LED Minimum Operating Temperature: Effects of Cold Weather on LED Lights (2024)

Traditional lights can be unreliable outdoors during winter or cold days. And being stuck outside trying to fix the issue is not pleasant when the temperatures go sub-zero. But since LEDs are increasingly taking over as the preferred lighting systems, do they struggle during cold weather? The LED minimum operating temperature is way below zero. Therefore, if you want to replace traditional outdoor lights with LEDs, here’s all you need to know about LEDs and cold temperatures.

Do LEDs Work in Cold Weather?

Unlike traditional lighting methods, LEDs don’t require heat to turn on. They produce light purely using electricity, so they thrive in cold temperatures. Studies have proven that cold weather enhances LED performance, enabling each chip to emit a higher light output.


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The internal parts of a light emitting diode

LEDs are light sources with semiconductors, so their core materials are not conductors or insulators. When connected to electricity, free electrons on the negatively charged component flow to holes on the positively charged material. This flow of electrons emits light.

LED Minimum Operating Temperature: Effects of Cold Weather on LED Lights (2)

Electron flow on the P-N junction of a semiconductor

Effects of Heat on LED Lights

The emission process produces 100% light output when the junction temperature is 77°F (25°C). If the temperature increases to about 120°F (48.9°C), the light output decreases to 90%. The junction will fail when the temperature goes up to 185°F (85°C).

Therefore, heat harms the light emission process in LEDs by causing mutations in the bulb’s behavior, which can reduce an LED bulb’s lifespan.

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Parts of a light emitting diode

Most LEDs feature built-in heat sinks to evacuate excess heat from the diode. These components can lower the internal junction temperature by 50-86°F (10-30°C).

Effects of Cold on LED Lights

If the ambient temperature is too cold (lower than 25°C), it can reduce the junction temperature, causing the LED bulb to outperform. Therefore cold environments exert less strain on the LED drivers and diodes, causing them to produce more light than usual.

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LED bulbs installed in outdoor black lanterns during winter

Lumen Depreciation

High ambient temperatures cause prolonged high junction temperatures that increase the degradation rate of the LED’s junction element. This effect can cause irreversible damage to the light output, an issue known as lumen degradation.

Technically, lumen depreciation/degradation gives a measure of light output reduction in LED lights over time.

Usually, an LED bulb gets replaced when its lumen depreciation is at 70%. L70 is an industry-standard acronym, and most manufacturers use the optimum junction temperature of 77°F (25°C) to determine the L70 lifespan.

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Different types of LED bulbs

For instance, an LED bulb with an L70 of 50,000 hours will last 50,000 if it operates at 25°C.

Therefore, people living in cold temperatures should consider using LED bulbs for street lights and general outdoor lighting due to the slow lumen depreciation.

There are economic benefits to this slow depreciation because it means a long lifespan while getting maximum brightness.

What is the Operating Temperature of LEDs

The operating temperature for each LED varies depending on the bulb. But generally, most units operate between -22°F to 140°F (-30°C to 60°C). Therefore, although LEDs perform better in cold environments, they can survive in warm climates.

But the optimum junction temperature is 77°F (25°C). And the junction temperature (heat in the bulb’s internal elements) is usually higher than the ambient temperature. For instance, the ambient environment temperature can be about 59°F (15°C), while the junction temperature is 95°F (35°C). Therefore, the lower the ambient air temperatures in cold climates, the better the LED lifespan and performance.

Will LED Lights Flicker During Cold Weather?

Cold weather seasons do not diminish the performance of LEDs. On the contrary, the low temperatures boost their light output, so you do not have to worry about flickering.

But it does not mean that LEDs cannot flicker during colder temperatures. The most likely cause for this issue is frozen internal parts. Temperature-resistant parts can be costly, so some low-quality LED bulbs can have cheap components that are not weather-resistant.

Therefore, you should invest in high-quality LEDs, especially for outdoor applications.

LED Lights vs. Traditional Lamps in Cold Weather

Here is a comparison of how LED lights stack up against traditional bulbs.

LED Minimum Operating Temperature: Lifespan

Traditional bulbs emit heat, and this causes a significant temperature difference when the ambient outside temperature is low. Therefore, the glass casing can break and kill the bulb.

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Incandescent bulbs are installed outdoors.

Replacing one such bulb is not an issue, but replacing thousands of units in commercial spaces is inconvenient and costly.

However, LEDs do not emit heat and typically have lifespans reaching 50,000 hours. They can last more than 11 years when used 12 hours daily, translating to a lifespan of up to 10 times longer than CFL, 25 times longer than halogen, and 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

Therefore, upgrading to LEDs before the colder weather months arrive is an intelligent and economical move.


Traditional bulbs require some time to warm up and turn on when it is cold, which is inconvenient. And when they turn on, LEDs will still outshine them while consuming less power. Remember, LED degradation reduces in cold weather while the lumen output increases.


Fluorescent bulbs use mercury vapor, and low temperatures drop the mercury vapor pressure, making it harder to start. Also, the lower mercury vapor pressure does not emit enough UV energy for the phosphor layer to convert to visible light. But LEDs don’t require any mercury.

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A CFL is installed inside a metal wall lantern outdoors

Apart from that, these non-LED lights require combustible materials to work. These materials can get damaged when exposed to cold weather. But LEDs run using high-quality electronic drivers that can withstand extreme cold.


Switching from traditional bulbs to LEDs will be expensive, but it eliminates the constant replacements after about six months or once the cold weather season arrives.

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A fluorescent mounted on an electric pole as a street light

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the LED minimum operating temperature is not standard across all bulbs. But it can go to -30°C. However, the optimal junction temperature is 25°C or 77°F. Ambient temperatures going into the sub-zero levels lower the junction temperature, resulting in higher light output and a longer lifespan. Therefore, installing LEDs in cold areas has several benefits that far outweigh the cost. That’s it for this article! If you have any questions or comments, leave a message, and we’ll get back to you asap.

LED Minimum Operating Temperature: Effects of Cold Weather on LED Lights (2024)
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