Do Light Bulbs Expire? (And Ways to Store Unused Bulbs)

You probably don’t buy light bulbs fairly often, and if you purchase a large amount of them all at once, you may wonder how long you can store the unused bulbs.

Do light bulbs expire, and what’s their shelf life? Normally, light bulbs do not expire, and they can have an incredibly long shelf life. To maintain and protect unused light bulbs, store them properly so that they do not break or mistakenly fall.  Keep the bulbs in their original box and find a safer place to store them.

If you know how to take good care of your light bulbs, you won’t have to bother yourself about throwing out unused bulbs and you will be able to stock them up for years to come. Normally, you will expect an unused light bulb to work even though you have had it stored in your house for years.

Some unused incandescent light bulbs work decades after they were made. So if you’re concerned about a couple of light bulbs you brought a few years ago, it should be fine.  Light bulbs do have a lifetime usage rating. For instance, yours might be rated to last five years.  However, that lifetime rating starts the moment you first turn the bulb on.

In other words, how much you use the light bulb, is much more crucial than how old it is. But, apart from age, unused bulbs also can get broken or damaged from environmental conditions. For example, the filament inside a normal lightbulb heats up to about several thousand degrees. If oxygen gets into the lightbulb, it’ll affect the filament and make it burn up in less than a minute. 

Other climatic conditions, like moisture, can also cause problems over time.

Why do Light Bulb Go Bad?

If you break or damage the seal on the bulb, it can go bad. The bulb may also go bad if the filament (inside the bulb) breaks. You may notice that happen if you move the bulb a lot or if it. Even though the bulb does not break completely, the filament can break, which may cause the bulb to go bad.

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Normally easy to tell when an incandescent bulb has burned out. Simply check the filament to be sure if it is broken, or give the bulb a nice gentle shake to listen for the familiar “tinkle tinkle” of the broken filament in the bulb. Identifying the viability of a fluorescent bulb is somewhat more complicated.

How to Store Unused Light Bulbs?

Here’s a simple way on how to store light bulbs of all types and protect them from damage:

1. Clear Plastic Bins

You can find plastic storage bins of different sizes and shapes at home improvement stores, big box stores, and even dollar stores. These are a tidy way to store larger light bulbs, as there is ample space to keep many sizes and shapes of light bulbs in one container. Clear boxes also allow you to see through what’s in the container without having to open multiple boxes whenever you need a fresh light bulb.

2. Bubble Wrap

Just like when packing away old glasses or dishes, bubble wrap can protect your light bulbs if you are storing them in a drawer or on a utility shelf. By keeping them all wrapped, light bulbs are less likely to be damaged.

3. Egg Cartons

The smaller the light bulb is, the more delicate the glass used in making it. Storing these small light bulbs in old egg cartons helps keep them protected and makes them a lot much easy to find. Another bonus is that it keeps the egg carton out of the landfill. Organization and helping the environment all the way around.

4. Christmas Ornament Organizer

Ornament organizers are available in different sizes with built-in sections to carry various sizes of ornaments, which prevents them from rolling around in the box. These boxes are perfect for holding extra light bulbs. Ornament boxes are available in the winter at many big box stores, storage solution stores, and hardware stores.

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The Shelf Life of LED Light Bulbs

Many LEDs have an estimated lifespan of up to 50,000 hours. This can be approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent, 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen, and 8-10 times longer than a typical CFL. Used 12 hours a day, a 50,000 bulb will last more than 11 years.

Classic halogen bulbs are being increasingly replaced by LED bulbs, also called retrofit bulbs. These bulbs, tend to last much longer than halogen bulbs. However, the capacity of LED bulbs is still limited by the electronics in the lighting, which makes the LED bulb run on the existing voltage of halogen bulbs. Furthermore, an LED bulb must remain cool. If LED lighting heats up, it will stop working.

The limited cooling of retrofit bulbs reduces their life span. Moreover, turning the light on and off frequently won’t help improve the number of burning-hours. All things considered, the average life span of an LED bulb is currently around 15,000 hours.

The Shelf Life of Incandescent Light Bulbs

There’s no expiration date on the storage of an incandescent light bulb. As long as it is being stored in a dry place, it may be stored for several years and still work properly when screwed into a socket. Once the bulb is in use it does have an expected lifetime which varies in line with the manufacturer and the bulb’s wattage.

Incandescent bulbs were banned in America in 2007. In 2007, Congress passed a bill that outlaws the incandescent light bulb by the year 2014. All incandescent bulbs are going to gradually phased out beginning with the ones of greater wattage.

Most incandescent bulbs have an expected lifetime of roughly six months which is half a year, depending upon several factors. Since the incandescent bulb has been banned and because of that is no longer being manufactured in America, it might be wise to go ahead and use your incandescent bulbs before 2014. After that, there could also be fines or penalties of some sort for those people who get caught using incandescent bulbs.

The Shelf Life of CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) Light Bulbs

Fluorescent, or CFL bulbs, are more strong in terms of energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, but also not as efficient as LEDs. The average lifespan of CFLs is approximately 8,000 hours, compared to the 25,000-hour lifetime of LEDs. That comes out to about three CFL bulbs for every single LED purchase.

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CLF bulbs also require more energy, and consequently, cost more cash. About double the watts are required to attain the same level of brightness as an LED, and running one for 25,000 hours would cost about $50. However, the upfront cost of CFLs sits at about $2 per bulb—about half the price of an LED.

CFLs typically have a rated service lifespan of 6000–15,000 hours, whereas standard incandescent lamps have a service lifespan, of 750 or 1000 hours.

Do Light Bulb Flicker Before They Burn Out?

Maybe the bulb is just about to burn out. But sometimes, a flickering bulb could be a sign that the light or bulb fixture is damaged or the electrical connection is faulty. Leaving a flickering light to burn could present a risk of an electrical fire. The same goes for a lamp that burns too hot.

How Do I Stop my Light Bulbs From Flickering?

Addressing a power-connection issue or loose wire to the driver circuit will often easily resolve the flickering or no-power issue. Make sure the lamp is screwed correctly in place and also the connection point hasn’t become loose over its lifetime. Check for any loose wires. Tighten and securely screw the lamp correctly in place.

Subsequently, question is, why do my LED light bulbs flicker?

LED bulb flickering may be traced in almost every instance to a non-compatible dimmer switch within the lighting circuit. LED bulbs do not have glowing filaments. When the dimmer switch goes on and off repeatedly per second, the LED bulb becomes a flickering strobe light.

Are Flickering Lights Dangerous?

Loose wiring is one of the most serious reasons for flickering lights and the main reason for house fires. It’s never a wise idea to ignore a lighting or electrical problem. If you notice your lights flickering, always investigate, and if you can not find the exact problem persists, call an electrician.

About Sarah Walker

Sarah is a homemaker and is passionate about fixing little things in and around her house. She loves to do DIY hacks and keeps on writing about those things in her blog. When she is not writing, she keeps herself busy with her twins Cathy and Mickey.