Nothing beats the brightness of an LED working in perfect condition. So you have cleverly replaced your traditional bulbs with energy-saving and long-lasting LEDs.
However, these bulbs are not without problems, just like any other electrical device, you are running into some issues and cannot wait to understand why you are besieged by these problems. So what’s going wrong?
It is crucial to understand that an LED will develop issues due to improper use. LEDs are known to be sensitive to a host of factors, so you need to be careful when installing them.
LED bulbs can lose their brightness due to premature aging, faulty internal components such as LED arrays, capacitors, and loose wiring. But that’s not all, an overloaded circuit can also cause an LED light to go dim.
You may notice a reduction in the brightness of prominent areas in your home. However, it all comes down to personal preference, while the sudden dimming of an LED may not be a problem to some, it is a cause for concern if there’s a significant reduction in brightness.
Warm light is more welcoming and relaxing. Mostly, it is perfect for the living room or anywhere we spend the evenings in good company. Instead, a cold light makes the white brighter. Also, it tends to communicate professionalism and class. Well, brightness has a similar effect.
Dim light may not be a problem if you do not want light all the time. However, if you have specific needs, you must take into account the different visual outputs. While a ton of factors can influence our perception of bright light, psychology also comes into play.
Why Are LED Bulbs Very Dim?
As mentioned in the previous section, your psychology may just be messing with you, which is why you need to validate your crazy hypothesis of whether your bulb is dimmer than you remember.
To eliminate doubt, you can make use of a light meter. Light meters measure lumens or foot candles to know exactly how dim a bulb has become, however, it may be overkill for such a simple problem.
Most LEDs will lose brightness when they have reached the end End of Life.
This happens when an LED has come to a life rating of L-70 or L-50 luminosity. At this stage, the light bulb can only emit 70 or 50% of its original light output.
But this may not always be the case, here is an example from one of my LED fixtures.
The image above is comprised of two identical light bulbs. One produces light at full brightness, while the other has reached its END of Life, thereby having a much lower lumen output.
I took apart the outer casing in a bid to determine why this particular LED light has become very dim, keep in mind though, that there may not always be physical signs of damage. What I found was quite interesting.
Of the eight LED chips, one had physical signs of damage. I also suspect the LED chip next to the damaged one is faulty.
But I didn’t stop there. I investigated further by examining the mother-plate components to see if any of them were damaged, however, they seemed to be in perfect condition.
I did not take the time to test the components. My conclusion was based on the brief physical inspection of the LED array and mother-plate components, which revealed the faulty diode in the array.
This is just one of many reasons why an LED bulb may go dim, however, there are many other issues to keep in mind, so keep reading.
LED Light Dims Then Suddenly Brightens
So your LED bulbs dim one moment and return to full brightness in the blink of an eye, this is a more specific problem you may have run into.
One such example is when your LED lights dim in a single room or phase. Oftentimes, this is a surge wattage issue.
Connecting an LED bulb to a circuit with high-load appliances such as washers, dryers, or microwaves, can cause sudden dimming and brightness of an LED bulb, a phenomenon known as surge wattage. High-load appliances require high surge power to turn on than to continue running.
The sudden change in voltage influences your bulb’s overall brightness which eventually normalizes within a few seconds.
Besides surge wattage, one other scenario is across-the-house dimming. This is when LED lights are dimming throughout your house or office. In such a scenario, the dimming may be caused by a loose or corroded neutral wire in the electrical panel.
Lose wiring must be detected and fixed immediately to prevent arching and a short circuit, leading to fatal house fires. In rare circumstances where LED lights are dimming and suddenly returning to normal after a major storm, you may want to check with your neighbors.
If it turns out they’re also experiencing the same thing, there may be a problem with the service cable running from your electrical panel to the meter, which may also have something to do with the transformer.
These are known as brownouts. In such situations, your best bet would be to call your city or power company and they will take care of the disconnected or loose wiring.
New LED Bulb Is Not Bright Enough
Buying a LED light bulb with brightness in mind is very different from buying a traditional light bulb, you need to look for Lumen output per Watt as opposed to Wattage rating (as is the norm for traditional light bulbs). This will help you buy an adequately bright LED in the first place.
An LED bulb is only as bright as its lumen rating. In addition, if you have placed your new LED lights in your existing fixture, connected to an old dimmer switch, you may run into incompatibility problems.
