Smart lighting is an excellent choice if you’re after fun, convenience and want to save money on your power bill. Smart lights can change colors and respond to voice commands, and they’re customizable.
Yet, a question remains for those on the fence about installing smart LEDs – how long do smart lights last?
Smart lights have an average lifespan of around 23,000 hours. That’s starkly in contrast to the often-stated statistic of 50,000 hours for standard LEDs. That’s because smart lights have additional capabilities such as connecting to Wi-Fi. Higher-end smart bulbs have longer lifespans that range up to 25,000 hours – or around 25 years.
If you want to learn more about how long smart bulbs last and how to extend their lifespan – you’re in the right place. Read on to learn why smart bulbs burn out and how they compare to standard LED bulbs.
What Are Smart Bulbs and How Do They Work?
First, it’s crucial to define what a smart bulb is and how they differ from other bulbs. A smart bulb is a lighting fixture that you can control wirelessly, to put it simply. You can control smart bulbs through voice control, remotes, and mobile devices.
Some smart bulbs have the capability to change colors and brightness levels. With a swipe of your finger, you can go from regular illumination to romantic mood lighting. It’s also possible to program presets for your lights for certain times of the day or special events. You can also place your lighting setups on a timer to turn on at specific times.
An example would be programming your smart lights to turn on at 6:00 AM each morning to wake you up.
Smart lights use LED technology combined with a series of small diodes. These are semiconductor materials that emit light and comprise layers of electrons.
The layers are organized in a specific way to produce light. It works like this; one layer is chock-full of electrons, and the next layer doesn’t have any. As a result, the electrons from the full layer will flow to the depleted layer – producing light through excitation of the diodes.
By themselves, the semiconducting materials (diodes) don’t produce enough electricity. To correct this, impurities get added to the semiconductors during manufacturing – a process called ‘doping.’ The impurities add extra electricity to the diodes, improving their ability to produce light. Electrical wires are also added to give them an additional charge.
For the components and wires, gold and silver are the materials of choice.
It’s because you can easily solder silver and gold – and they both hold up to high temperatures very well.
Instead of glass casings like incandescents, smart bulbs use plastic cases. That makes them longer lasting and more durable. You won’t have to worry about shattering a smart light if you drop it on the ground.
While that covers the lighting aspect – we still haven’t got to what makes the light ‘smart.’
That’s where microchips and circuits come into the picture. They’re inserted into the LEDs to make them compatible with WiFi – and voila – the lights now have intelligence. Or rather, you can control them remotely, customize their settings, and more. With this connectivity comes risks – make sure you’re aware of the cyber security threat with smart lights.
How Do Smart Bulbs and Traditional LEDs Differ?
Standard LED lights are like smart bulbs but don’t have the technological frills. They’re still cost-effective to run and come in different colors – but you have to control them manually.
Yet, standard LEDs have longer lifespans than smart lights. Whereas a smart light will burn out in around 23,000 hours – an LED can keep going for 50,000. That means you won’t have to switch out your LEDs for up to 50 years.
Smart bulbs don’t last as long as traditional LEDs because their intelligence technology components take up more power, so they degrade faster.
If manual control doesn’t bother you, your best bet is to opt for standard LEDs. Yet, you’ll be sacrificing the fun and convenience of smart lighting. For example, if you lay down to bed but realize you left your lights on in the living room – it’s no big deal with smart lights. Simply pull out your phone and turn the lights off remotely.
If you have traditional LEDs, you won’t have that luxury. You’ll have to leave your warm, comfortable bed to walk down the hall and manually turn off the lights.
It all comes down to your personal preference. If longevity is your #1 priority, regular LEDs won’t let you down. However, you’ll leave many attractive features on the table – such as programming presets and controlling your lights with your phone.
Why Do Smart Bulbs Burn Out?
Smart bulbs are highly durable, but they aren’t impervious to damage. Like any other lighting fixture, smart bulbs can burn out. LEDs get dimmer over time and the heat LEDs generate also contributes to diodes burning out. While it’s true that LEDs are efficient and produce little heat, they still make some. This heat accumulates in the neck of the bulb, in turn raising the temperature of the air inside the bulb.
