Beware The Cheap LED Light Fixture!

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

This is a head's up - beware the cheap LED light fixture!

We have a 20 year old house, which we built.  It was time to upgrade the fluorescent kitchen light fixture.  I wanted LED.

Looking around I wanted one that provided good light, lots of lumens.

Watts measure the amount of energy a light bulb uses.  But lumens are the indicator of the amount of light.

LED lights are made up of many small points of light sources.

What I didn't know then was that when one buys an LED light fixture, the weight of the fixture and points of light sizes (called "chips") are essential.

The fixture I bought and installed was very light.  Why is weight important?

Because, according to my research, of poor quality materials used to construct the "driver" and to dissipate heat weigh more!

However, you may say, aren't LED lights cool?

Yes, to feel the heat from them.  But the point of light, the chips, are extremely hot.  What drives the energy to them, and the ability for them to dissipate heat, is essential.

Good materials allow for such heat dissipation and the fixtures last for years and years.

But cheap stuff, materials without a good driver, smaller chips, and no ability to dissipate heat, will not last long.

Our kitchen light lasted 7 months.  Beware the cheap stuff!

One day it was fine.  The next it provided half the light.  And the next no light at all.

When I took off the cover this is what I saw.  WHICH PROMPTED MY RESEARCH!  Do you see how tightly the plastic cover sits over the fixture?  There was nowhere for the heat to go.  And the chips are 1/8" square, considered very small.  Yes, they get very, very hot!

So, you ask, can cheap fixtures cause fires?  YES!  We were lucky, apparently.  Ours just flaked out and died.

Following my research I bought a good quality light, and it is heavy!  It provided large chips, a good driver, and the ability to dissipate heat.

But, I had another problem. 

When I took down the builder-installed fluorescent light this is what I found!

No box, and wires merely stick out of a hole in the ceiling! 

Unbelievable!  That's the same problem I found when I replaced the bathroom light!  But the round fixture I first installed weighed less than a pound, so no junction box, while not to code, was needed for its support.

So for the new fixture I had to install a hefty box.  It is attached to an arm that cranks and tightens against the floor joists inside the ceiling above.  It holds 70 - 120 pounds!

With the help of a neighbor (this was NOT a one-man job!) here is the new light!  With lots and lots of lumens!








Perhaps hard to see in the lower-right photo, but there is a 1" space above the fixture for heat to dissipate.

Here are the recommendations from experts when you buy LED light fixtures.  What to look for.

1.  LED with good heat dissipation may cost, and weigh, more.
2.  Try to find out the chip size (the points of light).  The larger chips provide more light and better stability.
3.  Make sure any paint is well applied.  Better paints make a difference.
4.  Verify the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) mark, which proves the fixture for testing, validation and safety.
5.  Confirm a Design Lights Consortium (DLC) qualification.  DLC qualified fixtures have been tested for certain performance and safety standards.  These better fixtures often come with a 5 year warranty.  (The one I installed has a 10 year warranty).

My recommendation:  If you buy with all that in mind you will likely have a fixture that is safe, provides great light, and is long lasting.  I learned a lot from my experience and research.  I hope you do too.  "Let there be light ... and it was good."



Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

Comments (83)

Jeff Wright
Foundation First Property Group - Hanover, PA
Property Manager in Hanover, PA

Thanks for your research and information. So many people want to rush out and buy the cheapest LED lights (especially for rental units).

Jun 08, 2018 07:23 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Jay

Thanks for the education!! I have seen some pretty scary stuff in inspections, and issues pointed out by electricians. It's another example of the importancce of not being cheap, and creating a safety problem.


Jun 08, 2018 07:36 AM
Greg Mona
Hague Partners/72SOLDHUB - Scottsdale, AZ
Professional Real Estate Representation for YOU!

Great post, Jay! I love to learn new things here on the Rain and in general. I'll file this under the "who knew?" category! And as others have commented, the longer you are in this business the more strange things you see resultant of home inspections. It is scary how many hazards are out there people live with (unknowingly or not) every day!

Jun 08, 2018 09:03 AM
John Dotson
Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC - Highlands, NC
The experience to get you to the other side!

