Can You Use a Dimmer Switch with LED Lights? June 27, 2023 – Posted in: Lighting Information

Can You Use A Dimmer Switch with LED Lights

Can You Use a Dimmer Switch with LED Lights?

Absolutely, you can! But before you get too excited and run off to your nearest hardware store, keep in mind that not all LEDs are created equal. Some are dimmable and some are not. Moreover, it’s equally important to pair your LED with the right dimmer switch.

Even if the dimmer is labeled as “LED Compatible”, there are several types of dimming such as 0-10V, DALI, leading edge, and trailing edge (ELV). These types of dimming are typically application specific, for example DALI is almost exclusively used for commercial lighting.

Introduction to LED Lights and Dimmer Switches

Introduction to LED Lights and Dimmer Switches

Understanding LED Lights

LED lights are not your typical bulbs. They work by passing an electrical current through a semiconductor material. This process is more energy-efficient and lasts longer than traditional incandescent or even compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). LEDs also come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, and as mentioned earlier, some models can be dimmed.

What is a Dimmer Switch?

A dimmer switch is a type of light switch that allows you to adjust the brightness of a light. By reducing or increasing the voltage supplied, you can regulate the amount light the LED’s output and have greater control over brightness, LED lifespan and overall mood of your space.

The Compatibility Between LED Lights and Dimmer Switches

The Compatibility Between LED Lights

Potential Issues with LED Lights and Dimmer Switches

One of the main problems encountered is that LED lights might not work correctly with older dimmer switches. This can lead to some of your lights flickering when dimmed or even not working at all. And let’s be honest, nobody likes a flickering light – it’s bad for the mood, the eyes, and the overall look.

The issue lies in the fact that older dimmers were designed for incandescent bulbs. These bulbs use resistive loads, meaning they simply resist the flow of electricity to create heat and light. Dimmers reduce the amount of power to these bulbs, thereby dimming the light.

However, LED lights operate differently. They use what’s called a capacitive load, which means they store and release energy. LEDs are essentially little computers, so they need a steady current to function properly. Dimmers designed for incandescent bulbs can sometimes mess with this current, causing your LEDs to act up.

How to Ensure Compatibility Between LED Lights And Your Dimmer

Modern LED pendant light

Checking for Dimmable LEDs

Not sure if your LED bulb is dimmable? Take a look at the packaging or product description. If you can’t find this information, check the manufacturer’s website or get in touch with their customer service.

It’s better to double-check than to invest in a dimmer switch only to find that it doesn’t work with your LED light. There is several types of ballasts for LED fixtures, so it’s important to choose the right type for the ballast used in the fixture.

Choosing the Right Dimmer Switch

Choosing the right dimmer switch isn’t just about compatibility, though that’s a big part of it. You’ll also want to consider other factors like the style, color, and configuration of the switch.

Look for a switch that matches the decor of your room and can handle the total wattage of the LED lights it will be controlling.

Benefits of Using a Dimmer Switch with LED Lights

led dimming switch

Energy Efficiency

Dimming the lights doesn’t merely tone down the light intensity, it also reduces the amount of electricity utilized. When paired with already energy-efficient LED lights, the savings are remarkable.

Some large LED pendant lights or commercial fixtures can draw over 100 watts of power, dimming them just 40% can save between $2 to $5 a month per fixture depending on the state you live in based on 8 hours of use. You can estimate your savings using a calculator tool like this.

Ambiance Control

These days, most interior designers and lighting professionals will suggest you implement dimmer switches into almost any space. The beauty of a dimmer switch is its ability to create moods with LED lights, especially with CCT (Correlated Color Temperature) dimming.

This can change your space from a high focus, cool white light environment to a cozy, dim, warm white light room in seconds! A CCT dimmer switch or remote can also help regulate your circadian rhythm which helps with energy levels and sleep quality.

Prolonging LED Lifespan

One of the often overlooked benefits of a dimmer switch is extending the lifespan of your LED’s. LED’s burn out faster when they’re always running at max power and exponentially faster if they’re getting too much voltage.

In many instances LED’s are undervolted on purpose to extend lifespan. This has no detrimental effects on the circuits or diodes and reduces heat output as well.

How to Install a Dimmer Switch for LED Lights

We believe the most effective way to learn how to install a dimmer switch is by seeing it for yourself. “Home RenoVision” on YouTube has a great guide on replacing or installing new switches. This process should take less than 30 minutes even if you’re new to electrical.

YouTube video

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I know If My LED Lights Are Dimmable?

Incandescent Light Bulb

Firstly, check the packaging or the bulb itself. Manufacturers usually clearly label their bulbs as dimmable or non-dimmable. If it’s dimmable, it’ll say so. If it doesn’t mention it at all, it’s safe to assume that it’s not designed for dimming. This info can sometimes be hiding in the technical details on the packaging, so don’t just give it a quick glance – you might need to do a little reading! If all else fails, try contacting the manufacturer directly to get the details.

Secondly, the LED driver (it’s like the bulb’s brain) must also be compatible with the dimming switch. Not all LED drivers react well to the reduced voltage that a dimmer switch provides. When not designed for dimming, they can flicker, buzz, or not dim evenly.

So, remember: you need both a dimmable LED bulb and a compatible dimmer switch. Just one or the other won’t do the trick.

Can I Use An Incandescent Dimmer With LED Lights?

In most cases, it’s not advisable to use an incandescent dimmer with LED lights. Here’s the scoop: LED lights need specific types of dimmers to work properly, and the old school dimmers designed for incandescent bulbs often don’t make the cut. The mismatch can cause a range of issues – flickering lights, reduced lifespan of your LEDs, or they might not dim properly, or even at all.

Do You Need LED Switches For LED Lights?

Absolutely, you can use regular switches for LED lights.

However, if you’re looking into more advanced functionality like dimming, you’ll want to pay a bit more attention. Not all dimmers are compatible with LED lights, and using an incompatible one could cause flickering, reduced lifespan of your LEDs, or they might not even dim properly at all.

Do You Need Special Light Bulbs For Dimmer Switches?

Smart dimmer light switch with LED indicators on white background.

Yes, you do need special light bulbs for dimmer switches. Not all bulbs are compatible with dimmer switches, so it’s important to check the packaging or the bulb’s specifications before you buy. Usually, LED and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) need to be labeled as ‘dimmable’ to work properly with a dimmer switch. Old incandescent and halogen bulbs are naturally dimmable by dimmers.