The Bad News About The Ubiquitous LED Light Bulb

LED Light -emitting diode

The light-emitting diode (LED) has become ubiquitous in the technology that surrounds our lives today. Practically everywhere you look, LEDs are visible; your car, your computer, your microwave oven, your cell phone, etc. Even in household and commercial lighting applications, we see LED technology taking over where the older less efficient fluorescent and filament bulbs use to dominate.

filament light bulb

A filament light bulb

 In the interests of greater electrical efficiency, older technology light bulbs are being phased-out in favor of the newest LED and fluorescent technologies, which have advanced to the point where the light that is produced from an LED bulb for instance, is comparable in brightness (in some cases, better) than the old standbys, while using less energy and generating less heat.

LED flashlight

LED Flashlight

One of the most useful innovations related to LED bulbs in our daily lives has been in flashlight technology. How many times have you picked-up an older flashlight with an energy hungry filament bulb, only to find the batteries are low or dead, or the bulb is burned-out?. Of course the filament bulb was also prone to failure from impact, which could cause the filament to break. And of course filament bulbs have a very short life compared to an LED bulb.

But what is an LED? We all know what the initials stand for, but what is it really?

LEDs are direct-current (‘D.C.’) semiconductors; solid-state diodes. Diodes conduct electrons (current) in one direction only, and in that one direction, depending on the particular diode, they have some ability to handle momentary over-voltage conditions. However, their capability to handle reverse voltage is very low and they will readily fail. The alternating current (‘A.C.’) powered LED lights, as well as compact fluorescent lights use switching transistors in their design to allow the use of A.C. current, and these solid-state semiconductors are also very sensitive to momentary transitory high-voltage electromagnetic fields.

LED flashlight laser

And here’s the ‘gotcha’: An EMP will generate a high-voltage electromagnetic field that will hammer most of these solid-state semiconductors, rendering them useless.

With this understanding, we now see that tactical LED flashlights and electronic targeting optics as well as any other devices that have any solid-state semiconductors inside will likely be damaged by an electromagnetic pulse (‘EMP’).

As we begin to apply this information to the equipment that many Preppers, law-enforcement and military have integrated into their plans, we suddenly realize that even the most basic items would be toast, just when they are needed most:

Firearm LED flashlight laser

Have you recently attached an LED light or laser to a firearm?

Here are a few questions that need answered:

  1. Did you, or someone you know recently attach a fancy new LED light to any firearm? What about an electronic target acquisition system? Laser? Etc.?
  1. What about LED flashlights? How many of those do you have? Where are they located? If they are fried from an EMP, how will you illuminate the darkness?

As we ask even these two questions, we start to understand the immediate situation if the national electrical grid went down in a post-EMP event, and the grand-failure of all the technology around us.

So what can we do? We can start by understanding the real challenges and addressing them! This article on Survival Engineering’ will give you a head-start in your planning and preparations; it covers a host of considerations and solutions.

Don’t get me wrong! I love my high-output LED flashlights! Nothing comes close to them for brightness and getting outstanding battery life! BUT, they are vulnerable to EMP as we see. Here is a strategy that makes sense, which I recommend:

  1. Use both filament bulb and cheaper LED lights in your everyday use. Filament bulb flashlights are not vulnerable to EMP and will work post-EMP. Using energy-hungry filament-bulb flashlights isn’t a big deal pre-disaster, since batteries are easy to come-by prior to any disaster.
  1. Keep your fancy high-quality LED flashlights in your Faraday Cage along with a good supply of batteries for them, and any other electronic equipment. When it comes to batteries, I prefer a combination of standard Duracell batteries and rechargeable batteries. If you have a pile of expensive electronic optics for your firearms, then you better keep them in the Faraday Cage as well! In the interim, iron-sights and standard rifle scopes are the best pre-disaster accessories for any firearm. If you’re law-enforcement or military personnel, then having an exact replacement for your primary targeting optics stored under Faraday Cage protection may be important, if you want that same capability post-EMP.

Being prepared today means being ready for tomorrow!

Cheers! Capt. Bill

Capt. William E. Simpson II - USMM Ret.
Semper Veritas / Semper Paratus

About the Author:


Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Simpson has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family ...


Emergency Power, Most Popular, Prepping


electrical grid, LED Lights, Filament Light, LED Light bulb, LED flashlights, emp

One thought on “The Bad News About The Ubiquitous LED Light Bulb”

  • Garry

    LED have managed to reign the lighting arena just because of its highly efficient nature. Flashlights are really important for law enforcement officials and LED addition have just made them every more useful.

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