Your dimmable LED and dimmer must be compatible for things to work correctly; otherwise, you will run into LED dimming issues.
Another scenario is a light bulb stuck on low brightness with a dimmer, this may be the case of a failing component with the dimmer, due to the nature of LED dimming. i.e., high frequency on/off cycles.
This may have left your LED light bulb stuck at a low brightness setting since the dimmer cannot produce a higher voltage output.
In this case, your bulb may be working correctly, and just needs a compatible dimmer switch.
Finally, older houses may have outdated wires that can no longer support the load of today’s high-powered appliances.
Some of the new LED lights might have contributed to the visible symptoms of underlying poor wiring. Old wires cannot handle high currents, they will end up delivering low voltage, and your brand new bulbs might end up being dim.
Why Do LEDs Dim Over Time?
So your LED bulbs have since served you and are now running dim over a short period.
If you have some experience with electronics, opening the LED bulb up might provide you with enough insight into one or more likely reasons, just like my example above demonstrates.
Look out for any swollen or bust capacitors on the mother plate or the damaged LED chip.
If there are other capacitors in the circuit, they would be intact. This will reduce the overall output since the current will only flow through the remaining capacitors. This will also result in lower voltage being supplied to the emitters and dimming the light visibly.
Another scenario is when you have a tight and non-ventilated fixture that traps heat, which leads to premature aging and reduction of the LEDs lifespan.
The standard junction temperature of an LED in great condition is between 40°C and 60°C (104°F – 140°F). Cool environments are also ideal for LEDs.
Finally, internal and external drivers can cause the dimming of bulbs, because these are the key components in a light bulb.
Some LED applications may support an external power supply to the LED. It is best to have ample knowledge about current, power, and ratings.
If a power supply or driver does not match that of the LED, it will result in dim light output. You should study the power factor to get a good understanding of the driver’s efficiency.
What Can you do to Fix the Dim Bulb?
Depending on your LED light bulb setup, there are a couple of DIY fixes you can try:
For ceiling fan fixtures, pressing down and holding the light button should increase the brightness.
Just like the example above, a single bad LED emitter can cause the overall luminosity to drop or flicker. If DIY is your thing, you can open up the light bulb and short the bad LED out or remove it from the circuit board. This will even out the flow in the remaining working LEDs, and will fix any dimming issues.
However, keep in mind that shorting the faulty diode within the bulb will result in the LED getting dimmer because the total brightness has now been reduced by one diode. Therefore, you’ll still end up with a lower output than you originally had. Here is a video showing exactly how to pull it off.
Keep in mind that, while the quick fix will work, the voltage within the bulb changes and the current will now be spread among fewer diodes.
With fewer diodes and higher voltage, the issue of overvoltage within the circuit will damage the diodes over time, so eventually, they will all become faulty.
To fix dimming from circuit overload, move your high-load appliances to a different circuit from the bulbs. Naturally, heavy-load appliances should deserve a dedicated circuit.
In conclusion, you should purchase an all-in-one power supply to power your LEDs, eliminating any issues resulting from mismatched power ratings between the two.
How do I make my LED lights brighter?
The allure of great-looking Temperature Light is irresistible when compared to hot lights, regardless of power consumption.
What you need to understand is that, the higher the Kelvin, the whiter the light. So it is common to find household fixtures in color temperatures on the Kelvin scale of 2700K (warm incandescent), 3000K (warm white halogen), and 3500K (household fluorescent).
Soft and warm lights are soothing and relaxing, depending on where you need things to stand out, so try to stick with the recommended Kelvin rating to find what’s right for you. Some cool white and daylight-rated LED lights are too bright for some people.
Selecting the LED lights with luminous efficiency
This should be determined by the wattage of your fixture, you should always buy LED lights that have the right amount of Lumens based on the wattage of your fixture. A light bulb in an incompatible fixture will not be brighter, it’ll be the opposite.
This is bad for your fixture and bulb by extension. If you have an old 100-Watt incandescent bulb, the lumen output must be adjusted. It will easily be compatible with a 20-Watt LED bulb.
You can even ramp it up to 50-Watt and it will still work perfectly with a brighter lumen output. If this appears too bright for your liking, you might be in luck if this light and fixture are dimmable.
