Can LED Bulbs be Used in Ceiling Fans?

Saving the environment and saving money: the enticing properties of LED light bulbs that have more and more people ridding their homes of dated incandescents.

With their energy-saving properties and lengthy lifespans, it can be tempting to switch out all of the bulbs in your home for LEDs. LED lights can be installed in most places that other bulbs can, but some fixtures like ceiling fans require extra consideration before making the switch. 

As a general rule, LED bulbs can be used in ceiling fans. Care must be taken to double-check that the dimmer switch is compatible with LED bulbs and that the bulb itself is dimmable.

Depending on the properties of your light fixture as well as the bulb itself, several problems can interfere with the lifespan and efficiency of an LED bulb after installation. To better understand how you can reap the benefits of LED lights while preventing damage, continue reading to discover what features of your ceiling fan could potentially cause problems. 

Why Can’t Some LED Bulbs Be Used in Ceiling Fans?

LED bulbs have become increasingly more common, and with that comes more variety. Based on the properties of your fan, it is best to be particular about which bulb you choose.

LED Lights and Dimmer Switches

The type of bulb that can be placed in a fan comes down to the features of the ceiling fan itself. If your ceiling fan operates on a dimmer, the only LED lights that should be installed are those that have dimming capabilities.

Even then, you need to make sure the dimmer switch itself can function properly with the bulb. LED lights often need a dimmer specifically designed for their use. If you’d like to learn more about LED bulbs and their dimming compatibilities, here is a helpful video: 

Can Ceiling Fan Dimmers Damage the LED Bulb

Dimming the lights can be great for the ambiance, but it is best to think twice before changing out your old bulb for an LED if your ceiling fan is connected to a dimmer switch. 

Dimmer Switches are not One-size-Fits-All

Attempting to use the same dimmer switch that worked for your incandescent, halogen, or CFL bulbs with a standard LED likely won’t produce the same results. Simply put, LEDs work by responding to electrical currents sent to them. When you mess with the voltage being sent to the bulb, it can respond by flashing and eventually dying out. 

Wiring can also be an issue and make for a complicated process. If the dimmer and the fan use the same switch, LEDs should not be used due to the potential for overheating. It is best if a switch is used for the light and a pull chain for the fan. 

Why LED Bulbs Don’t Last in Ceiling Fans

48 Pack A19 LED Bulb, 60 Watt Equivalent, Daylight 5000K, E26 Medium Base, Non-Dimmable LED Light Bulb, UL Listed

Frustration can arise after you’ve invested your money and time into installing a new light bulb, just for it to blow out days later. LED bulbs may seem smart, but they’re also sensitive. Awareness of what features of your ceiling fan could hurt the bulbs is the first step to preventing the damage.

LED Bulbs and Vibration

If your ceiling fan looks like it’s about to fly off of the ceiling when you run it, or if you just run it often, this can damage the bulb due to the vibration. Before you replace the bulb, it is a good idea to balance the fan blades to make sure the vibrations won’t damage the new bulb. It will be much quieter as well after balancing.

Generally, newer ceiling fans run pretty smoothly and probably won’t create a concerning amount of shaking and vibration. If you notice the spinning from the blades is causing significant movement throughout the entire fixture, the structure of an LED bulb may not be able to handle it. 

Enclosed Light Fixture

LED bulbs can be a tad claustrophobic and perform best with some room to breathe. Thus, the surrounding structure of your light bulb can factor into damage potential.

If the light bulb in your ceiling fan is tightly covered, the lack of space for air circulation can cause the circuit to overheat. As a result, the bulb may flicker or die out prematurely. There are options for LED bulbs that are manufactured specifically to work in tight closures as a solution to this issue.

As a general rule, whenever the bulb is in a small space where ventilation is poor use a lower wattage bulb to prevent premature bulb failure due to overheating. 

Remote Controls 

Unfortunately, LED lights do not always work the way they should, if at all.

Remote controls can be a convenient option for turning on the light compared to reaching to yank a chain, but the technology can be picky about the bulb used. If your ceiling fan is operated by remote control, you may run into difficulties when switching from an incandescent bulb to an LED.

Often, ceiling fan remotes require more wattage to operate efficiently than LED bulbs can offer. If you are able, using a pull chain to turn on the lights is typically the best option in this scenario.

Incandescent and LED Bulbs in the Same Fixture

Installing a mix of incandescent and LED lights in a ceiling fan is generally not a good idea, especially if your light fixture is enclosed. The common trend among all problems that lead to LED bulbs being damaged is heat; the excess energy given off by incandescents can cause LED lights to fail. 

Most Common Ceiling Fan Light Socket

Candelabra (E12 socket)

Today, candelabra light sockets are widely used in ceiling fans. Candelabra bulbs are smaller and designed to look nicer than the previously popular standard bulbs that use E26 socket.

They are also, arguably, more geared towards aesthetics as they come in a variety of colors and more natural-looking styles. 

Regardless of whether or not LED lights are used, the candelabra style sockets initially became widespread after regulations were placed on light fixture production to reduce energy emissions. 

Due to their small size, ceiling fans with candelabra style fixtures may sway even more consumers towards switching to LED bulbs. Because of regulations on the number of watts used by light bulbs, incandescents of this style may not provide the desired brightness. LED candelabra bulbs can emit more light intensity at higher lumen magnitudes. 

If you have a modern ceiling fan produced for candelabra bulbs, switching to LED lights should not be too much of an issue. That being said, be sure to refer to the points made earlier in the article to be sure you are getting the correct bulb for your fan and avoid issues along the way. 

Older Ceiling Fans

Before the lighting industry geared its focus towards energy efficiency, medium sockets were primarily used in ceiling fans to hold high-watt incandescent bulbs. Because changes were not firmly implemented until a decade and a half ago, plenty of homeowners still have older-style ceiling fans.

Medium-base (E26/E27) incandescent lights have been the standard for these fixtures, but LED lights can still be an option. You may need to search for a bulb significantly high in lumens to match the amount of light power used by medium-base incandescents. 

Getting the Correct Wattage Equivalence

You should also know the minimum load requirement on your ceiling fan/dimmer switch. This information can be used to figure out what wattage equivalency you need to get out of your LED bulb. Instead of using watts, LED bulbs measure their light power in lumens.

If an LED lights’ power is listed in watts, know that the number is not the same measurement as an incandescent watt (for example, a 4W LED bulb is equivalent to a standard 25W bulb).

How many lumens a bulb has is what really matters, the more, the brighter the light will be. For example, if you are replacing a 20-watt halogen bulb, you should use a 4 watt LED to get the same amount of light output.

Here is an helpful table to comparing incandescent, halogen, CFL and led bulbs

Bulb typleWattageLumens
25 watt incandescent equivalent table

High vs. Low-Quality LEDs 

To be frank, if you purchase a cheap LED bulb, expect lower quality and a shorter lifespan. Purchasing a high-quality (on the pricier end) LED bulb can reduce its damage potential and be used longer to save you money in the long run. Lower-quality LED bulbs are more likely to be impacted by vibrations, heat, and other stimuli caused by the ceiling fan. 

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Joonas Pütsepp

I like it when I'm able to fix everything that needs fixing around the house. In order to do that, I have to do a lot of research. This site will cover everything I learn and maybe help others do the same.

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