Many of the issues that affect the performance of LED panels are universal to all LEDs, such as flickering, glowing, burnout and buzzing. For detailed information on how to combat these typical problems with LEDs, check out our article How to Stop Your LEDs from Flickering, Buzzing, Glowing and Burning Out.
There are some problems that specifically affect LED panels. The content on this page takes a closer look at these:
- Quick LED panel problem detection
- Problems with drivers and voltage conversion
- Problems with poor insulation, ventilation and overheating
- Problems with low quality LEDs
- How to select a quality LED panel
- Problems with LED panels failing early
Problems with poor insulation, ventilation and overheating
LED panels must be properly insulated to ensure the heat they produce is dissipated correcting so they don’t overheat. Quality LED panels are fitted with a heat sink made from a conductive metal (usually aluminium) which transfers excess heat away from the panel. If this heat sink is low quality, poorly fitted or not fitted at all then the excess heat can cause the LED chips in the panel to burnout.
Not all LEDs are suitable to be fitted into enclosed fixtures. Fitting an unsuitable LED into an enclosed fitting can cause it to overheat as the bulb won’t have the appropriate heat sink. This isn’t as much of an issue with LED panels as they are usually designed to fit in enclosed fixtures, however, it’s always worth checking the panels are suitable to be installed into recessed fittings.
- Poor quality or faulty heat sinks can cause LED panels to overheat and burnout.
- If the LED panel driver is faulty then this can also call the panel to overheat (see problems with drivers and voltage conversion above).
- Only buy LED panels with a correctly fitted aluminium heat sink. Ensure the panel is designed to be installed into a recessed fitting.
Problems with low quality LEDs
LED panels are more expensive than traditional fluorescent tubes and for this reason consumers may choose cheap, low quality LEDs and expect the same performance from them as the leading brands. Low quality LED panels often feature inferior components that aren’t tested properly.
LED panels feature a number of components; if any of these components are low quality or faulty it can affect the overall performance of the LED panels.
- Frame—usually made of aluminium, the frame contains the light within the panel.
- If the frame is too light or is made of a material other than aluminium (cheap LED panels often feature a plastic frame), then this could create excess heat and increase the risk of burn out from overheating.
- LED chips— these chips are mounted to a circuit board and are what produce the light. Depending on the type of panel, they are mounted to the back or sides of the panel.
- Low quality chips can cause a number of problems including the panel becoming dim or the colour quality being compromised.
- If low quality LED chips are used in a panel this can produce a ‘blue’ hue which can make a room look cold.
- Light guide plate—this points the light coming from the LEDs towards the diffuser.
- If it’s not fitted correctly then this can impact on the amount of light and the angle of the light reaching the diffuser.
- Diffuser—this ensures the light coming from the LEDs is evenly distributed and helps to reduce glare.
- A low quality diffuser, made from acrylic or PMMA rather than polycarbonate, won’t distribute light as evenly.
- Overtime, plastic diffusers can discolour at the edges and turn yellow, reducing the quality of light produced by the LED panel.
- Reflector plate—this reflects light back into the light guide plate.
- Issues with the reflector plate can cause glare.
- Heat sink— this helps to prevent LED panels from overheating as a conductive metal heat sink takes away excess heat to keep the panel cool.
- A poor quality heat sink will mean not enough heat is dissipated from the LED chips which can cause the chips to burnout.
- Cheap plastic heat sinks don’t work as effectively as metal heat sinks and can reduce the life expectancy of the LEDs in the panel.
- Back cover—an aluminium plate that protects the components.
- The better the back cover fits the frame, the better the heat dissipation which means the panel is likely to last longer.
It’s very difficult to identify whether an LED panel is high or low quality until it is installed. You won’t necessarily know you have a low quality LED until it burns out quickly or produces poor quality light for example.
Solution: How to select a quality LED panel
- Choose a panel that is at least £15-30 or £30 – 50 for higher end. When it comes to LED panels price does indicate quality. Panels under £12 will go yellow, ripple or warp much quicker.
- Avoid panels that only have a two year warranty. They only have a two year warranty because they are not built to last! Good quality panels will last longer than this.
- Choose a panel that has a light guide plate made out of acrylic (PMMA) or methyl styrene (MS).
- Choose a panel that is finished with powder coating as opposed to paint.
- Look for a well-constructed frame.
- Choose a trusted brand. There are plenty of them out there, here are just a few of our favourites:
- Speak to the company selling the LEDs and ask them about the quality of the LED panels they sell. A trusted company will be able to offer advice. If the company you’re considering buying from are hard to get in touch with then reconsider buying from them.
- Look at reviews
- Replace poor quality panels with better quality panels. Sticking with your existing low quality panels will mean existing problems will continue. High quality LED panels where the drivers, optics and LEDs all work at an optimum level could reduce running costs by 25% compared with lower cost panels.
Methyl styrene is the best material to choose for the light guide plate (LGP)
There are a couple of minor indications of quality such as a panel that is finished with powder coating rather than paint and a well-constructed frame however, the real marker of quality comes down to the material used to make the light guide plate.
There are three materials commonly used to make an LGP:
- Polystyrene (PS)
We recommend choosing an LGP made of MS.
PMMA has the best light transmission and durability but is also the most expensive – it is a high-quality product, but not the most affordable.
PS offers good transmission, but it tends to turn yellow over time due to wear and tear and the effects of heat. It is a well-known issue in the industry and is often why these panels have a warranty of only 2 years. Over time they can also ripple of become warped because they aren’t robust enough to handle normal heat exposure. It is the cheapest option of the three, but we would consider it a low-quality choice.
MS is a combination of PMMA and PS. It provides very good light transmission and is also durable, but at a lower price, is the most cost-effective solution.
Problems with LED panels failing early
LEDs are incredibly popular because they are known to last much longer than standard halogen or fluorescent bulbs. Some LEDs can last over 15,000 hours, meaning they should last an incredibly long time. This sort of longevity makes LED cost cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
When your LED panel fails early, it means there is a problem.
- LED panel does not last the expected amount of time
Solution: fix high temperatures
- LEDs run at a much lower temperature than halogen bulbs
- LEDs do not deal with high temperatures very well
- Ensure that your LEDs have enough ventilation space (see above for advice)
- Ensure that your panels are not near any sources of intense heat
- Try to avoid using a mixture of fluorescent and LED panels in a single room