LED Appliance Bulb Replacement





Introduction: LED Appliance Bulb Replacement

If your microwave or other appliance has a built in light, chances are you have been wondering how to replace the anemic, inefficient bulb in it with a high power LED.  Your time is at hand, as in this Instructable I will show you how to replace a 40W incandescent appliance bulb with a 3W white LED that will generate as much or more light at a >10X reduction in power consumption.  Total project cost around $10.   Fun, easy, cheap.

Step 1: Assemble Your Components

This project will require a handful of parts, pictured below. Your project may vary slightly depending on the bulb you are replacing, but the basic idea will be the same. The main components are the LED and the driver.

The driver is a cheap 120VAC to constant current unit built and sold direct from China. This is not a particularly safe, elegant, or reliable driver but the price is hard to beat. When working with electricity, especially 120VAC, be careful and do not take any chances.

The LED is a Cree XRE high efficiency warm white source, rated at 74 Lumens at 350mA.

List of Parts
Cree XRE Warm White LED http://ledsupply.com/creexre-ww.php
(You should get the XPG now, since it is more efficient and cheaper http://www.ledsupply.com/creexpg-ww105.php )
3W 120VAC LED Driver http://www.dx.com/s/13552

Bulb to be replaced
Scrap of thin wood (plywood or popsicle stick)
Small section of aluminum channel for heatsink
Misc Wire
Misc epoxy (i.e. JB Weld)

Step 2: Create a Base

The first step is to separate the glass bulb from the metal socket/ferrule/base or whatever the heck you want to call it.  You can do this by breaking the glass and prying out any remaining scraps stuck in the base or you can use a heat gun to try and get the glue holding the glass in to soften.  In either case, be careful and try not to cut yourself .

Once you get the glass out you will need to remove the wires for the filament from the base and use a soldering iron to attach your own wires.  The "button" or nib at the base of the metal bulb base is made of solder that you will need to heat up and get your wire attached to.  Not too hard once you get a look at it you should have no trouble.   Attach the "live" (red) lead to the button/nib and the "neutral" (black) wire to the base body.  Use black for live and white for neutral if you are looking to match typical in home wiring.

With the wires in place and solidly soldered, take your wood scrap and trim it to size.  With the power off to the fixture you are trying to put the LED into, you will want to screw the metal base with wires into the fixture to see where the base ends up rotationally so you can align the LED with it.  Unlike the incandescent bulb, the LED will be directional and you need the LED to point the right direction.  Take a marker or other method to mark the alignment for the wood scrap.  Remove the metal bulb base from the fixture and glue the wood strip in place according to your mark with epoxy (if you use hot glue it can soften and fall apart in use, which is very dangerous since this is connected to 120VAC).  Reseat the assembly in the fixture to ensure your alignment is good enough.  A few degrees off is no big deal here.

Step 3: Attach the Heat Sink

The next step is to use epoxy (if you use hot glue as I originally did, the glue will soften as the bulb heats up and fall apart, which is very dangerous with it being connected to 120VAC) to attach the aluminum channel to the wooden base to serve as a heatsink.  Be sure to keep the aluminum from touching the metal bulb base so that the heatsink is not electrically connected to the metal base which will be connected to the AC power.

UPDATE:  After having the bulb powered for a few hours with the broiler going at 550F the hot glue holding the heatsink to the wood base softened and let the assembly droop.  So I would recommend that an epoxy or other glue be used to bond the heatsink to the wood base.  The combo of a really hot environment due to the oven heat rising and the heat created by the LED is too much for hot glue in this application. 

Step 4: Attach Driver Circuit

The next step is to wire the driver circuit up and attach it to the wooden support.  First remove the wires that come with the driver and use solderwick or similar to clear the holes of solder.  Thread your wires attached to the bulb ferrule into the holes on the driver board and solder the wires to the board.  Repeat this for the wires that will go to the LED and use your own wires that will be long enough to reach the front of the heatsink.

With the driver connected to the AC wires, glue it in place with epoxy.  You can wait to glue everything in place until you have tested the system but be extra careful with handling the wiring/circuit/etc to prevent shorting when powered. 

Step 5: Attach LED

To attach the LED, solder the DC drive wires to the appropriate pads on the LED which should be labeled.  Using an appropriate epoxy such as thermally conductive epoxyelectrically conductive epoxy or JB Weld.  The back of the LED board is not electrically connected to the LED and if you were careful with the driver the heatsink should be isolated as well so using a conductive adhesive is OK.  While the epoxy is curing, clamp the LED down to minimize the distance between the LED and the heatsink.

Step 6: Light It Up and Testing

Now that the whole thing is done, screw it into your light fixture.  When screwing the bulb into the fixture, your care in measuring the final position taken in Step 2 will determine if your LED points down as desired.  You can tweak the bulb a bit in the fixture if needed but if you are off by a bunch you might have to add solder or remove solder from the nib/button at the end of the bulb to change the rotational position of the bulb when seated.

If when you turn on the power you see sparks and release the magic smoke, then it is back to the drawing board.  If all the lights in your house go out, you might want to find the breaker panel.  If you are transported to the 8th dimension, look out for the Red Lectroids.

