Can LED Lights Cause Fire? Plus Safety Tips

Thanks to technological advancements, we can conveniently power our lighting devices at the flip of a switch. Did you know that electrical fires have been the leading cause of US home fires between 2012-and 2016? 

According to The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) Home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.

In the United States, the typical household has 2.5 people per house. Taking this into consideration, fire outbreaks claims the houses of 128,000 individuals every year.

This is a huge figure.

Surprisingly, ‘lamps, light fixtures, and light’ were responsible for 15% of these fires. I’ve always looked at light bulbs as self-contained. If something is wrong, they make a popping sound, and the room goes pitch black.

So, can LED lights cause fire?

LEDs do not run hot enough to start a fire. This is because almost all the energy they produce is used for light emission. The main cause of fire in light bulbs is overheating, and LEDs produce a lot lesser heat, which makes them safer than incandescent lights.

LED lights are the rave of the moment thanks to their energy efficiency, affordability, and long life span. While these are great features, consumers often worry about the safety of LED lights.

In addition, people also ask if it’s safe to leave their LED lights on 24/7. The answer depends on your specific use case, there is a lot to consider while determining how long to leave LEDs on and measures to apply to prevent fire outbreaks.

LED Lights Safety- How Safe Are LEDs?

The first thing to understand about LED lights is that they are more sophisticated than incandescent bulbs. They must be installed correctly, using standard fixtures and cables to avoid fire hazards. 

LED bulbs also require drivers for voltage regulation. They ensure that the right amount of voltage is supplied to the LEDs. The voltage from your mains cannot directly power your LED bulb, so it has to be lowered to a certain amount for compatibility purposes.

In addition, LED drivers are a bunch of complicated components, any heating problem will most likely result from using inappropriate components. Here are some general LED safety guidelines that you can adopt at your convenience. 

They include the following:

  1. Always follow the manufacturer’s specifications, their guidelines will help you in selecting the right components.
  2. Some LED lights ship with preinstalled drivers. Ensure to peruse the manufacturer’s specifications. 
  3. The heat expulsion system is an integral part of a LED bulb’s design. make sure that there are no obstructions in the heat dispersion system of the light fixtures. Avoid using enclosed fixtures such as glass or plastic to cover the bulb instead of open-air. The only enclosed fixtures you should purchase are “Enclosed Fixture Rated” LED lights.
  4. ETL listed or UL listed light bulbs are recommended when purchasing electric parts. These standards ensure the product is of high quality.

Can you Leave LED Lights on for a Long Period and is it a Fire Hazard?

While not entirely bad, it is not recommended to leave lights on for extended periods. You may not encounter any harmful consequences when you do this, but you should know that the bulk of home-related fire hazards is caused by festive and decorative lights. And it is a result of leaving these lights for long periods. 

If a fire hazard occurs with Christmas trees, this is often caused by flammable material used in wrapping them. So to be on the safe side, avoid leaving lights on for long periods. It is more appropriate to use timers and related devices to control when your lights come on and off. This also has the added advantage of saving you money on utility bills.

You may also be wondering whether LED lights are safer than other lights when left on for long. Since LEDs do not run as hot as incandescent lights, there’s little to worry about when it comes to fire outbreaks. But, if incompatible electrical components were used during the installation, then a fire incident may occur. As stated in earlier sections, the one sure way to avoid LED light fires, is to use the right electrical components and ensure they are installed correctly. 

How Long Can A Light Bulb Stay on Safely?

We’ve all heard horror stories of house fires started by faulty light bulbs. But how reliable are these stories?

It’s hard to say how long a bulb may be left on before it becomes dangerous.

This is dependent on several factors, including the type of bulb, its quality, the ambient temperature, and so on.

Traditional types of lighting, on the other hand, are far more dangerous than LED lights and may cause a fire oubreak if left on for too long.

Most of the energy produced by traditional light bulbs is given off as heat. Incandescent lights, for example, produce 90 percent heat and barely 10% light. Overall, that’s a lot of heat, and bulbs become hotter as they’re left on longer.

Overheated bulbs are harmful because they can damage or melt their internal components, causing a fire.

This risk becomes greater if bulbs are in enclosed fixtures, the air circulation is restricted, or a higher watt bulb is used in a lower watt light fixture. For this reason, you should not leave your conventional bulbs on permanently or for extended periods..

Can String LED Lights Cause Fire Accidents?

The installation of LED string lights requires some technical knowledge. This is because multiple LED lights are often strung together in this kind of lighting. More heat is involved. This is a higher tendency of a fire outbreak with this LED light type. The major issues with strip lights include power cord failures and overheating. 

