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Knowledge Base

LED Lighting - Dimming Guide

CAN LED'S BE DIMMED?
MOST (BUT NOT ALL) LED LIGHTS CAN BE DIMMED .

Dimming LED lights and bulbs can be as easy as the old school incandescent/halogen lights if you follow a few simple rules.  We invite you to take a few minutes to read the sections below
or call us with your questions. We are here to help; call Customer Service at 888-494-5773. A little homework before you make your LED purchase can save some headaches and money!

WHY BUY DIMMABLE LED's?

Being able to control the brightness of lights in your home, by means of a dimmer switch,  is a wonderful and affordable option.  You can illuminate with full brightness when cleaning, cooking or when looking for your contact that fell on the floor! Lower the light level for dining or other activities where softer light levels add ambiance. Every shape and size of residential LED light is now available in a dimmable version. In fact, 99% of the RESIDENTIAL retrofit LED bulbs and LED recessed fixtures offered at Polar-Ray.com are dimmable.
WARNING: If you put a non-dimmable LED light on a circuit with a dimmer (or a dusk to dawn controller), it will damage the bulb .  Even fluctuating power on your local grid (brown outs/spikes or temporary generated power) can harm non-dimmable LED lights and void their warranty. 

DO LED's DIM JUST LIKE MY OLD BULBS DID?

Excellent dimming capabilities nearly equal to incandescent behavior is achievable. Incandescent and halogen bulbs dim smoothly down to 1% with little or no noticeable flicker or buzzing. They also shift color to a soft orange glow as they approach the lower levels, which LED’s do not do. LED's will retain their original white color even when dimmed. Not all LED lights dim to the same light level. Some LED lights will dim as low as 2%, while others dim only to 25% of full brightness . The hardware store brand LED might say "dimmable" on the box, but do they mean 2% or 25%? The performance of LED light dimming capability depends on many factors. When matched with a recommended dimmer switch, most major brand LED light bulbs or LED recessed fixtures are designed to be able to reduce the light level to less than 10% .

WHAT IS LED DIMMING "DROP OUT"?
Because many LEDs do not dim to 0% like  incandescent, LED's can "drop out" at the lower range of the dimmer switch, meaning that the lights turns off (often flickering first) before the dimmer control reaches the bottom of its travel. This occurs when the dimmer switch's lowest voltage setting is lower than the voltage required to operate the LED, therefore creating a small section on the dimmer control that is essentially dead. Many newer dimmer switches have a feature which allows the bottom range of the dimmer control to be adjusted and set at a level which permits the LED to properly turn off and on.

CAN I PUT TOO MANY OR TOO FEW LED LIGHTS ON A DIMMER CIRCUIT?

Yes! You can under load or overload a dimmer circuit with LED’s. Most incandescent dimmers were designed for a minimum load of 40W. Most individual LED lights use far less than 40W, so putting only one or two LED lights on a dimmer can potentially cause under loading of the dimmer switch. This condition can either cause the dimmer not to light the LED’s or cause performance issues.  Overloading can be problematic as well.  Unfortunately, due to the stress that the LED driver circuits put on an incandescent dimmer, it is not reliable to determine the maximum number of LED lights by dividing the cumulative wattage of the LED’s  into the dimmer switch maximum wattage load. It is generally acceptable to put the same number of LED's on a dimmer circuit as was specified for incandescent lights. However, the best way to safely and accurately determine the maximum number of LED lights for a specific dimmer switch is to check the specifications of the dimmer and the LED lights and then do the math.

 

HOW DO I SELECT THE CORRECT DIMMER SWITCH FOR MY NEW LED LIGHTS?  
A LED that dims properly  should dim smoothly and completely down to the light level that the LED is designed to reach. When matched with a recommended dimmer switch, the latest generation LED light bulbs or LED recessed fixtures are designed to reduce the light level to less than 10% of full brightness when dimmed.
The dimming performance of any LED light bulb or fixture can vary based on how well the LED is matched with the type and brand of dimmer controlling it. While most of the latest generation LED lights are designed to dim when connected to incandescent dimmers, in order to get the FULL dimming potential and a smooth "flicker free"  performance, it is advisable to use a dimmer that the LED manufacturer recommends and has pre-tested for the LED you purchase.  We recommend that you check the specifications of any LED light you intend to purchase to make sure the dimming level will meet your expectations.  Polar-Ray.com lists the LED specifications on each product page. Most of the LED bulbs on our web site have been approved for use with a variety of brands and styles of dimmer switches so, chances are, you will find an approved dimmer switch in the appropriate color and style to meet your needs. 

CAN I DIM LOW VOLTAGE MR16 LED BULBS?
Some light fixtures that use low voltage MR16 style bulbs may need a special dimmer switch. Make sure to check the recommended dimmers specified by the LED manufacturer.

HOW DO I DETERMINE WHAT DIMMER SWITCH IS RECOMMENDED FOR THE LED LIGHT THAT I WANT TO BUY?
Polar-Ray.com shows complete manufacture's specifications and recommended dimmers for all of our products under the "Additional Information" tab on each product page.

Hint: Look for the "Additional Information" tab next to the "Product Description" tab below the product image and "Add to Cart" sections on each product page. Once there, click the red links in the "Specifications" section to access the desired information. For your convenience we place this information in the same place on every product page. You can get there, in just two clicks, from any main product page.

  
TROUBLE SHOOTING DIMMING PROBLEMS:
Fortunately, the frequency of problems with dimming has greatly diminished in the last few years, as the dimming control industry redesigned their dimmers for LEDs and the LED light manufacturers redesigned their driver circuits to be more compatible with the dimmer controls.  That said, if you happen to be having trouble dimming your LED lights the following guide might be helpful.

All of the LEDs on one circuit dim erratically:
a.) Too few LED's on the circuit. If only a few LEDs are on the circuit being dimmed, try replacing a LED bulb with an incandescent bulb. This will dramatically increase the overall load. If the remaining LED’s now dim properly with the increased load then you have an under load problem. The solution is to replace your dimmer switch with one with a lower minimum wattage rating.
b.) The LED lights are not compatible with the dimmer controlling the circuit. The solution is to select another dimmer switch from the manufacturer's approved list.

 

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