Pictured is a microwave where the left bulb is a traditional 40W incandescent and the right is the pictured LED bulb with 3W nominal consumption.  The light outputs are similar, with the LED light being somewhat cooler in color than the incandescent.  Measurements using a light meter show that the incandescent is outputting about 250 Lux at the cooktop surface max and the LED is outputting about 300 Lux at the cooktop max.  For a >10x reduction in power consumption we've gotten the same or more light output.  Not too shabby.  Take that Mr. Edison.

So there you have it, a simple LED project to save power and reduce maintenance and no one will be the wiser.  That is unless you look forward to replacing your bulbs, because  then you might be disappointed as the LED will likely last longer than your appliance.  If you use hot glue, not so much.



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    New VAC LED Driver has 4 wires coming from it. 2 white by the driver coil (not sure if that's what it's called, it's the yellow box) and 1 White + 1 Red by a capacitor (there are two capacitors in the driver I got). Which should be attached to the red and black from the ferrule?

    1 reply

    The colors are not reliable to differentiate function. The PCB is often labeled in the silkscreen (white text) to show LED- and LED+. The other wires to the AC input (bulb ferrule) will not be polarized and will be input to the transformer. If you can clearly see (or test with a multimeter) which wires go to the transformer you can assume that the remaining wires are for the LED. Wire the bulb ferrule to the transformer and the others to the LED. Polarity to the LED is important. If no silkscreen, then I'd start by guessing red is LED+. If that fails, invert and try again.

    would scrap aluminum (like a soda can) work for the heat sink?

    I really want to make this but for the life of me can't separate the bulb from the base. Tried heat gun, gentle flame, boiling water, etc. Wasted about 10 bulbs! Any ideas?

    4 replies

    Sometimes I've had trouble myself and have just crushed the glass out without destroying the metal based as best I could. It depends on the brand and age of the bulb I think. You'll need to clear enough glass out in the bottom of the base so you can solder a wire to the "nib" at the bottom center of the base. Also try not to cut yourself. :)

    Thanks for replying. I've tried many times but cannot get enough room to solder. If you or anyone else who has done this successfully care to, I'd be glad to send all the parts for the two bulbs I need, and $25 for your trouble. I'll mark the base to show which side faces straight down.

    I could possibly help you out. You should solder the wire from the outside. It sounds like you are trying to do so from the inside of the base. The whole "nib" is solder so what I do is apply the iron to the nib from the outside while pressing the wire in from the outside. When the solder melts, the wire comes through. If you need more help, send me a message directly.

    Oops. I meant to say "apply the iron to the nib from the outside while pressing the wire in from the INSIDE."

    Where can I find the aluminum stock for the heatsink??

    2 replies

    You local hardware store or big-box retailer will have aluminum channel you can use.


    Thanks very much.

    Beware of these " ready to go bulbs" (suggested by dalebesh)t he package size is described as Package size (L x W x H): 9 x 4 x 4 cm. My bulb measures 6.3 x 2.4 x 2.4 cm....no way they will fit in my vent hood light !

    Great instruct-able! I have struggled with these bulbs burning out in 3-4 months. The location makes them hard to change so they remain burned out for another month (frustrating my wife) I agree with the caution update that recommended against hot glue. Hot glue is my least favorite adhesive unless I'm glueing paper of cardboard ... I used jb weld for everything in this project (BTW JB weld is not conductive). I also screwed the led down to the heat sink (with JB weld underneath ). A small number 2 screw +nut worked well (though I did have to trim led pads away from nut with a razor knife). I also used some FR4 type perf board instead of the wood (it has a much safer heat/flammability rating compared to wood). The location of the bulb is very tight in my vent hood so be very careful to stay compact (I had to trim down the aluminum heat sink fins to make my first one fit)

    I am now using these bulbs.


    I got E12 to E14 adapters also. There are many sources of adapters including ebay.
    The lamps don't give out a lot of light considering the number of leds on each module, but enough for my purposes. On the positive side, they run cool and screw right in.
    I am planning some other uses for ones I built up..

    I'll add a picture later of the finished 'lighted area'.

    Just thought I'd mention that I've been running this bulb for over a year now over my microwave. It comes on automatically on a timer and is on for 12 hours daily. The timer switches it on on low setting and I never have any flicker. I built it as designed in the original plans posted. The bulb still works flawlessly. Thanks again for the posting the instructions.

    I should have mentioned also, the only ones available that will fit are rated at only 0.5-3 watts, you need at least 5W for an equivalent 25W output. They have them, but they are too big to fit the space available in over range microwaves.

    1 reply

    Do you have a link? I'd say it depends on the bulb. The design shown in this guide is directional while the typical incandescent or LED replacement is not. The reflectors in these under-range hoods are miserable, so a lot (~50%?) of the light directed away from the work surface into the reflector is lost. As my measurements show, using a single LED at around 2W (650mA at 3.1V) gives as much or more light than the 40W incandescent. Some of this is due to electrical efficiency and some of it due to configurational efficiency since the LED directs zero light away from the work surface.

    Also, a lot of the commercial bulbs out there do not use the best LEDs. Using a state-of-the-art LED I'd expect another 25-50% more light output than I published.

    They do 'now'. They run around 8 bucks each, and up. So about twice the cost and less than half the fun. ;)