Here's what the US Department of Energy has to say about LED light source life time;http://www1.eere.energy.gov/building...measuring.html
U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Measuring Light Source Life
We've all heard the small "pop" as an incandescent lamp fails. It's the sound of the tungsten filament finally breaking as the electric current hits it. This makes it easy to recognize the end of life for an incandescent light source. With fluorescent lamps, end of life may involve flickering or the lamp may simply not activate when the switch is turned on. With LEDs, outright failure of the device is less likely, although it can happen due to component failure. Instead, the LED's light output slowly declines over time.
The lifetimes of traditional light sources are rated through established test procedures. The life testing procedure for compact fluorescent lamps, for example, is published by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) as LM-65. It calls for a statistically valid sample of lamps to be tested at an ambient temperature of 25 degrees Celsius using an operating cycle of 3 hours ON and 20 minutes OFF. The point at which half the lamps in the sample have failed is the rated average life for that lamp. For 10,000 hour lamps, this process takes about 15 months.
How are LED lifetimes rated? Life testing for LEDs is impractical due to the long expected lifetimes. Switching is not a determining factor in LED life, so there is no need for the on-off cycling used with other light sources. But even with 24/7 operation, testing an LED for 50,000 hours would take 5.7 years. Because the technology continues to develop and evolve so quickly, products would be obsolete by the time they finished life testing.
A life testing procedure for LEDs is currently under development by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). The proposed method is based on the idea of "useful life," i.e., the operating time in hours at which the device's light output has declined to a level deemed to no longer meet the needs of the application. For example, for general ambient lighting, the level might be set at 70% of initial lumens. Useful life would be stated as the average number of hours that the LED would operate before depreciating to 70% of initial lumens.
The leading LED manufacturers have begun using the L70 language, stating that their white LEDs "are projected" to have lumen maintenance of greater than 70% on average after 50,000 hours when used in accordance with published guidelines.
Electrical and thermal design of the LED system or fixture determine how long LEDs will last and how much light they will provide. Driving the LED at higher than rated current will increase relative light output but decrease useful life. Operating the LED at higher than design temperature will also decrease useful life significantly.
How do the lifetime projections for LEDs compare to traditional light sources?
||Range of Typical Rated Life (hours)* (varies by specific lamp type)
||Estimated Useful Life (L70)
|Compact fluorescent (CFL)
|High-Power White LED
*Source: lamp manufacturer data.