Can LED Bulbs Explode?

I’m sure you’ve heard rumors about LED bulbs that can last for over ten years. While this may be true, LEDs are electrical devices, and no electricals are invincible.

Although most LED bulbs will gradually degrade over time, catastrophic failure can and does happen. So let’s have a look at what this means. Are LEDs prone to exploding?

It is highly unlikely that LED bulbs will explode. However, in rare cases, thermal and electrical stress can be caused by voltage surges, faulty capacitors, and poor heat management, which leads to LEDs exploding.

Explosions are scary in any context, but especially when you’re living with children or pets. I understand if you’re keen to prevent your LED bulbs from exploding, I am too!

Whether you’ve recently experienced an exploding LED bulb, or you’re intrigued about why it happens, this blog post is for you.

Keep reading to find out what causes LED explosions, whether LEDs are a fire risk, and why you need to be extra cautious when putting LEDs in enclosed fixtures.

How Likely It Is For LED To Explode?

As I’ve said, the chances of an LED bulb exploding are extremely rare. But how rare is rare?

Traditionally speaking, incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen bulbs explode when they get too hot. These bulbs emit light via a filament held inside a glass vacuum.

Excess heat causes the sealant to melt around the base of the bulb, allowing the gas to leak out. As a result, the pressure inside the bulb changes, causing it to explode.

But this isn’t the case with LEDs, as they emit light through a semiconductor. Instead, LEDs explode due to electrical and thermal stress.

On average, LEDs require around 2 to 4 volts of electricity to operate. This is problematic, as the average voltage supply from a household wall outlet is 120V.

To counteract this, LEDs require a capacitor that drops the mains voltage to a lower, usable level. This is a huge task, so capacitors are highly stressed.

In any high-pressure environment, mistakes are bound to happen.

Sometimes, electrical surges occur, and the capacitor accidentally lets the full current through to the LED. In this scenario, regardless of whether exposure lasts for 1 second or 0.01 nanoseconds, the LED will explode.

This is called Electrical Overstress (EOS) and is particularly prevalent in cheap LEDs as their low-quality materials are less tolerant of voltage fluctuations.

Alternatively, LEDs may explode due to thermal stress. By now I’m sure you know that heat is the enemy of LEDs, which is why most fixtures have a heat sink or other heat dissipation device.

When an LED is overdriven with too much electrical current, more thermal energy is created. Thermal energy causes parts of the LED fixture to expand and pressure to build up inside the bulb.

If the heat is not dispersed, it will start to degrade and break components of the bulb.

This will result in the circuit shorting and the bulb exploding.

If the heat is not dispersed, material components of the bulb will start to degrade and break. Eventually, the circuit will short, and the bulb will explode.

Can “Popping” Sound Be Considered As Explosion?

When you think of the word ‘explosion,’ you probably picture a colossal bomb with smoke and fire. But this isn’t what happens with LEDs.

When an LED explodes, whether, from electrical or thermal stress, there’s likely to be a loud ‘popping’ sound and broken parts flying around the room.

Essentially, pressure builds up and up until the LED cannot take any more. The bulb has to release it in the form of sound energy (the popping) and kinetic energy (the broken parts flying around).

Thankfully, unlike conventional bulbs, LEDs are made from shatterproof glass or epoxy resin. When an LED explodes, the bulb may crack, but it’s unlikely to shatter into millions of tiny, sharp shards like it would with glass.

This is good for two reasons:

  • Exploded LEDs are easier to clean up (yay!)
  • They’re a lot safer.

But can this popping sound accurately be defined as an explosion? I’d argue yes.

Dictionary.com defines the word explosion as ‘an act or instance of exploding; a violent expansion or bursting with noise’, and that’s exactly what happens when pressure builds up inside an LED. Case closed!

Can LED Light Cause Fire?

Did you know that 15% of house fires in the US are started by ‘lamps, light fixtures, and lights’?

With shocking statistics like this, you’re right to be curious about whether LEDs can cause fires.

To put it simply, LEDs are highly unlikely to set on fire.

While LEDs do generate heat and can be hot to touch, in reality, they produce nowhere near enough heat to start a fire.

Nevertheless, it’s important to be careful with cheap LEDs.

