The introduction of integrated LED bulbs in 2010 revolutionized the lighting market.
No longer are consumers simply choosing between different types of bulb, they now also have a choice between integrated and bulb-ready fixtures.
Unlike traditional bulbs that can easily be detached from their fixtures, integrated LED bulbs are built into multiple electrical circuit boards. This means that if a bulb blows, it cannot easily be replaced, especially not by the average person. Instead, the whole integrated fixture must be replaced.
Since the light bulb was first invented by Thomas Edison in the late 1870s, bulbs and fixtures have traditionally been manufactured as two separate entities.
So it’s easy to understand why integrated LED bulbs are being met with consumer-skepticism.
But surely it’s not all bad news? Would manufacturers continue producing integrated LEDs despite them having no real benefits?
In this article, I’ll be delving into the world of integrated LEDs and putting them head-to-head with traditional, retrofit bulbs. I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of integrated LEDs, their typical lifespan, whether they can be replaced, and why they might flicker.
Stay tuned to find out more!
What is an Integrated LED Bulb?
Put simply, integrated LEDs are all-in-one fittings that contain both a light source and an external fixture. They typically connect directly to mainline voltage without needing any other components or accessories.
Retrofit LEDs, whereas, are standard bulbs that look similar to traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs and screw directly into existing fixtures.
Approximately 70% of light fixtures were using LEDs in 2017, with the majority of these being retrofit bulbs. However, integrated LEDs are quickly gaining traction, and they are expected to surpass retrofit bulbs in popularity by 2022.
But why is this?
In the past, it made sense to manufacture light bulbs and fixtures separately because traditional bulbs had short lifespans. Keeping the components separate allowed blown out bulbs to be replaced without wasting a perfectly healthy fitting.
With LEDs, however, this is no longer the case. LED bulbs are extremely long-lasting and will not need replacing for many years. It’s more convenient for consumers, therefore, if manufacturers produce LEDs as complete, integrated fixtures.
Pros and Cons of Integrated LED Lights
If it’s time to upgrade the lights in your home or property, integrated LEDs are a strong contender. Before you make a purchase, let’s weigh up the pros and cons.
Before we get to each point into more details, here is the summary table.
Pro: Long Lasting
Integrated LEDs are a complete fixture. Not only are they made up of more components than retrofit LEDs, but these components are also designed to last, which makes them more expensive to produce.
Although the upfront cost of an integrated LED may seem intimidating, they will need replacing much less frequently than retrofit bulbs. This means that integrated LEDs offer better value for money in the long run.
Arguably the main advantage of integrated LEDs is their convenience. Consumers simply purchase one fixture and fit it in their home. They can then leave it alone for many years until it eventually dies.
This is an ideal solution for difficult-to-reach areas, such as the top of the stairs, where it’s hard to constantly replace blown-out bulbs.
Pro: Modern Designs
Retrofit LEDs are limited in design as they have to be compatible with traditional light fixtures. For integrated LEDs, this isn’t a problem, which means they can be designed in modern shapes and designs.
This is advantageous for areas without a lot of clearance space between the ceiling and the floor above, as integrated LEDs can be much more compact than retrofit bulbs.
Whether you’re looking to purchase track lights, downlights, or troffers, the integrated LED versions are much more expensive than the retrofit equivalent.
Traditional LED track head typically costs between $25 and $75, but integrated LED track heads cost around $110 to $350. This is a huge difference and suggests that integrated LEDs may not be suitable for those who are on a budget.
LED bulbs don’t last forever. When an integrated LED bulb blows, it cannot easily be separated from the fixture and replaced the same way that a retrofit bulb can. Even avid DIY-ers will struggle to find a solution.
Instead, the entire integrated fixture will need to be disconnected from the mains and replaced.
This ultimately puts an expiration date on the light fixture itself, which may still be healthy when the diode dies. As well as being inconvenient, this is extremely wasteful.
Con: Lack of Customisation
With retrofit bulbs, you can choose the exact shape, size, color, and wattage of bulb they want, providing it is compatible with their fixture.
This freedom is taken away with integrated LEDs, as manufacturers have full control over their features, and features cannot be changed after purchase. This means it may be difficult for consumers to find their perfect integrated LED fixture.
Lifespan of Integrated LEDs
Integrated LEDs are designed holistically. This means that all components are designed to be compatible with one another, which drastically increases their lifespan.
When it comes to longevity, heat is the number one cause of LED failure. Regardless of whether it’s integrated or retrofit, it’s important that LEDs have effective heat sinks that draw heat away from the diode and disperse it externally.
With retrofit bulbs, the efficiency of heat sinks is restricted since the bulbs have to be compatible with traditional light fixtures.
But integrated LEDs benefit from design flexibility, which means they have much better heat management systems and can deal with heat dissipation more effectively.
For this reason, the average lifespan of an integrated LED is 50,000 hours. This is 20,000 hours more than the average lifespan of a retrofit LED bulb, which has an average lifespan of 15,000 to 30,000 hours.
Is There Any Way To Replace Non-Replaceable LED Bulbs?
Unlike retrofit LEDs, integrated LEDs are built using circuits on board techniques. This means that if a diode in an integrated fixture stops working, it cannot easily be removed and replaced.
So does this mean that an integrated LED has to be thrown away as soon as it stops working? No.
The first thing you should do is check your warranty. Manufacturers understand that LED bulbs are incredibly long-lasting, so they tend to offer a longer warranty period than with standard retrofit LEDs. If the warranty is still valid, the manufacturer should replace or repair the faulty fixture.
If your warranty has run out, it may still be worth having a play around with your fixture. Defective LEDs can sometimes be revived quite easily.
This YouTube video may be useful:
Is Integrated LED Faulty When it Starts to Flicker?
Integrated LEDs are intended to be a healthy, stable lighting choice. The compatibility of their internal components means that they are unlikely to flicker. Still, I understand that this may not always be the case.
The main reason that integrated LEDs flicker is due to voltage surges. All LEDs operate at a very low voltage, so they come equipped with a transformer that reduces the voltage of the electricity coming in.
As appliances in a circuit are turned on and off, the voltage is flowing around the circuit increases and decreases. Transformers are designed to protect against these fluctuations, so a flickering light suggests that the transformer is not working correctly.
This could be because the transformer is old, or because there are a lot of appliances in the circuit using a heavy power load. It may be worth calling an electrician to check that your electrics are set up optimally.
There is more to flickering then just a transformer, though. You can find much more information on flickering in my other post.
Despite being irreplaceable, integrated LEDs are a long-lasting and brighter alternative to both traditional light bulbs, and retrofit LEDs. This makes them an attractive design choice for your home, office, and garden.
Over the next few years, I expect that the integrated LED market will take off, and there will be a variety of different designs and innovations to choose from.
In fact, more and more manufacturers are starting to integrate LEDs directly into their fixtures.
Have you ever tried to replace a bulb in an integrated fixture? Was it successful?
Drop me a message down below, it would be great to hear your input.