If you want to ensure safety at home, you must install these LED lights correctly. Here are a few guidelines to guide you:

  1. The voltage of LED string lights is typically between low-voltage (12V or 24V) or line-voltage (120V). The low voltage LED strings come in 5-meter spools while line-voltage string lights come in spools of 50 meters. The Low-voltage string lights cannot run without a power adapter.
  2. Ensure to use the right adapter as specified by the manufacturer. Adapters vary depending on wattage and the length of strip light you intend to use.
  3.  Be mindful of the number of LEDs you are stringing together. More LEDs mean more heat will be involved. Make sure to use proper cooling systems for your LED strip light.
  4. Finally, your LED strip needs an efficient cooling system, be sure to provide enough space for heat expulsion. It would be nice if you also got rid of any safety hazards nearby, such as heaters.

How Long is it Safe to Leave my LED Bulb On?

Assuming your LED bulb is properly installed with compatible electrical components, and an efficient heat expulsion system in place, it doesn’t matter how long you keep it on. 

Switching LED lights on and off can lead to deterioration. LED lights tend to deteriorate as a result of high temperatures. With proper heat management, your LED bulb will not be a fire hazard.

In addition, you can employ the use of sensors and timers to help manage your lights. Automatically regulating your lights is a safe way of extending the life span of your LEDs. For instance, your outdoor lights can be controlled with motion sensors. The motion sensors will help save a ton on your utility bills. Generally, if you want to save utility bill costs, consider leaving the lights on for about 12 hours at the most.

Why is my LED Light Bulb Smoking?

In an ideal situation, high-quality LED light bulbs should last up to one hundred thousand hours (approximately eleven years). All you need to do is ensure the bulb runs under perfect conditions. 

However, LEDs can also get damaged just like CFL and incandescent bulbs. Factors such as material deterioration and damage to the packaging due to thermal, electrical, mechanical, or chemical stress, are some of the leading causes of damage. 

An easy way to observe LED failure is by paying close attention to the bulb’s brightness. A failing LED will dim and eventually burn out. Electrical and structural damage can also lead to sudden failure. 

The LED light bulb is made up of several components, the most important of which is the LED chip, which is a semiconductor that generates light. This device has N-type and P-type semiconductors separated by a transition layer.

You can use an electron microscope to determine the specific cause of your LED’s failure.

The two primary reasons for LED failure, according to several research findings, are electrical and thermal stress.

When an LED fails due to thermal stress, it generally happens because of cyclical heat in the LED. The internal temperature rises to the point that it surpasses the maximum temperature rating.

An electrical failure in LEDs can be caused by two major factors.

They are as follows: 

  1. Electrical overstress (EOS) damage occurs when a current or voltage level exceeds the rating for more than 100 to 1000 nanoseconds when the LED light is turned on. Lightning strikes, voltage, or glitches in connection to power or ground, can cause electrical overstress, according to some authors in a study. EOS may destroy the wires in the LED package or even the whole LED chip. And this is a very serious problem when manufacturing and handling.
  2. Electrostatic Discharge Breakdown (ESD): The transition layer between the N-type and P-type is called a PN junction. When ESD occurs, it leads to an internal increase in the local temperature. when there is an excess flow of current, which increases the local temperature. The heat produced can damage the junction and cause short-circuit or leakage.

The LED packaging serves as a connection between the circuit and the LED chip. It also serves as protection against electrostatic discharge breakdown. Materials such as silicone glue, an epoxy lens, and phosphor coating are commonly used in Gan-based packaging. 

The gradual deterioration of these materials can lead to the failure of your LED package. Interface delamination can create issues such as open circuits or abnormal heat dispersion between the layers that make up the LED chip.

There are ongoing studies by researchers to determine the circumstances behind LED bulb failure and to find out ways to improve their reliability. The core focus of the researchers is on heat expulsion by the LED packaging and how to make the process more effective. An effective heat dissipation system will prevent the accumulation of heat and the temperature rise in the LED chip.

Thanks to research, ESD protection circuits may be used to safeguard your LED against ESD failures.

An electrostatic discharge causes electricity to skip the LED and instead flow via the protective circuit.

While LED bulbs will not last forever, they are proven to be more reliable than conventional light sources such as incandescent and halogen bulbs.

And their reliability is just going to get better with time. 

Can LED Lights Explode in Enclosed Fixtures?

You should always be cautious when dealing with enclosed fixtures. Since lights in an enclosed fixture will be covered with lamps, usually made from glass or plastic to seal the light, there is restricted airflow. Common examples may include bathroom ceiling lights and outdoor wall lights.

