Are you on the fence about installing LED bulbs in your fixtures around the house, but someone warned you about melting plastic?
Read this guide to make an informed decision about how hot an LED bulb can get.
LED bulbs run almost at room temperature at the surface of the bulb’s body or case, and get hot to touch near the base of the bulb. But in any case, they do not reach temperatures anywhere near high enough to melt plastic fixtures.
How Hot Do LED Lights Get?
One of the unique selling points of the LED technology is that they are “cool to touch,” and don’t run hot, to the point where you don’t need to worry about a hot ambient temperature in the room.
But there are a few disclaimers to this rule which are generally understood as common knowledge, but for the sake of semantics, needs to be explained at times, which we will do here.
First of all, the LED technology came as a replacement for traditional incandescent bulbs, which have been known to run extremely hot, and unable to be touched. To the extent that almost 80-90% of an incandescent bulb’s electrical energy is wasted as heat energy.
As a comparison, LED sees utilization of 80-90% as light energy, and only a heat wastage of around 10-20%. Which means that between touching an incandescent bulb in use, versus touching an LED in use, there is a huge difference.
Anything that consumes electrical energy will generate heat. Not all marketing claims of LED not producing any heat are to be taken with a grain of salt. They are relatively “cool” to touch, but they do generate heat.
Secondly, one always needs to follow basic safety and common sense while handling electrical components. Whether plastic or glass, the body, or case of good quality LED bulbs used in the correct fixture, is at room temperature or, at most, slightly warm to touch.
However, the closer you get to the base of the bulb, where it screws into the socket, the hotter some mid-range bulbs WILL get. In fact, they can get hot enough that you cannot touch the base without hurting your fingers.
But this base is completely a separate section to the main case or body of the bulb, so practice good safety and keep your fingers away from the plastic base.
The plastic base houses the electrical components that run the LED, so all the electrical circuitry like the semiconductors, capacitors, and transformers are located in a small space right above the diode.
To quantify the actual temperature range that you can find on the surface of an LED bulb, read ahead about tests done by handheld and wired thermometers on LEDs used at home.
Most tests show that the surface of the bulb’s enclosure or case around the diode is only about 85°F or 30°C. That is only a little above room temperature on average. This is after the LED has been running for at least 30 minutes.
Now the base of the bulb is where the temperature is high enough to cause your skin to hurt. Tests show that the base can get to a temperature anywhere between 145°F to 175°F, that is between 63°C to 80°C.
This range depends on the brand and quality of the bulb, the features present in the LED (being dimmable, or universal voltage, etc.), and the style of fixture whether it is enclosed or not.
Keep in mind this base is also where the heat sink is located, which is meant to conduct heat towards itself, meaning it will, by its inherent function, be much hotter than the surrounding material.
Can LED Lights Melt Plastic Fixtures?
Since the LED base itself is made of plastic, that should be the first hint of whether LEDs can melt plastic fixtures, housings, and lampshades.
In short, the answer is no, LEDs cannot melt plastic fixtures as they just do not get that hot, not even at the base.
To put your mind at ease, take a look at the melting temperature of the specific kind of plastic used to manufacture LED bulbs and most light applications, sockets, and fixtures. This category of plastic is called Polycarbonate plastics or PC.
These plastic polymers can be transparent like plexiglass or be opaque. Their softening point is 392°F or 200°C, while their melting point can be between 428°F to 680°F or 220°C to 360°C.
In addition to the high melting point of basic PCs, these plastics used in light fixtures can be combined with flame retardant materials to allow greater fire safety.
Remember, the LED base gets to a maximum of 175°F (80°C), so you are well within the temperature range that will affect the fixture or surrounding material.
What is The Most Suitable Fixture For LED Light?
The optimal light fixture for LED bulbs is well ventilated, allows for good heat dissipation, and is open from all sides.
That’s because LEDs love to operate in a cool environment. The cooler the ambient temperature, the longer the LED will last and will run close to its maximum brightness.
Ensure the fixtures are not air-tight or even have a minimum gap from the ceiling or wall. Examples of such lights are can light, retro mason jar lights, track lights, and even some table lamps have unventilated heads.
More commonly, kitchen and bathroom ceiling fixtures are semi-flush against the wall that is rated as enclosed and won’t allow for an non-enclosed rated LED bulb without heating issues.
Also, make sure you don’t mix incandescent, CFL and LEDs in one fixture as the temperature inside the fixture can rise dramatically and while this is not a fire hazard, it can damage your LEDs permanently.
Finally, using LED atop stoves and hood ranges means the heat will directly affect the bulb. Again, the bulbs, fixtures, or socket will not melt but face performance issues due to overheating.
LED technology has come a long in upgrading its lumen output, color temperature, and, most of all, safety features.
Considering you are using bulbs and fixtures indicated by manufacturers, you should not have melting plastic fixtures. Practice safety and keep fingers away from bases, or touch after the bulb has cooled down.
Do you have any enclosed light fixtures in your home that need enclosed rated LEDs?
Are your LED bulbs giving you any performance issues?