That’s how some diodes lose their ability to emit light. As this happens more and more, the smart light will become dimmer each time. It will eventually get to the point where the smart light emits next to no light. Granted, your smart bulb won’t abruptly die and leave you in the dark during a shower.
That’s certainly an advantage over incandescent bulbs. Yet, it will become evident when the smart light has reached its limit. When that time comes, you’ll need to replace your smart lighting. Luckily, as long as you properly maintain your smart lights – that shouldn’t happen for at least 20 years.
Smart LED bulbs have a shorter lifespan on average than traditional LED bulbs because of their intelligence technology.
These added components to the bulb are complex and sensitive to heat. This can cause the smart bulb to burn out sooner than a regular LED bulb without these added elements.
Converting Smart Bulb Lifespans from Years to Hours
Sometimes, manufacturers will only list the lifespan of their bulbs in years. That may be an inaccurate estimation for your household, as it doesn’t include how many hours you use your lights each day. They may have predicted fewer hours of use than your routine. The good news is there’s a way to convert the lifespan from years into hours with a simple equation. Here’s how to do it:
- Take the life expectancy in years and multiply it by your estimated hours of use. (i.e., 25 x 10)
- After that, divide the sum by your actual hours of daily use. You may need to research your lighting habits if you don’t know them. (i.e., 25 x 10/ 12)
- The total gives you the actual lifespan in years. (i.e., 20.8 years)
Using this formula, you can quickly and reliably calculate the lifespan of any smart bulb on the market. That way, you won’t wind up buying a smart light that won’t last as long as you thought. Nothing is worse than replacing smart lights after 15 years when you thought they’d last for 20.
How Long Do LED Smart Bulbs Last? Factors Affecting Lifespan
To ensure you enjoy the entire lifespan of your smart lights, you need to take care of them properly. Otherwise, they could wind up burning out far sooner than expected. You’ll need to get familiar with the essential factors that affect the lifespan of a bulb. That way, you won’t overheat your smart bulbs by installing them in areas without any ventilation.
Factor #1: The Power Supply
Smart LED lights have precise power requirements. Operating them above their recommended power levels is dangerous – as it can burn them out.
That’s why high-end LED lights come with built-in drivers. These are reliable power supplies that maximize power output while maintaining efficiency. A quality driver will help ensure your smart lights meet their life expectancy (or exceed it.)
If you don’t want your smart LEDs to burn out too early, buy lights that have integrated drivers. Without a driver, your smart lights will quickly overheat. You need a driver because diodes are low energy by nature. The power coming from your outlets is too hot, so the driver needs to convert it to a lower voltage. It’s a process that typically goes like this:
- The AC voltage ranges from 120 volts to 277 volts
- The diodes in your smart lights require voltage levels between 12 and 24 V DC.
- The driver converts the higher AC voltage into a lower DC voltage.
As you can see, without the proper power supply, your smart lights won’t last very long. If the smart lights you want to buy don’t come with a driver, you’ll need to buy one from a third party.
Factor #2: Temperature and Ventilation
Ideally, you want to install smart lights in a cool area with plenty of space. If the temperature in the room is too hot (over 80 degrees), the LEDs will begin to heat up too.
Beyond that, a more significant risk is placing smart lights in an area with no ventilation. By their nature, lights produce heat when they create light. As such, this hot air needs room to dissipate so cool air can circulate again.
That means you’ll need to be strategic when choosing locations for your lights.
The last thing you want is to install them in tight areas without any room to breathe. Examples include:
- Inside drawers
- Tight areas such as in between cabinets and shelves
- Behind couches
- In corners
You’ll want to avoid using smart lights in these types of areas. If your smart lights are in temperate areas with lots of space – you’ll be in great shape.
Factor #3: The Type of Capacitor
Older smart lights use plastic capacitors for storing energy. Unfortunately, these types of capacitors would only last a year before giving out. Heat and ambient temperature affected these plastic capacitors – causing them to fail. If you have older smart lights, they may have these plastic capacitors.
