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How to Choose LED Dimmer Switch – 5 Tips on Buying Best LED Dimmer Switch

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As technology keeps advancing and the need for comfort and a general desire for a good life keeps on increasing, the light industry has provided us with a new form of lighting technology in the form of LED lights.

In the search for further convenience of using s LED light, the concept of having dimmers and dimmable LEDs lights was considered by industry scientist.

I am not like LED light brought about the discovery of light dimmers. It is not a hidden fact that light dimmers have been in existence for many years alongside other lighting systems.

With LED technology bossing the lighting industry, the focus has to be shifted to what is trending(LED Lighting).

Over the years, LED light has shown a high level of superiority over other lighting systems. Using dimmer technology, light can simply be used with the flexibility of adjusting light intensity and output.

You also achieve better energy efficiency at little cost while the LED bulbs and luminaires are afforded a longer lifespan. Using a good LED light dimmer offers a smooth dimming from your fixtures highest lighting capacity to its lowest with a little or no stress. Below are six tips that will effectively make buying a LED light Dimmer a walk in the park.

Tips on Buying Best LED Dimmers

LED dimmer switch

1. Use a Tested Dimmer

When fixing a dimmable LED circuit for the first time, it is best practice to make up your mind on the LED bulb you are going to use and then find a dimmer switch that has been tested with the bulb of your choice. If you do a quick search, it is common to see a list of tested dimmers that light bulb manufacturers recommend for their product.

Additionally, when working on a fresh light installation, Its best you figure out the number of bulbs or fixture the dimmer will work with as this will help calculate the expected load for dimmer. If you can, you can also carry out the simple test on your own before making purchases

Some red flags to look out for when testing a dimmer include:

  1. Very audible noise coming from the bulb.
  2. Flicker before low dim is achieved.
  3. Unstable dimming curve.

2. Ensure Dimmer and Luminaire have Compatible Drivers

Ensuring that the electronic driver a dimmer uses is compatible with your chosen LED fixture or bulb is a step too important to ignore. To a regular user, This may be too technical to check. But this is how it works.

Lighting control systems communicate with the drivers and bulbs with an electronic language which the dimmer and the bulb understand.

If both devices do not understand each other, you will observe a poor performance. This is because bulbs will not deliver the required light due to its inability to translate signals from the driver into an appropriate state of light.

The simplest way around it is to read a detailed product description possibly on the manufacturer’s website. This will give you important clues on the possibility of having the dimmer work seamlessly with your lighting system.

3. Patronize a Known Brand

As a rule of thumb, You should choose luminaire from popular and well-established lighting manufacturers. Let us Keep aside the need for best the dimmers, buying a product from an established brand in most cases offer product warranty, good quality, and a longer product life span.

There are a lot of copycats counterfeiting original and trusted brands in the market today, identifying product like this can be a daunting task. So to save yourself the hassle, it is best you have a physical check of the product before paying. or if you are buying online, its a safer bet not buying from just any random site.

Go to a manufacturers website and see if they can sell directly to you. If they do not have that provision, they in most cases will recommend trusted dealers or distributors of their product.

So stick to good brands that can give you confidence and don’t be tempted to go for cheap options that won’t satisfy your light dimming need.

3. Avoid Standard Dimmers

Do not use standard dimmers on your LED light. It is as simple as that.  Standard dimmers are built differently and are best put to use with other lighting types other than LED lights. Standard dimmers will be underloaded in most LED applications, and this scenario will cause flickering and will shorten the life span of the lighting unit.

It is due to their higher minimum voltage requirement that they are best suited for Halogen and CFL bulbs.

So Instead of buying a standard dimmer, it better you go for the best smart light dimmers that work across the board. Smart dimmers like the Insteon smart dimmers will serve the dimming requirement of your smart light.

With a smart dimmer, you can remotely control the state of the light in your living room while on vacation, as well as switch OFF and ON your outdoor security light while you are away from home.

4. Do not Combine LED Bulbs or Light Fixture of Different Brand

The Gamble of having one dimmer control light bulbs from different manufacturers can be dangerous. Always Remember this, LED technology is complex and is a lot more complicated than CFLs and incandescent.

It is not ideal to solid-state lighting of different brands on the same dimming circuit. This is because every LED will tend to function based on its design, driver and electronic circuitry. If combined, they might not communicate properly and they are likely going to interpret electronic signals differently.

This based on my observation is one of the root causes of humming and flickering in LED light. So it is best that once you find a winning formula or product, figure out what works, and have everything working; then the many benefits that come with LED dimming will become apparent to you.

5. Use Dimmers Rated at least 150W

My final tip on this section is that whatever choices you might make when it comes to LED dimming, It is best you choose a dimmer that can control the total wattage of bulbs or luminaire the dimmer switch will control. This is because not long ago, most dimmers in the market had a tough time controlling LED lights that were above 100W.

To avoid such challenges, carefully write out the individual wattage of your bulbs, and sum them up. This will give you a clear cut idea of the overall electricity demand of your lighting system.

If the system will run on one dimmer, then compare your figures with the Watt rating on your dimmer to see if your dimmer can carry the load. This will save you a lot of stress later.

I have written an article on the best-LED light dimmer you can make use of in your homes. You can read it here.

Choosing The Right Dimmer for LED Lighting

LED light systems have tons of top rated dimmers designed for best performance when used in homes. Different brands in most cases offer different dimming experiences. Some have several dimming modes that enable smooth dimming when used with LED bulbs.

