Benefits of Converting to LEDs in Pinball Machines

Posted by Ryan Wanger on

What are the benefits of converting to LEDs in your pinball machines?

There are a ton of benefits that make it more than worthwhile to switch from incandescent bulbs to LEDs in your pinball machine. But first, let’s get this out of the way…

Are incandescent bulbs bad for pinball machines?

Answer: definitely not. Prior to 2013, all pinball machines were designed with only incandescent bulbs in mind. They work like a charm, but traditionally these machines were designed to be put on location, make a lot of money in a short amount of time, and then be replaced with newer titles. If you’re here, it’s because you love pinball, and the machine you’re working on next is almost certainly at least 7 years old...but more likely 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years old, or older! 

Disadvantages of Incandescent Bulbs

  • They give off a lot of heat. This is the biggest problem, and the best reason to switch to LEDs. Over time, the heat from incandescents can melt and warp plastics, and even worse: cause cupped, sunken, or lifted playfield inserts. This causes an uneven playfield surface, which opens the door to damage (from the balls), and can impact the path of the ball in unexpected ways. Ever drained because a slow-moving ball changed paths in a cupped insert? The worst! And don’t even get me started on how incandescent bulbs eventually destroy backglasses by heating up the paint until it starts chipping off!
  • Short lifespan. An incandescent bulb will burn out after a few thousand hours. If your games are on location or left on all day, this means you will be replacing bulbs frequently.
  • Excessive energy consumption. The lights are actually one of the largest consumers of energy in a pinball machine. We know a place whose utility bill is over $10,000 for a four-day event showcasing 500+ pins. What the what?!?
  • Heavy current load. 150+ incandescent bulbs put stress on pinball machines, which were only designed to last a few years. This takes a toll on the connectors and other components in the backbox.

Advantages of LED Bulbs

This list looks a lot light the opposite of the list above, but with a few added items.

  • Reduced heat on plastics, inserts, and the backglass. Help preserve the original artwork of your game.
  • Long-lasting. LED bulbs last somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. When you consider the time spent switching out bulbs, this alone is enough to make LEDs the better deal.
  • Reduced energy consumption. There is a reason most of us have replaced the incandescent bulbs in our households: LED bulbs use significantly less electricity.  Some people have seen as much as a 50% reduction in power consumption in a machine after switching to LEDs.
  • Reduce the current load. Ever had to replace a burnt connector in the backbox? Us too, and it always, ALWAYS, seems to be the one for general illumination. Switching to LEDs will extend the life of your connectors and other components in the backbox.

Image showing Comet Pinball LED Variety
  • Choice. In the incandescent world, there were only four bulbs (44/47, 555, 906, and 89). They all had the same color and lens type. We’ve got over a dozen different colors, different brightnesses, different types of lenses, special effects, and specialized bulbs so you can do things that weren’t even possible back when your game was designed.

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