How To Use Dimming LEDs

How To Choose A Dimming LED Products

The LED is an exciting, relatively “young” light source promising the benefits of high energy savings, long life and good lighting quality. However, many LED products perform poorly with existing incandescent dimmers. Read this article to learn how to use dimming LEDs.

LEDs aren’t inherently dimmable like incandescent lamps are. The LED product must have a dimmable driver, which may be part of the lamp or luminaire or installed remotely. So the first step is make sure the product is rated by its manufacturer as being dimmable. It should say so right on the packaging.

Incandescent dimmers were designed to dim incandescent lamps, not LEDs. Ideally, the dimmer will be replaced with one specifically designed to be able to dim LEDs.

Different manufacturers design their drivers in various ways. That means while both the driver and the dimmer may be compatible with dimming, they might not be compatible with each other. Check what dimmers a given LED product is compatible with. This information should be available on the manufacturer’s website.

What To Look For

Look for LED products and wallbox dimmers designed to meet the NEMA SSL-7A standard. This manufacturer standard was created to eliminate typical compatibility issues and provides assurance the LED-dimmer combination will work.

Even then, the combination of LED and dimmer you chose might not satisfy your expectations at every setting! Which isn’t always a compatibility issue but instead a product issue, how well the products were designed and work together.

The only sure-fire way to determine good performance is to install a sample LED product and see how it dims across its full dimming range.

During dimming, the LED product shouldn’t flicker at any point in its dimming range or at any time. When the LED product is dimmed to a low level and turned OFF, it should turn back ON without significant movement of the dimmer’s slider. When the dimmer is adjusted, there should be a corresponding change in light level. And neither the LED product or the dimmer should produce buzzing or other audible noise.

Note that incandescent lamps become warmer (reddish-orange) in color appearance as they dim, while many LED products don’t. They may even become bluer. Some LED products are designed to become warmer in appearance as they dim.

When selecting your final LED products, it might be best to stick with a single manufacturer for any lighting on a single dimmer. This provides assurance all lighting on the dimmer will dim the same way. And if the LED products become warm in appearance as they dim, this will ensure the effect is consistent across the lighting.

LED lighting is compatible with dimming, but all LED products are not compatible with dimmers. Make sure you pick an LED product that is dimmable, is specifically rated as compatible with the dimmer that will be used, and then test a sample for yourself to make sure the combination performs the way you want.

What You Need To Know About Dimming LEDs:

  • LED lighting is dimmable, but not all LED products are
  • Make sure the LED product is specifically rated as compatible with the dimmer
  • Test a sample to make sure the combination performs the way you want

By Craig DiLouie, LC

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