LED lights are becoming more and more popular in homes and businesses around the world. One of the benefits of LED lighting is that they are dimmable. This means that you can adjust the brightness of the light to create the perfect ambiance for your space. We will discuss how to dim LED lights and cover everything from checking if your light is dimmable to choosing the right LED dimmer switch.
Let’s get started!
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Learning how to dim lights is a great way to save energy and set the mood in your home. If you want to dim your lights then you will need to add a device called a dimmer to your lighting circuit and ensure that all the equipment including the lights themselves are dimmable.
However, if you are stuck and cannot go to such lengths then there are ways to learn how to dim lights without a dimmer.
The answer to this question is yes. Any light can be dimmed, but the process may vary depending on the type of light bulb and the dimmer switch. For example, incandescent lights can usually be dimmed with a standard wall dimmer, while LED lights often require a special LED dimmer switch.
Can LED lights be dimmed, yes all LED is dimmable and it’s one of the many reasons to use LED and leave more traditional sources of light. However, be careful as not all LED light fixtures are dimmable if they have not been designed to be use dimmable power supply. We’ll show you what to look out for below.
No, not all light bulbs are dimmable. In order to be dimmable, the light bulb must be designed for use with a dimmer switch. Incandescent and LED bulbs are usually the only types of bulbs that can be used with a dimmer switch. Fluorescent lighting is dimmable but that also needs to be designed to be dimmable with the correct control gear internally and the right dimmer switch.
A dimmer is a device that is used to lower the brightness of a light. A dimmer switch is usually installed in place of a standard light switch and can be used to control both incandescent, fluorescent, halogen and LED lights but not universally.
Yes, you will usually need a specific style of dimmer switch for LED lights. This is because LED lights react better to a different type of dimming signal than incandescent lights do. Standard wall dimmers are not designed to work with LED lights and can damage the light fixture.
While it is possible to use an incandescent dimmer with LED lights, it is not recommended. An incandescent dimmer module is designed for higher wattages of loading, typically 250W-400W as standard. If you are using LED lights the combined load of the LEDs is so much smaller that the signal being interupted to reduce the current is too heavy handed and consequently causes problems:
It is best to purchase a special LED dimmer switch that is designed to work with LED lights. This will ensure that you have the best possible experience when dimming your LEDs.
If you need to purchase a new dimmer switch for your LED lights, there are several options available. The most common type of LED dimmer switch is a rotary dimmer. This type of dimmer has a knob that you can turn to adjust the brightness of the light. There are also digital LED dimmers available which allow you to adjust the brightness with buttons or a touch screen.
Many Lights these days include an LED arrangement integral to the product and do not allow for an LED bulb to be fitted as it’s not required. If both are classed as dimmable lights, it would depend on the light fittings compatibility. The wattage of the LED bulb might need to be considered when looking to dim as some LED bulbs are high wattage and can only be dimmed with a specialised LED Dimmer Switches suited to that wattage load, whereas other lower powered LED bulbs can usually be dimmed using a standard incandescent/LED dimmer switch.
Now that we’ve answered some of the most common questions about how to dim LED lights, let’s move on to the 7 steps you need to follow in order to dim your LEDs safely and effectively.
7 Step Guide on how to dim LED light:
Step 1: Before purchasing a new LED dimmer switch, it is important to check that the light fixture itself is actually dimmable. Not all LED fixtures are designed to be dimmed, so it is important to check this before proceeding. This information can usually be found on the packaging of the light or on the website of the manufacturer.
Step 2: In order to dim an LED light lamp, you will need to use a dimmable LED light bulb. These bulbs are designed to work with LED dimmer switches and will not damage the light fixture. Not all LED bulbs are dimmable, so it is important to check this before purchasing.
We look at specifically how to dim a light bulb, in a related article.
Step 3: If an existing dimmer switch it may not be designed to control LED lighting loads. If it is already in place on the light circuit then first try it as it may work, but it’s unlikely to work well.
If you do you need special dimmer switch for led lights then it must be a dimmer switch for led lights that has the correct specification when combined with your lighting choices.
Step 4: Can you put a dimmer switch on any light, well as we mentioned above not all dimmer switches are created equal.
If you want to dim your LED lights, you will need to purchase an LED dimmer switch. These switches are designed specifically for use with LED lights and come in two types or can offer the option of either within the same switch.
Most popular brands opt for a trailing edge dimming protocol so you may not even know it is without looking deeper into the specification.
Step 5: When installing a new LED dimmer switch, it will have a maximum capacity that will safely work with the LED lights on its circuit. Some care has to be taken as it’s not as simple as using incandescent loads.
Traditionally, a dimmer switch had a maximum capacity stated on the product ie 400W meant you could stack up lights with loads up to that mark and actually the higher the load the better the performance.
LED as a technology has an inherent characteristic that trips circuits to turn off unless catered for by reducing the load on the circuit to a lower percentage of it’s full loading.
Step 6: Each manufacturer’s dimmer switch will behave differently with the types of LED that are put on it. It’s a complexity of behaviours that affect the performance of dim that can be troublesome so to be safe unless you are told otherwise, you reduce the lighting load by 90%.
To see how many LED light bulbs your dimmer switch can handle, divide the minimum and maximum load of the dimmer by 10.
A rotary dimmer switch works from 0W to 300W.
This means you can use a tiny load of just 1 LED up to a maximum of 30W.
Step 7: A driver is the name given to the power supply that sits behind the scenes and actually powers your LED light.
As part of our guide on how to dim lights we’ve looked at choosing the right dimmable driver, in a separate article.
This is important as some drivers are not compatible with certain types of dimmer switch so it’s important they match.
Just like an LED dimmer switch, each driver has a different specification and will only work with certain types of LEDs. In order to ensure compatibility, it is important to check the specifications of both the light fixture and the dimmer switch before making a purchase.
Most manufacturers will have a cross-reference chart that you can use to find the right driver for your fixture.
If you are unsure which driver to choose, or if the drivers provided with the fixtures are not compatible with the dimmer switch, consult with a licensed electrician.
For a real life case study, here’s some of these details shown within a popular dimmer swith Specification:
Andrew Orange , the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.