A 2014 study by the BBC found that 76% of the products tested were not compliant with European Safety Standards and were therefore classified as unsafe.

If you’re intrigued by this and want to know more, check out my other article ‘Can LED Lights Cause Fire?

Can LEDs Explode In Enclosed Fixtures?

Another area where it’s better to proceed with caution is that of enclosed fixtures.

An enclosed fixture is the opposite of an open-air fixture. In essence, the light source is sealed in a glass or plastic container that has no airflow. Common examples include outdoor wall lights and bathroom ceiling lights.

In these scenarios, it’s beneficial to keep a tight seal around the diode to prevent it from getting water damaged.

However, the lack of airflow allows heat to build up more quickly. Without proper heat dissipation, LEDs are more likely to fail, gradually (through lumen degradation), and catastrophically (through a thermal stress explosion).

For this reason, most LEDs are not compatible with enclosed fixtures.

However, in recent years’ manufacturers have spotted this shortcoming and have sought to fill the market gap. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy LEDs that explicitly say ‘Enclosed Fixture Rated.’

If you’re unsure about whether your LED will be safe in an enclosed fixture, it’s better not to take the risk.

You can pick a pack of enclosed fixture rated LEDs on Amazon.

Final Words

To summarise, LEDs may explode and make a ‘pop’ sound when they experience too much thermal or electrical stress.

That being said, if you buy good quality LEDs and manage heat dissipation efficiently, this is unlikely to happen.

Have you ever experienced exploding LED bulbs? What do you think caused it? Write a comment, let me know!

32 thoughts on “Can LED Bulbs Explode?”

  1. YES LED lightbulbs EXPLODE. I’ve had two in my house do this. Once in our laundry room while working. The bulb exploded and a fragment hit my nylon shirt and burned a tiny hole in it. The second bulb exploded and fragments while small still went everywhere.

  2. Eugen,

    I think I experienced this type of failure earlier today with a Feit 60W LED bulb. My wife and I both heard what sounded like a loud electrical “pop” very near to where we were relaxing in our bedroom. It sounded like it was just a few feet away, but I couldn’t find anything nearby that appeared to be smoking or not working. After checking everything in the immediate vicinity, I began to walk around the house to check for anything burning or smoking, and I discovered one of the 3 bulbs in an over-the-sink vanity fixture in the bathroom that was out but still intact. I knew it was working earlier today, so I concluded this is what I heard. I’m just shocked at how loud it sounded, and I’m glad I wasn’t in the same room when it went out!

    • Hi Eugene,

      I can imagine the bang it has made since 60W LED must have a serious capacitor which is likely what has blown in your case.

      Happy you are safe.
      Eugen

      • Had an Uberhaus 7W led bulb meltdown in our TV room tonight, there was a nasty chemical smell in the house and it seemed something was on fire. Imediately checked all the chargers and plugin appliances everywhere when I noticed the light was off in the TV room. It was a simple lamp with a shade so no enclosure, its been smelling weird for sometime like car exhaust or a lit cigarette in that room.
        There was actually smoke and I unscrewed that LED bulb and the entire bottom was melted off the threaded metal contact unit. It was all burned up inside that cavity and the light fixture had the remains of bulb bottom melted into it. Its disturbing to think we have been breathing this chemical smoke for some time not realizing it was coming from the lamp. This cannot be good for ones health, cancer causing? I have had a few of these bulbs go in other fixtures and there is always a chemical smell in the house. This is the worst all the windows and doors have been open for over an hour and the smell is not going away. I will never use this style of bulb again, it has the shape of a normal old school bulb but this new technology has nasty issues.

        • Hi Sig,

          Thanks for sharing. The chemical smoke you can smell is most likely the soldering rod which is a combination of solder flux and lead. It is a nasty combination, as lead by itself is toxic. There are however lead-free soldering materials but the question is if it was used within the bulb. I am not sure about long term health effect of the exposure, but would definitely recommend to ventilate the room and get in touch with the supplier about it.

          Eugen

  3. Just wanted to leave a comment here also that a bulb of mine exploded and shot straight up super high. I had no idea what that load bang was when I was outside till almost a full 5seconds later. I see the plastic shell fall onto the street. At the time I still didn’t know what it was till I picked it up and saw it was from my street lamp.

