It is true that LED lighting is energy efficient and provides cost savings in electrical usage, however most people are not aware of the issues and challenges that are involved when purchasing LED replacement lamps. Consistency in light output and color rendering is one issue, but dimming LED is currently the big challenge. I will talk more about color rendering further in this article.
Things you need to know when dimming LED bulbs.
- Not all LED lamps can be dimmed
- Every LED requires a “driver” to illuminate it. Small Led bulbs usually have remote drivers where replacement bulbs and lamps have drivers built into them. Drivers can be constructed in many ways depending on wattage and lamp style, and it is the driver that must be dimmed.
- Up to present, there has not been an industry standard for LED manufacturers so they all construct their lamps and drivers in different ways and in result they all have different dimming requirements, in other words you can’t just mix and match bulbs from different manufacturers if you want to dim them.
- When the package says dimmable, what it actually means is that you have to use a compatible dimmer but they don’t tell you what type of dimmer that is. You need to go to their website and see which dimmer manufacturer they have tested and approved that particular lamp with. It could be a “forward phase”, “electronic reverse phase”, “adaptive”, “C.L” or 0-10v dimmer. If your existing dimmer is more than a year or two old, odds are it is not one of the ones listed.
- Not every dimmer manufacturer builds their dimmers the same either. One manufactures electronic reverse phase dimmer may work with a given bulb where another one’s won’t.
- You typically can’t have more than 7 LED bulbs on a dimmer because of in rush currents. More than 7 will shorten the life of your dimmer drastically or burn it out almost immediately.
- Most dimmers need to have a minimum load of 20 to 40 watts connected to them depending on the dimmer which is sometimes difficult because of how low the wattage of LED lamps are.
- Consistency of LED color rendering is also a challenge even from the same manufacturer. Most North American manufacturers now seem to be focusing on higher quality LED’s to counter the inconsistency but at a higher cost than the offshore product which has flooded our market and big box stores.
- LED can bring out different color hues in objects and wall paint where incandescent and halogen light won’t. It is important to sample the product you are planning on using with your finished wall or product. Some LED lights can even bring pink or green Hues out of a white painted wall depending on the primmer or finish paint base.
The good news is that LED technology is improving. Major manufacturers have already discontinued two and three generations of their bulbs in the last couple of years as they develop better technology and work with dimming manufacturers, however the industry is still in its infancy and we have to work with the challenges.
Lutron has recently developed C.L dimmers that work with a large number of LED manufacturers. I have attached the compatibility list here in PDF form.
For Homeworks systems it is a little more complicated. I have attached a compatibility list for existing Homeworks product and RadioRa 2 as well.