the condition of the fixture and working environment itself. This is often harder to determine but some older light fixtures may simply be harder on new lightbulb technologies. Older dimmers and touch sensitive lights may be incompatible with new energy efficient bulbs and cause bulbs to burn out or not response correctly. Enclosed fixtures may allow newer bulbs to overheat. Another environmental culprit may be vibration and loose or insecure connection in the fixture itself, kids romping around in a playroom above the kitchen or a wild dance party upstairs may be shaking the light fixture below, better quality bulbs may be unaffected but cheaper bulbs may fail as a result. 

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