    Yes it was loud and I never saw any type of light/fire when it blew up.

    • Hi Gibs,

      Glad that nothing has happened to anyone. But it is very strange, it is possible that there was a electricity surge from the transformer that has blown up the capacitor?

      Eugen

  4. I came here to learn why my inertek led lamp just exploded it was a pop like a Roman candle I was kinda scary but nothing got burned except for the circuit board

  5. Had 2 explosions in the same light fitting in the last couple of months. Last night we had a loud pop and then tiny shards of glass everywhere, making for a lovely evening of cleaning. Having taken them out of the fitting it seems two had blown simultaneously and both had smashed.

    These are the bulbs at £13 for 6 which seems cheap to me: https://www.lepro.co.uk/6-pack-470lm-2700k-warm-white-e14-led-light-bulbs.html

    I assume that this is a case of cheap bulbs and overloaded capacitors and not a problem with the light fixture! Hopefully some better bulbs will solve the problem as I never want to have to clean up glass again!

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for sharing your experience, I agree £13 for 6 bulbs is extremely cheap and the manufacturer has probably saved that money on the capacitor.

      Glad nothing has happened to you or anyone else.

      Eugen

  6. Interesting posts. I had my first exploding 40 wat non dimmable LED bulb. Have 3 -4 bulb vanity light fixtures over doble sink and lmakeup area vanty. I had purchased a “cheap” 4 pack from a local well know national store and replaced 4 of the 12 bulbs with these LED bulbs a few weeks ago. I had just finished shaving and about to leave the bathroom when I heard a very high pitch noise then an “explosion” . Glass from the bulb as well as the hanging globe shatter across the bathroom, easliy 8 foot area. Most pieces were fairly small but there were some larger pieces from the globe. The bathroom is located on the second floor and my wife was in the kitchen on the first floo. She cam running upstairs when she heard the noise.. What a mess to clean up, fortunately no cuts for me. Obviouls I removed the other 3 LED bulbs and now have to hunt for a replacement globe to match the other 11. Interesting to note that at the same time my hearing aids were emitting a high pitch noise indicating that one of my batteries need to be replaced.

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I do love how people are sharing their experiences with others. Glad that nothing has happened to you.

      Eugen

  7. Had my first LED explosion last night with the light on my bedside table. The glass actually shattered and shards flew a couple feet in all directions. I was thankful that I had a shade on the lamp and that they were not the bulbs in my kids’ rooms who also like to read in bed. Will be looking for some higher quality LED’s. Glad to hear that most LEDS are supposed to be made from shatter-proof glass. I never want this to happen again.

    • Hi Margaret,

      It would be interesting to check the voltage of your fixture. If your LED bulb has exploded it is often because of overloaded capacitor. When the voltage is higher than the capacitor’s rated one it will eventually pop.

  8. Hi Eugen

    I had a LED, 4W Candle Lamp Type, explode in my kitchen this morning. Thank Goodness nobody was there.
    The Bulb is a good quality with a year warrantee. I installed it about 5 months ago and has been burning since then without issues. This is the first time it has happened to me so i just wanted to see if this was a regular thing or one in a million. I further spoke to the suppliers and they have the same bulbs in their display rooms burning 24/7. They have never heard of something like this happening.
    Seems it is just a one in a million situation.

    These comments have helped me understand the reasoning behind these events happening and would like to thank you and all who have commented. It has helped me a lot
    thanks a lot

    • Hi Dougles,

      Yes the explosion as such, rather than the standard “pop” sound, is quite rare. As I mentioned in previous comments, the overloaded capacitor is often the culprit in this case. So it would be worth checking the rated voltage of your bulb and the voltage coming into he fixture.

      Eugen

  9. Similarly, found this website due to exploding LED bulbs, to see if it’s common.

    It was a good name brand, replaced a fluorescent “bulb” in an open-air, hanging fixture (completely exposed bulb), hoping to replace it with something “safer” and longer lasting. Turned it on as the one, “safety light”, came home and found it had exploded, throwing glass all over the place. Burnt pieces all over the kitchen. If it wasn’t a hanging bulb conveniently over the sink and a tile floor I am sure I would have had a much bigger issue on my hands.