To protect yourself from this, always ensure you’re buying newer smart lights. That’s because manufacturers now use ceramic capacitors that are far more robust and durable. In particular, they have a far greater heat tolerance than plastic capacitors. If you aren’t sure, check the specifications for the lights to make sure they have ceramic capacitors. Otherwise, you’ll have to replace your lights (or at least the capacitor) within a year of purchase.
Factor #4: A Significant Number of Usage Hours Each Day
If you leave your smart bulbs on 24/7, they’ll burn out far earlier than their predicted lifespan. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you should limit the number of hours you use your smart lights. That way, they’ll wind up lasting the entire 25 years instead of only 10 or 15.
You can also remotely turn them off to lengthen their lifespan. Setting automated timers and motion sensors are great ways to preserve your lights. In short, you should aim to use your smart lights for around 6 to 8 hours a day to get the most out of the life expectancy.
Ways to Extend the Life Expectancy of Your Smart Lights
Just as there are factors that cut down on life expectancy, there are also ones that extend it. When you take proper care of your smart lights, they will last a lot longer. That means ensuring they have a ceramic capacitor, a quality driver, and plenty of breathing room. Beyond those best practices, there are other ways to increase the lifespan of your smart lights.
Have Controls in Place for When Smart Lights Aren’t In use
Let’s say you’re using smart lights to illuminate your office space downtown. As such, the space sees frequent use from your employees. That translates to a lot of use for your LED lights – especially if your staff forgets to turn them off.
The remedy is to use motion detection or intelligent switches. That way, your lights will turn off whenever no one is in the room. So if one of your employees takes off in a hurry with the lights on – they’ll turn off shortly after they leave.
Of course, you can also handle lighting duties yourself via your smartphone. It will notify you whenever the lights are on at the office – and you’ll be able to turn them off wherever you are at the time.
Avoid Turning Lights On and Off a Bunch
Frequently turning lights on and off is bad for any system, including LED smart bulbs. The more you turn them on and off during the day, the more strain you’re placing on the diodes. Consider the office example again from above.
If you notice employees coming and frequently going while turning the lights on and off – it’s best to leave them on for longer.
That’s because leaving the lights on for a few hours places less strain on the system than turning them on and off every 15 minutes.
It’s comparable to the mileage you get on the highway versus the city. Starting and stopping your vehicle more often uses more gasoline than maintaining the same speed. The same is true for LED lights, so avoid flipping them on and off too much.
Reduce Moisture in Your Home
If your home is particularly humid – you could be corroding your electronics. That’s especially true for smart lightbulbs, as they have sensitive connections that moisture can ruin. If you aren’t sure if your home has excess moisture, check the humidity. You can often find the humidity levels of your home posted on your thermostat. If the humidity is above 50% – there’s a lot of moisture in the air.
Circulating the air and reducing humidity will do good for your smart lights. It will also benefit your other devices, as moisture will corrode anything with electronic components. If you don’t already have one, investing in an intelligent thermometer is a good idea. It will provide you with the humidity and moisture levels inside your home.
Limit Physical Disturbances
When smart bulbs are turned on, they’re actively generating heat. As such, they’re more vulnerable to physical disturbances such as vibrations or shocks. An example would be a loud door slam affecting a smart bulb installed near it. In fact, a harsh enough door slam can cause smart bulbs to burn out entirely.
Ceiling fans are notorious culprits of this, too. If you have a smart light installed next to a ceiling fan – the vibrations may limit its lifespan.
Once again, it all comes down to where you choose to install your smart lights. It’s best to avoid placing them next to frequently used doors or ceiling fans. As long as your lights are away from shocks and physical vibrations – they should be fine.
Closing Thoughts: How Long Do Smart Lights Last?
By now, you should have a better understanding of how long smart bulbs will last in your home. Factors such as heat, moisture, and vibrations can affect your lights. Also, standard LEDs differ from smart bulbs and tend to have longer lifespans. Still, smart bulbs tend to last at least 20 years, which is very impressive.
Smart bulbs are a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a durable, long-lasting, and affordable lighting option. Beyond their longevity, smart lights are fun, convenient, and innovative. By following this extensive guide, you should be able to get the total life expectancy out of your smart bulbs or even exceed it.