Using Dimmer Switches with LED Lights
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Not All Dimmers Work with Dimmable LED Lights
We recently wrote several articles about How To Install LED Lights in recessed light fixtures. The LED’s that we installed are a dimmable LED fixture which was a huge selling point for me as we use several dimmers in our home. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that just because an LED says it’s dimmable it doesn’t mean all dimmers will work.
Select Compatible LED Rated Dimmers
Before purchasing LED lights for your home it’s important to do some research. If you currently have dimmer switches on the circuits that you plan to install LED lights then take an inventory of the dimmer make and models. You’ll need that information to cross check the compatibility between the LED and the dimmer.
After installing the CREE EcoSmart LED’s in our home we started noticing some slight “blinking” and “dimming” of the LED’s at certain times. For example, when we would turn off another dimmer in an adjacent room the other room would slightly dim for a second or two. We also have a very slight flicker when the microwave is in use. Both of these issues occur on two different Lutron dimmer switch models.
Dimmer Issues with LED Lights
To better understand what was going on I spoke with Ken Byrd, Applications Engineering at CREE and asked him to explain the issues we were experiencing. Ken did a wonderful job explaining some of the more complicated engineering behind both the LED’s and the dimmers that make their marriage difficult.
Ken quickly pointed out that their website lists recommended dimmers that have been tested with their LED’s. In hind site I should have researched the dimmers a bit first but what’s done is done! Our home uses two Lutron dimmers, the Lutron RadioRA system and a pretty standard Lutron Toggle Dimmer. Unfortunately neither of these dimmers has been added to the recommended list of dimmers and is most likely responsible for the small issues we’re experiencing.
The issue is fairly technical but boils down to dimmers that were designed and manufactured to deal with higher electrical loads (600 watt dimmers versus a dimmer that might only see 60 watts!). The electronics that allow those dimmers to work are not designed to work with the lighter loads and voltages.
In addition to the problems that we are experiencing conventional dimmer switches may also cause the following problems with LED’s.
- The LED lights may not work at all.
- When dimmed it’s possible that there is early “drop out” where the light just turns off when even slightly dimmed.
- Significant “noise” may be picked up in the dimmer and transmitted as flickering and uneven light.
- Lights may just shut off at random times.
Dimmer Solutions for LED Lights
For now we plan on “living” with the slight inconvenience. Replacing our RadioRA dimmers would be quite costly and not something we’re willing to invest in right now. However, if you plan on buying LED lights then I recommend you do some research. Most dimmer manufacturers are now designing and offering LED rated dimmers.
For example, Lutron is now offering a family of C·L dimmers for dimmable CFL and LED bulbs. These dimmers are specifically designed to deal with the lower voltage lighting solutions while maintaining the functions of a versatile dimmer switch.
If you plan on installing LED lights in your home on dimmer switches then plan ahead. Do your research and find out which dimmers work well with the LED fixtures you want to install. This will save you money and aggravation after investing in LED lights.
Leave a comment if you think your Facebook Friends would find this article useful. Thanks in advance!