Don't be Dim when it comes to Dimming LED's

Don't be Dim when it comes to Dimming LED's

Feeling a little uncertain when it comes to pairing dimmers and LED lighting? Perhaps you're looking to replace all of your inefficient lighting, but just aren't sure which LED's and dimmers will play nicely together? Have no fear! This week we sat down with our very own Dr. Leonard E. Davis to ask him questions about switching to LEDs and choosing the right dimmers.

Will my current "legacy" dimmer work with LED's?

Not necessarily. Although the electricity and components involved in dimming are the same, legacy dimmers were built to handle higher loads (wattages). Incandescent and halogen bulbs an average use 80% more electricty than LED's.  Therefore you may need to use Dimmers that have been manufactured to deal with the decreased loads (total watts of bulbs or fixtures being controlled). Several things will determine if your legacy dimmer will work: Do I have a neutral wire? What is the new total wattage for this load (fixtures or bulbs multiplied by wattage)? What type of dimming do the LED's require (forward or reverse phase)? Be prepared to install an approved LED dimmer. Most, if not all of the reputable lighting manufacturers have a list of approved dimmers and bulb types.

Are all dimmable LEDs created equal?

No. There are several factors that will affect "dimming ranges", which is why it is necessary to check the manufacturer's website prior to purchasing any LEDs. If a manufacturer can't tell you what the dimming range is for their products, you may want to look elsewhere. When you see "Dimmable: Yes", you could see be a big difference compared to "Dimmable down to 10%". Keep in mind your brain perceives a 10% dimmed light much higher than what 10% of the light output really is.

Why does it matter if my LEDs dim?


Dimming gives you the ability to control light levels and set the mood. Dimming your LED's will also increase their life and also reduces your energy consumption even more. Dimming LED's is slightly greater than a 1 to 1 ratio with respect to power saving. Meaning, if you dim to 50%, then you can expect a little more than a  50% energy savings for that lighting load. Additionally, you are also reducing the heat output on the LED, therefore extending its life. More Info.

So if LEDs use less Wattage, and I have a Dimmer that is rated for a 600W load, can I add more lights to my dimmer than with the old incandescent bulbs?

Logically this sounds great, but the reality is, not at all. Although you will use less energy to power your LED's, the stress placed on a dimmer when the lights are turned on is similar to a typical incandescent load with the same amount of bulbs or fixtures. You are not using the same amount of energy, but the spikes can damage or destroy your dimmer if overloaded. You will be safe if you simply replace one-for-one.

When I dim my old incandescent bulbs, they have a warm amber glow to them at low levels. Will my new LED bulb look the same?

Great question. Many homeowners are accustomed to the color-changing effect of an incandescent light when dimmed. What does that mean? Well, as the bulb dims, it has a warmer feel (becomes more yellow/amber in color). Most of the current LED bulbs and fixtures are not designed to mimic this feature. When they dim, they maintain their color temperature, just output less brighness. There are, however, a few manufacturers that make a color temperature changing LED when dimmed. Juno Lighting, for example, makes a warm dimming fixture that does an amazing job at duplicating the feel of an incandescent or halogen lamp.

So do I need to re-wire my house if I have to change dimmers to a LED approved Dimmer?

In almost all circumstances an LED approved dimmer will have the same wires and terminals as an older dimmer. However, there are a few cases where you will run into an older home with outdated wiring and you may be missing a ground or neutral. If you are still unsure, contact an Energy Squad, and we will happily discuss which replacement options will work best for your situation.

 For more information on LED's and dimming, click here.

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