In such cases, it is paramount to protect the diode with a tight seal. Doing this will prevent rain from damaging the LED bulb. 

When airflow is restricted, it easily gives room for the buildup of heat. This will cause the LED lights to fail slowly in a process called lumen degradation. Another process called thermal stress explosion can also cause the LED bulb to fail.  

Dues to the reasons mentions above, not all LED lights are compatible with enclosed fixtures. However, manufacturers have found new ways to fix this problem.  

Today, you can easily purchase ‘Enclosed Fixture Rated’ LED lights, so if you need an enclosed lighting device, and you don’t know if your LED bulb is safe for an enclosed fixture, avoid the risk entirely.  

How LED Light Structure can Cause Fire Accidents?

The of the major reasons for LED light fire accidents is heat. The entire LED product does not get heated up, only some parts get heated up. LEDs are fitted with heat sinks to help with heat dissipation. What the heat sink does is to help draw in all the heat to one single part of the lights or bulbs. 

The heat sink stops the whole electronic device from heating up. As a result, LED lights have a longer life span since the heat is contained. The heat sink keeps the LED bulb cool for most of the time when it is being used, thereby preventing the whole device from being damaged.

Since an LED’s heat sink helps contain heat, you can expect a longer life span on an LED device with a decent heat dissipation system. The bulb will run cool most of the time thanks to the heat sink, and this will prevent the whole device from being damaged. 

An LED will use less energy since the heat is not spread across the entire device. Most of the energy produced by an LED is emitted as light. LED lights are 20 percent cooler than the traditional types of lighting devices. The traditional bulb requires 60-95 percent more energy than an LED. Because traditional bulbs generate much heat, they have a shorter life span. 

LED Lights vs Traditional Lighting Devices

When it comes to Incandescent bulbs, CFL bulbs, halogen bulbs, or other traditional lighting devices, almost 80% of the energy produces is wasted as heat. LEDs on the other hand are more energy-efficient, all the energy they generate is used to emit light. Halogen tubes may produce heat of up to 1200 degrees, and this is an extremely dangerous limit. Leaving this unchecked may lead to a fire accident. 

Unlike Incandescent Bulbs, CFL bulbs produce lesser heat, though they give off more heat than LEDs. Your CFL bulb has a higher tendency of causing a fire outbreak towards the end of its life span. However, they are not as dangerous as incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs.

The heat produced by LED lights is negligible, so little that they are unlikely to cause a fire outbreak. But traditional lights such as halogen lights have started fires that cost so much money.

With the help of heat sinks, LEDs can prevent heat build-up within the system. Their energy efficiency also makes them usable in enclosed spaces as well as small spaces. 

Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, produce so much heat that they are occasionally used to heat reptile enclosures and even for poultry incubation.

Although incandescent lights can cause fires, they are less dangerous than halogen bulbs. 

How to Avoid Overheating of LED Bulbs

Since LED lights are unaffected by Ambient temperature, they are more suitable for use in small and contained areas, or environments where temperature is is being controlled. This makes them less likely to cause a fire outbreak.

Placing LED lights in an enclosed light fixture can easily lead to overheating and possible fire outbreak. if you want to play it safe, use a LED bulb that is suitable for an enclosed fixture, the package should read “Enclosed Fixture Rated.”

How to Avoid Fire Breakout Due to LED Lighting Devices (Preventive measures)

There are things to keep in mind when dealing with LEDs to avert fire disasters. They have been listed below, if you are concerned about LED related fire outbreaks, these steps are for you:

  1.  You need to understand that lighting devices produce light with the help of electricity. The circulation of electricity depends on wires and cables, so you need to ensure that your wires are good enough for the kind of bulb you plan to use. 
  2. Avoid placing LED bulbs in enclosed objects.
  3. It’s best to avoid the use of light fixtures since they can trap heat and constitute a fire hazard. 
  4. Ensure that the bulbs and the resistor are connected in series rather than parallel. Connecting them in parallel may result in overloading. 

Conclusion

LED lights are modern alternatives to our lighting needs. Though they do not run as hot as traditional bulbs, you should always be cautious when dealing with electrical components to avoid fire outbreaks. 

While LED bulbs are not a fire hazard on their own, some factors may lead to them causing a fire. 

Remember, not all LED bulbs can be used in enclosed fixtures, so if you plan to install one in an enclosed fixture, make sure it is an “Enclosed Fixture Rated” LED light. 

Though you can leave your LEDs on indefinitely, it is advisable to use timers and sensors.

In all, it is worth knowing that LED lights are the safest option when it comes to choosing lighting devices for your home.