Jay, just installed all new LED fixtures and bulbs in our office this spring.  I am loving them but had not noticed the heat issue.  Maybe I lucked up and got ones that are decent.  Gotta watch for those color temperatures though.

Jun 08, 2018 09:15 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Yikes.  So glad Marte Cliff reblogged this one or I would have missed it.

Jun 08, 2018 12:19 PM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Great to know, had no idea.

Jun 08, 2018 01:06 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Search carefully Sandra!  Read the labels and information!

Ron - we all do!  And we fall into the trap of needing to have the most recent "green" this or that.  Green really means more money.

Pat - that seems to be about the best warranty out there.  So you must have a good product.

Lottie - we are all always learning!


Jun 08, 2018 04:20 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Jeff W - like with most things, you get what you pay for.

Jeff D - thanks!  And I've seen some scary stuff too!  Safety truly is first.

Greg - that is so true!  We don't know what we don't know.

John - bulbs typically don't get very warm.  That may or may not have anything to do with the quality.  But if they are still putting out the same amount of light as when you first bought them they are probably good.

Jun 08, 2018 04:23 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Chris Ann - I am soooooo embarrassed for you!  You saw me because of Marte?  Sheesh...

Lyn - I see things every day that I did not know before!  At least it seems that way.

Jun 08, 2018 04:24 PM
James (Jim) Lawson, DBA LLC - Bonita Springs, FL
Broker Associate, RSPS, BPOR, HI & PE

Learned some things I didn't know. Thanks for your research Jay.

Jun 08, 2018 10:31 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

Great information Jay.  But I beg to differ with you on one point and that is UL.  My husband made parts for the lighting industry for many years.  China always had UL labels.  They are not the UL labels from the US, but they are accepted here.  He has much to say on the subject, but I will tell you he used to fix lamps that came in that failed the testing before being shipped to the stores.  What he said is, Buyer Beware if you know about Chinese-made products.

Jun 09, 2018 02:07 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I'm glad you did, James!  Stop by again.

Elyse - you wouldn't be disagreeing with me!  See my answer to Mike Cooper above!  I've had many posts on Chinese-made crappola, and I avoid their products any time I can.  However, the Chinese do fake UL listed stuff, but their lights would not get by the DLC qualifications and would never offer the good warranty!

Jun 09, 2018 03:14 AM
Elyse Berman, PA

Jay, I read your comment to Mike Cooper and agree.  I always try to buy American made, if possible.  The quality controls over there are just not the same.   (But I won't tell you about the ones who make it over there and put the labels on here saying made in the USA)  I'm going to show this post to my husband.

Jul 15, 2018 10:21 AM
Sharon Kowitz
Cary, NC Relocation Specialist ~ Buying or Selling

Wow! I had no idea leds could be so dangerous. Thank you for doing this article. 

Jun 09, 2018 06:54 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Verty valuable public service announcement!  Would not have thought of this--thanks!

Jun 09, 2018 11:53 AM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Very educational. Thought they were cold and thought that cheap are as good as expensive :)

Jun 09, 2018 02:17 PM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Did the cheap one have an Energy Star label?  I'm always told by my energy assessment guys that a good LED has the Energy Star label and you won't encounter the issue you experienced.  

Jun 09, 2018 02:47 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sharon - any lousy electrical product can be dangerous.  I did not know the differences when I bought that first light!

Mary - I had not thought of it as a public service announcement! 

Jon - my legal name is Jon!  Cheap anything is rarely as good as expensive anything!

Jun 09, 2018 06:15 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Jan - unfortunately Energy Star labels are pirated all the time, especially by the Chinese!  And the label has lost a lot of its juice.  An Energy Star dishwasher can be so labeled if the cycle permits the door to be opened to air dry the dishes!

Jun 09, 2018 06:17 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes™- by eXp Realty - Vancouver, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

You make such good points, Jay. Buyer beware. We need to do our research and can't always trust the little label stuck on a product. Glad you discovered the issue before it became more serious - and the new light looks very nice. We often get what we pay for...

Jun 10, 2018 06:11 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

D&B - thank you.  I was shocked when I took off that cover and saw the burned areas!  My wife loves the new light.  She needs it for her eyes.

Jun 10, 2018 01:31 PM