Please note, that the fixture must be compatible with the LED lights, otherwise there will be problems down the line. An incompatible LED bulb in a fixture can lead to premature aging and eventually damage the LED.
Factors that influence the brightness of an LED light bulb (A deeper dive)
Improper or inadequate power supply
Improper or inadequate supply of electricity can also lead to loss of brightness in an LED light bulb. An LED bulb will only work best at the rated power, voltage, or current. Dimming occurs when the power reaching the driver does not match the rated power of voltage of the LED, resulting in a loss of brightness.
For your LED to reach its maximum brightness, it is important to know the voltage rating for your home and get the right LED light that matches this rating, especially if the lights are operating at line voltage. You should also choose the correct power supply for low-voltage LEDs.
Power supply plays a crucial role in the LED optimization process. LED produces light when voltage is passed through it. At the same time, a current flows through it.
The voltage must be equal to or higher than the direct voltage drops on the LED. So, the bulb can break down when the supplied voltage exceeds the direct rated voltage of the LED.
In essence, the excessive current flowing through an LED will increase the LED chip temperature by a significant margin, which will eventually result in the dim light failing and malfunctioning.
Finally, the power supply must be adequate for the needs of the LED bulb. The recommended way to go about this is to ensure to use a power supply with an output voltage higher than the direct voltage of the chosen LED. Doing so ensures that only the correct voltage value specified by the manufacturer is being supplied to the LED, with the help of a resistor.
Please feel free to hire a qualified electrician if this solution seems too complicated for you. The good news is that at this point you are one step away from fixing your dim light problem without having to rebuild your electrical system because the LED bulb is not receiving adequate power.
Loose wire or LED bulb connection
Short circuits are quite common in electrical systems. In the event of one, it will affect your LED light, as well as affect the brightness. If the problem is not immediately traced, it can also lead to flickering and eventually failing down the line.
The LED light chips depend on an adequate power supply to function correctly and deliver maximum brightness. Any form of loose wiring will cause your LED bulbs to lose brightness and appear dim. You should trace the connection if you can and ensure to tighten all loose nuts and wires. In addition, if specks of dust are found in the drivers, ensure to take them out, to achieve maximum brightness.
When used for a long time
LED lights are prone to wear and tear just like any other electrical appliance, which will naturally occur after a period of usage. Since these bulbs are built to last long, with some manufacturers marketing lifespans of up to two decades, this will depend on how often you use them.
When an LED has reached its maximum luminosity, which ranges from 20,000 hours to over 100,000 hours. There will be a 70% reduction in brightness. At this stage, the LED bulb has served and can be replaced. So, if you are wondering why your LED lights are not bright, they have simply reached their maximum luminosity. This effect is also called LED degradation.
LED lights are capable of functioning in hot and cold environments. However, there’s a difference when run in both conditions. While LED lights can be bright even more in cold temperatures, there’s a 65% to 70% reduction of brightness when run in extremely hot temperatures.
So before you rush to replace that LED light bulb, because it doesn’t bright at its maximum capacity, take into consideration the ambient temperature of the operating environment.
In some scenarios, small heal lamp housings cause heat to build up, resulting in dim lights. This should not be a cause for concern since the LED lights will return to maximum brightness, once the temperature is back to normal.
As discussed earlier, surge wattage is a problem that often goes undetected by homeowners. This is a situation where high-load appliances are connected to the same circuit as your LED lights.
This will cause the LED lights to fluctuate and lose brightness for a few minutes or seconds as the appliances draw enough current to start.
So what can be done?
There will be visible fluctuations and a slight reduction of your LED light brightness until there’s stability again. To eliminate this disturbance, you should get a new circuit for your LED lights and separate it from high-load appliances, which will enable them to function at maximum brightness.
There’s no doubt that your wiring can contribute to how your LED lights function. When high load appliances and others are connected with old wiring, it often affects the voltage, resulting in low overall voltage.
Now you know that temperature and surge are some of the factors that affect LED light function, but did you also know that wiring can also be a contributing factor? Well, it can, so let’s discuss how.
Connecting old wiring to high load appliances can significantly affect the voltage, which will lead to low overall voltage.
The old wire is often too weak to handle the high-load appliances of today, which can also affect the brightness of your LED lights.
Because LED lights do not work the same way as traditional bulbs, this can be a problem for modern LED lights.
