Outdoor landscape light bulbs generally come in two kinds: LED and halogen. A quality LED outdoor bulb can have a “rated life” many thousands of hours longer than a halogen bulb, but what does that mean for real-world expectations?

Upgrade outdoor lights to LEDOne factor that affects the life of your landscape light bulbs is whether you run them from dusk to dawn or just from dusk until a fixed time (e.g. dusk to midnight).

Here are some rule-of-thumb rough numbers for LED outdoor lightbulb life expectations for landscape lighting in the Greater Toronto Area, based on rated bulb life, average dusk/dawn times here in the GTA, and our years of experience:

LED bulbs, Dusk to Dawn = 5-10 years

LED bulbs, Dusk to Midnight = 8-15 years

LED bulb packages often claim even longer lifespans than that, but many LED bulbs are using technologies that haven’t even been around as long as their lifespan claims, so everybody is just estimating at this stage. For instance, the LED bulbs we currently use claim an expected lifespan of 60,000 hours (25+ years if operated from dusk to midnight), but only time will tell.

One thing I’ve noticed is that LED bulb life claims keep going up and up, even when the bulbs themselves are unchanged; the only difference is the number of hours printed on the box, which makes me a little dubious. Also, even with longer and longer claimed lifespans, the warranties seem to stay at 5 years. Hmmm.

Turning to traditional long-life halogen bulbs (which claim anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 hours expected life), here are our expectations for their real-world working lifespans, again based on our years of experience:

Halogen bulbs, Dusk to Dawn = 1-2 years

Halogen bulbs, Dusk to Midnight = 2-3 years

Encapsulated and non-encapsulated LED bulbs
Encapsulated LED bulbs (left) last longer

Those of you with halogen bulbs are probably probably thinking “I’ve had my bulbs for many years and they still all work great!” But one factor to keep in mind is the way in which halogen bulbs fail. LED bulbs usually fail in one step (basically they work one day and fully stop working the next). On the other hand, halogen bulbs usually fail slowly over time. Sometimes they suddenly stop working if they are damaged or completely burn out, but more often they just slowly become dimmer and more yellow over time. It’s so slow you might not even notice, until you change the bulb and suddenly WOW it’s so much brighter.

So you might think your current halogen bulbs are working great, but you may be surprised at how much dimmer and more yellow they are compared to that first night.

That’s why we recommend changing halogen bulbs even when they are still technically lighting up at night. You should change halogen bulbs every year (for dusk to dawn systems) or at most every two years (for dusk to midnight systems). That way your outdoor lights will always look fresh and new.