    If someone was in there when it exploded I am sure they would have gotten cut.

    Ridiculous.

    Also, in a different open-air fixture, I had a fluorescent bulb start burning.
    Luckily, this was connected to the ceiling fan above my bed, and I caught it smoldering before real damage could be done (I smelled the smoke).

    Now, I just buy incandescent bulbs by reputable brands (ironically the same brand as the LED grenade).

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for sharing your story. From what I can tell it is not the first time you are experience the bulb explosion. It might be as well that there is some underlying issue within your house power network that causes your LEDs and fluorescent bulbs to explode. It would be worth exploring further and invite an electrician to check the load of your mains.

      Eugen

  10. Today a bulb in my desk lamp exploded and shards of glass went into my arm and all over. I believe it was a tungsten halogen light. It was very loud and very scary.

  11. Just found this article as a bulb in my living room went Bang tonight with a bang loud enough to make me jump out the seat and the light casing flew across the room. Pulling apart the bulb there’s a green cylinder inside on the bottom of the circuit board that has exploded. Smells like burning too. Gave me and the missus a fright that’s for sure. Last time I buy my les bulbs on eBay that’s for sure.

    • Hi Raymond,

      Wow, hope you are all okay. What you are referring to as a green cylinder seems to be the driver that LED bulbs use to convert AC to DC. If you overload the driver this can indeed happen, but I would have never thought it would be that big of the bang.

      I agree that LEDs should be only purchased from the trusted retailers with proper warranty, that is just too dangerous to risk your house for saving a few bucks on cheap LEDs.

      Thanks for sharing
      Eugen

      • I’m not good with electronics but on the back of the board with the led’s there’s a brown rectangle and a green cylinder. The green part looks like it had some kind of material inside like almost papery or of fabric maybe it was that that has popped and had a burning smell coming from it.
        It looks like the capacitor the casing popped off it. I can take pics if you’d like as I still have the bulb on the bench.
        Was certainly something I hadn’t considered when buying led bulbs anyway. Best of the situation is that the main top part was just plastic so no glass everywhere and no harm done to anyone.

        • No worries, about photos Raymond. I agree with you that the plastic is better option in that case, although shards can be dangerous as well.

          Just proves the point that we should not try and save on quality lighting. With cheap bulbs capacitors can be overstretched to give more light output than designed, which will lead to the quick failure of the bulb.

          Eugen

  12. I came on here looking for reasons why my 6W candle bulb exploded like a shotgun shell. Yes really exploded, no “popping” don’t let anyone reassure about that, they can go off with a bang akin to any 9mm gun I have fired. My family’s ears hurt until the next day. It’s made me very wary 😒 if you see them flickering switch off immediately and replace. Honestly I don’t know where the progress is with LED, they may use less juice but they barely last the same length of time as an incandescent at a tenth of the price.

    • Wow Mark, you are the first person who I have met, although indirectly, that has this kind of experience. I have seen incandescent bulbs explode with the glass all over the place but never heard anyone saying that about LEDs.

      Just out of curiosity, can you share with us where you have bought it and what brand?

      Eugen

      • They were dimmable, and in the style of an old incandescent, i.e. clear glass with the LED in strands to look like filaments. Just because you asked I went through my old Ebay purchases and found the link.

        I could email but doubt they would be interested. I will go back to Asda own brand which although dimmer seem to last forever!

        • Hi Mark,

          Thanks for sending the link across, I have had a look but I had to take it off your comment. There is no need for extra propagation of that lighting.

          In all fairness, it does look like the bulb that will break quickly. It is very cheap which to me it just says a lot about what type of materials they have used if they are able to sell it for £4-7 and still make profit.

          I usually ignore LEDs that cost less than £10 simply because long term I know I end up replacing them all the time so I will buy more of them. This is one of those cases where saying “I am not rich enough to buy cheap products” come to reality.

          Hope you will have better luck with these next time and remember that saying.

          Eugen

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting here. Yes, manufacturers often try to save costs where they shouldn’t, which is the capacitor very often.

      Eugen

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