The overall brightness of your LED lights will be affected if you connect them to the same circuits used for your old light bulbs. It is important to address this issue to obtain an optimum lighting solution for your home or office.
Selecting the wrong new bulbs at the very beginning
Sometimes the problem is not with the bulb but the environment within which the bulb is installed. Some examples include a too high ceiling for your ceiling light or too small the lumen output for your big room. Another example is when your walls are too dark for the lamp brightness to be enough.
Perception also comes into play, with subtle differences in the shades of the color family can make all the difference. To create balance, bright color paints can be used to paint the walls of your room. In practice, this will create a more welcoming and luminous space, even if you have fewer lamps.
For more complex areas of your home, feel free to consult a proper lighting guide before buying your new LED lights. A well-thought-out lighting design will guarantee the right balance between natural and artificial light. In addition, it will appeal to the owner or tenant’s needs, with the added advantage of visual comfort all around the living space.
Early LED models
Before the advent of LEDs, the old traditional bulbs had a bad reputation when it came to luminous efficiency. The lumen and watt consumption rate was poor. However, this is no longer the case.
The limit of early lighting devices suitable for domestic and industrial use was closely tied to the insufficient quantity of light emitted. In simple terms, an expression of the luminous flux in lumens.
The overall brightness problem has now been overcome by the latest generation models. With better technology, these light bulbs deliver better luminous efficiency. In addition, they are more durable than their predecessors.
Something to keep in mind when buying LED light bulbs is that cheap does not equal great. This is a common misconception among customers as LED bulbs have grown in popularity due to their low price points.
Check for warranty before buying any lighting devices, let’s say your ceiling light has lost brightness, you may be able to submit a warranty claim. However, buying an old model may leave you with an expired warranty.
Always remember to check for the manufacturing year when buying LED products.
Different materials and the current return
While factors such as faulty drivers, inadequate power supply, or transformers are factors that may lead to sudden loss of brightness, you may also notice this issue when you turn off your lights. The LED light may suddenly go dim and immediately flashes for a moment.
The parallel passage of wires, very close, inside corrugated pipes, can also be responsible for the loss of brightness with your LED bulbs. They may cause interference and weak electrical noise. Just like various materials could react differently. In summary, the problem could be a physical or chemical reaction.
Furthermore, some lamp products contain traces of phosphor, which helps to enhance the brightness and brilliance of the light. Nonetheless, the phosphor reacts to the electric charge.
During light production, an LED light releases photons, and the phosphor retains its luminous charge for several minutes. In addition, a weak beam of light is continuously emitted. Even after powering off the LED bulb. So, when a current return happens, you notice this effect.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are 24V LEDs brighter than 12V?
The brightness of an LED bulb cannot be determined by voltage. Factors such as the number of diodes per meter and the type of LED chip installed can be used to determine brightness.
In practice, 12V and 24V LEDs can have the same brightness. This is more evident at shorter lengths of up to 5 meters. One major advantage of using a 24v supply is the ability to do a long run of the LED strip before experiencing a voltage drop.
Health issues related to dim LED ceiling lights
Brightness at varying levels can cause eye fatigue. The reason is the constant flickering of LED lights. Though imperceptible to the human eyes, some individuals do. Such people are more sensitive to dim LED lights when they are the only source of illumination.
We are wired to function based on a series of inherent biological clocks. The goal is to respond to various indications, and this includes lights and shadows. Dim LED ceiling lights interfere with the inner clock in the hypothalamus. Which can significantly affect our sleep patterns.
Other health issues
Inaccuracy and low vision can increase stress levels with the use of dim lights. Other related issues include harm to retinal health, as well as our hormonal health. One such example of the potential risks is the inability of dim light to interfere with the production of melatonin.
No doubt LED lights are the best and most affordable source of light for our homes and offices. As discussed in this article, your LED light brightness may be affected by one or all of the reasons outlined above. To improve the overall brightness of your LED lights, I recommend following the steps outlined in this article.
If the steps seem too complex for you, feel free to hire a qualified electrician to help you with your LED light brightness problem.
The solutions presented in this article should not be considered exhaustive as your LED lights may have some other reasons why they are not bright. However, I advise that you exhaust all the options discussed in this article before hiring an expert to look at your LED lights. A the end of it all, we hope you find a lasting solution to your brightness issues.