With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is easy to forget about seemingly trivial tasks such as turning the light off when you leave a room.
It’s just a light, right? What difference does it make?
Whether it’s simply a bad habit, or there is an actual need for you to keep your LED lights on for long periods, it’s essential to make sure you understand the environmental and safety risks associated with extended use.
To put it simply, well-manufactured LED lights are extremely long-lasting and can be left on 24 hours, 7 days a week. This is because, unlike conventional types of light, LEDs produce minimal amounts of heat, which means they are unlikely to overheat or set on fire.
As with all electrical devices, however, this isn’t without caveats. In some scenarios, LEDs can and will fail. So whether you should leave LED lights on 24/7 is an entirely different question.
In this article, I’ll be discussing how long LED bulbs can last in comparison to traditional light bulbs, and exactly how safe it is to leave them switched on.
How Often LED Lights Burn Out Compared To Incandescent?
In the past, people only had one option when choosing how to light their homes and properties, incandescent light bulbs.
According to BetaNews, by 2010 50% of light fixtures around the world were still using 60-watt incandescent bulbs. They continue to be popular because incandescent bulbs are extremely cheap to manufacture and purchase.
Incandescent bulbs produce light by heating a wire filament until it glows. This metal wire is surrounded by a translucent glass bulb that is either evacuated or filled with an inert gas.
On average, each incandescent bulb typically lasts between 750 and 2000 hours. However, the fragility of the filament means that this rarely happens, and incandescent bulbs usually burn out a lot quicker.
Filaments do not evaporate heat evenly, which causes some areas to become thinner and weaker than the rest.
As this happens, thinner parts of the filament suffer less heat dissipation and more thermal stress. This mechanical stress continues until the wire either melts or snaps. Incandescent bulbs are, therefore, prone to burning out.
Fortunately, technological advancements have brought us a range of other lighting options, including LEDs. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) produce light using a semiconductor.
Electrons in a negatively charged component use electricity to pass over to holes in a positively charged component, in turn producing light.
Typically, LED bulbs can last between 35,000 and 50,000 hours. This is over 17x more than the lifespan of an incandescent bulb!
Furthermore, since LEDs do not contain a filament, they do not burn out in the same way as incandescent bulbs. In fact, LED bulbs rarely burn out at all. Instead, they dim with age.
On the rare occasion that an LED bulb does burn out, this is not usually because of the diode itself.
LEDs contain a complex capacitor that converts AC to DC. This capacitor chemically decays over time, and will eventually cause the bulb to stop working.
How Long Can A Light Bulb Stay on Safely?
We’ve all heard horror stories about major house fires caused by dodgy light bulbs. But how true are these tales?
Well, it’s impossible to dictate precisely how long a bulb can stay on before it becomes unsafe.
This depends on a variety of circumstances, such as the type of bulb, the quality, the ambient temperature, etc.
What we do know, however, is that traditional types of lighting are much more hazardous than LED lights.
Conventional types of lighting produce heat. The energy given off by incandescent bulbs, for instance, is 90% heat and only 10% light. All-in-all that’s a lot of heat, and bulbs get hotter the longer they’re left on.
Overheated bulbs are dangerous as they are likely to damage or melt their internal components, causing a fire.
This risk is increased if bulbs are in enclosed fixtures, the air circulation is reduced, or a higher watt bulb is used in a lower watt light fixture. For this reason, conventional bulbs should not be left on permanently or for extended periods.
LED bulbs, whereas, are cooler and safer than ever before. According to the Centre for Nanoscale Science, LED bulbs are 90% efficient at turning energy into light, so only 10% is emitted as heat. Furthermore, well-designed LEDs also contain heat sinks to draw any excess heat away from the bulb.
Despite this, if an LED bulb starts to overheat the bulb will simply dim, rather than melt or cause internal damage. Ultimately, this means that LED bulbs are very safe, and ideal for prolonged or extended use.
|Type of Bulb||Average Lifespan||When should you turn it off?|
|LED||35,000 – 50,000 hours||Can be left on 24/7|
|Incandescent||750 – 2,000 hours||Turn off when not needed.|
|Fluorescent||24,000 – 36,000 hours||Turn off when you’re going to be out of the room for more than 15 minutes.*|
|Halogen||2,000 – 4,000 hours||Turn off when not needed.|
|CFL||35,000 – 50,000 hours||Turn off when you’re going to be out of the room for more than 15 minutes.*|
*CFL and Fluorescent bulbs are not built to be turned on and off frequently. Doing so will decrease their operating life.
Is it Safe to Leave LED Lights on 24/7?
Technically speaking, LED lights can be left on 24/7. However, if they are not being used this is an unnecessary waste of finite resources.
Powering a light bulb requires energy from a power plant. Not only do power plants cause substantial air pollution because of the harmful gases they release, but they also result in a loss of freshwater. In addition to this, leaving lights switched on causes light pollution, which radically disrupts the world’s ecosystems and hinders astronomical research.
It is estimated that the average household devotes 5% of its energy usage to lighting. Wasted energy adds up fast, and it has an extremely harmful impact on our planet. Before you start leaving your LED lights on 24/7, think about whether it’s really necessary.
How Long Can You Leave LED Strip Light On?
LED strip lights have been popular across the globe for over 50 years. Available in a variety of colors, brightness’s and lengths, they’re an easy way to freshen up your home or property.
LEDs, as you know, do not produce excessive amounts of heat, which means that strip lights are ideal for small and contained spaces, such as underneath kitchen counters. In most cases, LED strip lights can, therefore, be left on 24/7. However, it’s important to stress-test your lights before you expose them to extended use.
Unfortunately, many of the cheap LED strip lights that are available to purchase are poorly manufactured. Not only are they overvolted, but they’re also often undercooled and poorly wired as well, which is extremely dangerous. High quality LED strips may cost more money, but they often come with a warranty that confirms the use of genuine, safe components.
Can Christmas Light Stay on All Night?
In the past traditional Christmas tree lights were made using incandescent bulbs. When one bulb blew, the rest of the lights in the strip would take its energy and burn even hotter. From what I’ve described, it’s easy to see why Christmas tree fires were so common.
But what about nowadays, do LED Christmas lights present the same threat?
Thankfully, because they are cool to touch and dim over time, LED Christmas lights are much safer. If one bulb fails, the rest of the strip should remain the same. Furthermore, since they operate at a very low voltage, children and pets who touch a broken bulb will not receive a shock.
That being said, it’s a good idea to turn off your Christmas lights at night to allow the transformer to cool down.
The transformer is responsible for reducing the voltage of the electricity supply down to the low voltage that the Christmas lights need. Understandably, transformers can get very warm, so it’s important to keep it well ventilated and never cover it with curtains or presents.
It’s fair to say that when it comes to lifespan, LED lights outperform their competitors by a mile.
From Christmas lights to strip lights, no matter what form you buy them in, LED lights are ideal for prolonged use.
If you have lights in your home and property that need to stay on permanently or for extended periods, it’s worth switching to LEDs. Not only will you notice a drop in your energy bills, but you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint.
Although close, remember, LED lights aren’t entirely environmentally friendly, so you should only leave them on 24/7 where it’s 100% necessary.
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