Can LED Lights Be Dimmed?

All LED lamps are designed to be fully dimmable but some of them may not be compatible with dimmer controls used with incandescent lamps.

Dimmers designed for incandescent bulbs regulate the amount of power to the lamp filament. Although the pattern of operation for various dimmers is the same, the electrical characteristics of residential dimmers may differ considerably. These differences matter for electronic devices, such as LEDs.

LEDs may experience some problems operating at lower dimming levels, as an LED driver may not obtain enough power when connected to a line-voltage dimmer. It can also experience damage from the current spikes.

Some LED lamps work well with incandescent dimmers, but an LED driver and a dimmer much be carefully chosen and matched. As there is a variety of dimming products available on the market it is possible that a given LED lamp will not work with all dimmers. Some manufacturers publish a list of dimmers that have been tested and are compatible with their products.

In more advanced LED dimmers low-voltage controls are connected separately to the electronic driver. As full power is provided to the driver, electronic controls constantly operate, so that LEDs are evenly dimmed. They may need additional wiring when used for retrofit applications.

LEDs lamps do not flicker. They used technology called pulse width modulation that turns the lights on and off at high frequency. To avoid flicker, driver output frequency should be at least 120 hertz.

The mechanism of dimming is different for incandescent lights and LEDs. When an incandescent lamp is dimmed, the temperature of a filament drops, changing the emitted light from yellow to warmer orange or red.  Most LED lights are blue with phosphor coating that emit cool or warm light. The color does not shift when dimmed, however some light may emit ‘bluer’ light when dimmed.

 

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