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Warm White LED Filament Bulbs in Cage Light Shade
28/01/22
Written by: Leon Bagga

Can You Use A Dimmer Switch On LED Lights?

LED lights have much to recommend them. They expend 90% less energy compared to old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, are almost immediately bright once switched on, and – due to the long-term energy savings to be amassed from using them - can soon pay for themselves.

In theory, you could even further minimise their power consumption – and thus net even further financial savings – by connecting this LED lighting to a dimmer switch. That way, you would be able to tweak LED brightness levels to precisely those you seek or require – right?

Your property – whether it is your home, workplace or essentially both – might even already have a particular light fitting with a dimmer switch attached. In this case, couldn’t you simply insert an LED bulb straight into this light fitting and then start dimming the lighting to the most acceptable level?

Alas, in practice, the situation isn’t always as simple as this. This article will explain what you have to do to get LED light bulbs and dimmers working harmoniously together. In buying a range of dimmable LED bulbs from our online store, you can help yourself to achieve optimal results.

Can You Use A Dimmer Switch On LED Lights?

On the face of it, it’s a simple question – but it doesn’t have an entirely simple answer. The crux of the problem is that, while some LED products have been designed for use with conventional dimmer switches, others haven’t – and would be best suited to use with special LED dimmers. Some LED products are not dimmable at all so it is important to check the product specification before connecting it to a dimmer switch.

None of this is strictly to say that a regular dimmer won’t work at all with LED lighting. It’s more the fact that the results of pairing current dimmers like this with LED lights have been demonstrably variable – meaning that, reliability-wise, you can’t always be certain what you’re getting.

Generally, the more unorthodox an LED fixture, the more it could struggle with a standard dimmer switch. So, if you have – say – an LED light fitted beneath a cabinet or in a recessed casing, you may need to source a special LED dimmer in order to optimise performance.

As traditional dimmers are only compatible with lights of a particular minimum power level, some of these dimmers could even fail to function altogether with LED bulbs. Hence, the onus is on you to get a compatible dimmer for any specific LED light bulb you want to give the dimmer treatment.

Which Dimmer Switch Do I Need?

As an LED light is more sensitive than a traditional incandescent light, it relies on a driver to operate. Driver electronics control the electrical current that is sent from the mains power supply and through to the light-emitting diodes, which respond by – yes – producing light.

Exactly what types of dimmers you would be able to use with your LED lights can depend on the latter’s drivers. For example, pulse width modulation (PWM) dimmers, which work by rapidly switching the light on and off, can work with constant current drivers and constant voltage drivers. Both the driver and the LED light needs to be compatible with the PMW for the dimming method to work if the LED light needs power.

Meanwhile, constant current reduction (CCR) dimmers, which function by controlling current levels flowing through the light, are compatible with constant current drivers. As CCR dimmers do not flicker the light, they are better than PWM dimmers for use in properties where machinery is operated or high-risk activity is undertaken.

You should also heed that PWM dimmers produce electromagnetic interference, which can be problematic in certain circumstances. On the flipside, where PWM dimmers can be safely used, they are capable of reducing an LED’s brightness without hampering its colour temperature.

Is There A Difference Between A Dimmer Switch And An LED Dimmer Switch?

Yes – because, as we acknowledged earlier, not all dimmers have been specially designed to work with LEDs. Hence, before you buy any particular LED light, you should check – such as on the online product listing or manufacturer’s website, or even by asking the manufacturer directly – what dimmers, if any, this light supports.

There was once a time when a dimmer would work by increasing the resistance of the lighting circuit. A variable resistor would reduce the current and produce voltage lighting, in the process lowering the bulb’s brightness but also risking the dimmer dangerously overheating.

Another problem with dimmers like this is that, despite reducing the bulb’s brightness, they wouldn’t rein in the power output in tandem. Hence, they weren’t exactly the most energy-efficient option compared to the more modern universal dimmers intended to work with various sources of electrical lighting – including, indeed, lighting with LEDs.

These universal dimmers differ from the older models in using three wires rather than two – with that third wire, known as the switched live wire, intended to further stabilise the entire electrical circuit and enhance its safety.

LED Lights From Vision Lighting

When you fail to get a particular combination of dimmer switch and LED light working properly, you can potentially resolve the issue by replacing the dimmer switch or… the LED light. Some LED lights are specifically made to be dimmer-compatible – or ‘dimmable’, as the jargon sometimes goes.

One good case in point is this JCC Skydisc LED ceiling panel from our own product selection. This particular dimmable LED lighting unit is capable of neutral white illumination for as many as 36,000 hours of lamp life. Furthermore, the casing’s low profile allows the panel to be installed even in shallow voids, making it an especially space-efficient choice.

When shopping for LED lights, you should consider that not all of them have dimmable LED drivers. Some LED drivers are non-dimmable, while other LED drivers permit a minimum dimming level of 10%. In other words, the light could dim only up to 10% of its full power level.

If you are perusing LED products on our website and are unsure which of these lights you would be able to use with your dimmer, please let us know – perhaps by using the online contact form on our website – and we can direct you towards dimmable LED bulbs and lamps.

Further Assistance Is Close At Hand

If you are eager to dim LED lights effectively, you should prioritise browsing various dimmable LED lamps, bulbs and other options on the market. Buying non-dimmable LED bulbs – even if you tend to find them cheaper than dimmable alternatives – can prove unwise once you actually start attempting to use them with a dimmer.

You could, for example, notice sudden, unwanted changes in light output, or the bulb could continue to emit a faint light even when switched off. If you do combine an LED light and dimmer in the right way, however, you can enjoy an energy-saving solution that even prolongs the light’s life.

If you continue struggling to get a dimmer switch working with an LED light, please contact us for further guidance – such as by phoning +44 (0) 1132 799 745 or emailing info@vision-lighting.co.uk.

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Vision Lighting Ltd,
Unit 1 Wortley Moor Lane,
Wortley,
Leeds,
West Yorkshire,
LS12 4JD

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