For example, the brightness level achieved with a LED lamp will be different from brand to brand. With these in mind, you should know that some of the best-LED light dimmers of today do offer some level of flexibility where you can set the minimum and maximum brightness level on a LED light dimmer switch.

This gives you control and ensures that the dimmer does not “under-throttle” or “over-throttle” your lighting system. This added feature helps prevent an unstable lux from the lighting unit.

Moving on, I read on a forum someone asking what will happen if you use a non-dimmable LED with dimmers? It’s simple, the bulb will not dim or may not function well. And at worst it may damage both the bulb and the dimmer.

The reason is that all dimmable bulbs contain a special circuit and drivers in them. It is what allows it to respond well by giving a steady light out when there is a fluctuating current or strobing current waves.

Meanwhile, non-dimmable bulbs are simply designed to fully light up or totally off. This means the electronics in it cannot handle pulsing current.

Next below, we will see if all LED lights are dimmable

A LED light bulb for describing their price tag
LED Light Bulb: Image by Karol Olson

Are All LED Lights Dimmable

People still doubt or aren’t aware of the fact that LED light can be made to dim. Yes, LED lights are dimmable, but not all dimmers will work with a LED bulb.

With the question this section is trying to answer, I might also want to answer the question with the phrase; “It depends”.

I know this is an age long answers for some complicated question that doesn’t have a straight answer. And not everyone likes it. But just wait for a minute and read on to understand exactly why I said: “it depends”.

“Yes” LED lights are dimmable if they are designed to be so.

On the other hand, my answer will be; not all LED lights are not dimmable unless they are fitted with the right type of LED drivers to offer that functionality.

You likely must have read on some many product labels the possibility of using dimmers on just any ordinary-looking LED lighting unit. It is important that you know that even if the dimmable effect can be achieved, it cannot be done with the regular or standard dimmers you will get in the market.

If you use a standard dimmer, it will be overwhelmingly underloaded by the LED application due to the very low voltage LED bulbs works with. And this in a majority of cases will result in flickering and strobe light effect which is not ideal especially if you desire to achieve longevity in using your lamps.

Added to this is that the standard dimmer is not designed to deliver the highest brightness possible, this is part of their limitation which results in an output of poor quality of lighting for users

So due to this reason, it is advisable that before you buy a dimmer you have to be sure that the lamp is first of all dimmable. If that is sorted out, then you can pay attention to finding the best light dimmer for it.

If you truly desire the best dimmable light experience, it is important you find out the right type of dimmer for it.

Identifying a Dimmable Bulb

It is unfortunate that you can’t know if a bulb is dimmable merely by it is appearance. To find the exact state of the bulb you want to buy, it is necessary you ask the installer or the manufacturer.

These information manufacturers will happily give to you because it is very important for their business that their customers have the best experience using their product.

Also, If you browse around the net, you will find on popular lighting manufacturers website information on which dimmer is best for which light.

Light dimmers switches are put through a series of test to determine their performance and are graded base on functionality and compatibility.  These can be a good resource if you are having a tough time identifying the right dimmer for your light bulb or lamp.

Types of Light Dimmers & How They Work

Here, we will be discussing the types of dimmers and how each of them works. Dimmers vary across several different lighting systems.

Just as dimmable fixtures come in different shapes and sizes, that is how LED dimmers perform dimming operations differently.

Leading Edge LEDs Dimmer (Forward Phase Dimmer)

Leading Edge dimmer is known to be the oldest and well-known LEDs dimmers we have had so far.

They have been tested and found not to be compatible with LED bulbs.

This is due to the fact that it works best with high-wattage bulbs and has a high minimum load limit. It is, therefore, more suitable for use on incandescent and halogen lamps.

Knowing how this lighting system works, it obviously cancels out the possibility of being compatible with LED lighting.

The reasons mentioned above make it much different when compared to trailing edge dimmer which we will discuss next.

This dimmer is able to short the A/C cycle at the leading edge of the waveform. For this reason, it is called the leading edge. This dimmer also uses a technique which is TRIAC (Triode for alternating current) switch to determine power input and output.

Trailing Edge LEDs Dimmer (Reverse Phase Dimmer)

This dimmer seems to be specifically made for LEDs bulb. The technology behind it made it more compatibility to LEDs light than leading edge light dimmers.

Since these dimmers work best under low wattage and also have a very low minimum load it is perfect for LEDs bulbs.

Trailing Edge dimmers has included a lot of features like smooth and clear controls, lesser running noise and multi-dimming functionality that tends to make lamps and fitting last longer.

Talking about price, it is considered to be more expensive when compared to leading-edge dimmers. This is due to it due to its extra features.

It has also been found to be compatible with not only LEDs but also works with an incandescent bulb and halogen bulbs.

It uses TRIAC just like leading edge LEDs dimmers. From a few comments on the internet on peoples experience with installing the device, it is advisable to get a professional electrician to install your trailing edge dimmer to ensure that you have the best experience using the dimmer.

Inductive Dimmer

The inductive dimmers are not usually meant for domestic use. This dimmer is used at the secondary side of a low voltage lighting scheme.

They are always rated in Volt-Amps and have already been overrated to deal with light-surge of current from the transformers.

Inductive dimmers have mostly been phased out and have mostly been replaced by better performing dimmers.

Having read this post, I believe you have found a guide that will help make your purchase with confidence. Also, you have hopefully been educated on how light dimmers works and how you can put them to maximum use.