How long will your LED display last?
It’s a question that comes up all the time as sports venues, concert halls, and corporate centers evaluate the return on investment (ROI) for large format displays. In most cases, potential buyers go straight to the obvious place: the LED manufacturer’s spec sheet. The industry standard is 100,000 hours, or about 10 years, so most people assume that’s how long the display will last.
But that’s hardly the case.
The first problem with the 100,000-hour figure is that it’s calculated on the basis of the diode running at full brightness, consistently — which, for an LED screen, is virtually never the case. Furthermore, the lifespan number indicates when a diode degrades to half-brightness, not completely dark — another point confusing the issue.
Beyond that, there are just too many variables impacting an LED display’s lifetime to rely solely on the number on the diode spec.
What other factors influence your LED display’s lifetime?
“The reality is, your screen can often last significantly longer than 100,000 hours,” says Kevin Izatt, a senior product manager for Samsung’s Display division. “We’ve had displays that have been up for 15-plus years with more than adequate brightness. Because the diode is actually only one factor in the lifetime of your LED display.”
Let’s take a look at some of those additional factors:
The biggest contributor to the degradation of a diode is heat. If you’re running a diode at full brightness, it’s going to produce more heat than at lesser brightness levels. On top of that, the sign’s physical environment can add to that heat.
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“Let’s say you’re in Vegas — Death Valley,” says Izatt. “The diode is fine to operate at those temperatures, but it will degrade faster. Temperature is a big factor — and not one you have control over.”
The reverse can also be true. If your sign is located in Canada, for instance, extremely cold conditions can extend the life of the display.
The quality of the power supply — and how hard it drives the diodes — can impact the life of the screen significantly. Also, the other components being powered have their own lifespans, which are impacted by that supply.
“Fans are mechanical; they break down. And similar to your computer, the electrical components don’t last forever,” explains Izatt. “Together, these factors all contribute to the lifetime of an LED display. Looking at just the diode lifetime doesn’t give you the complete story — almost always, another part will go out first.”
Other factors to consider are the architecture and construction of the unit that houses the diodes — which can either lengthen or shorten a display’s longevity.
“Something like airflow is very important,” says Izatt. “You need a screen that has good cooling, and a design that allows heat to flow out of the back through vents.”
It’s easy to see why: The circuit boards powering the display release heat, and that heat needs somewhere to go. Without a strong design, thermal stress will degrade the life of the display — the highest-quality parts and optimal conditions notwithstanding.
The content you feature can impact your LED display’s lifespan, too.
“Lots of variations on the color and brightness you use will impact the life of the diode,” explains Izatt. “For instance, black doesn’t use any of the diodes at all. And if your content is using lots of gray, that’s a much lower power output than white.”
That’s not to say you should hold back on displaying rich, vibrant colors on your display — after all, that’s what LEDs do best. But it’s something else to keep in mind when considering your product’s life expectancy.
Evaluate the lifetime of your LED display holistically
Don’t be fooled by the number on the diode spec sheet. The lifetime of your LED display is dependent on many more factors. Your best bet? Look at the purchase holistically and invest in a top-tier product. “Overall quality has a tremendous impact on the life of the display that diode specs just don’t take into account,” says Izatt.
As you plan your LED signage rollout — or an upgrade — make sure you know how to configure and tailor your screens’ real-time messaging using an integrated CMS, as explained in our free comprehensive guide. And if you haven’t decided what kind of display best suits your current project, discover Samsung’s entire lineup of innovative LED displays.