Dimmable LED Light Bulbs: Choosing LED Dimmers

By will_owen on 10/16/2017

dimmers for LED lights

LEDs started off not needing dimmers. Their brightness level was never that high so it seemed rather pointless to install a dimmer on such a bulb. Since then LEDs have come a long way and have become brighter in the process. But what do you need to know before you start installing your dimmer?

Incandescent Dimmers:

When you are retrofitting your LEDs, you are probably replacing an old incandescent bulb with a more energy efficient LED bulb. You may be thinking that since you already have a dimmer that you do not need to get a new one for your LED. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Dimmers work by turning the power on and off so fast that it is impossible to see with the human eye. The ballasts and drivers that control how much power goes to CFLs and LEDs aren’t going to be able to cope with that.

This means that bulbs need to meet a certain load level or power level to work. And because LEDs are more energy efficient they are not going to work.

If you want to compare the different kinds of light bulbs, check out CFL's vs. Halogen vs. Fluorescent vs. Incandescent vs. LED

Effects of Standard Dimmer:

                                                          effects of a mismatched dimmer and bulb

There are some original dimmers that may work with your CFL’s but you won’t be able to use it to its full capacity because they were originally designed for incandescent lights.

LED Drivers:

A common assumption is that all you have to do is install an LED dimmer for your LEDs. However before you decide on the type of dimmer, you must install an LED driver. The driver must be wired with the dimmer you have chosen in mind.

*If your wiring is more than 50 years old, or you are inexperienced with retrofitting and/or rewiring, we recommend contacting an experienced professional first*

                                                                                                                  LED driver


How to Choose a Dimmer?

Before you choose the LED bulb  that you want to install you need to choose what type of dimmer you want. The reason for this is that dimmers have a certain load or power requirement that needs to be met if they are going to work. 

                                                                                                          LED dimmer

Types of dimmers:
  • Single-Pole – Controls lights from one location and one dimmer
  • Three or Four-Way – Controls lights with one dimmer from multiple locations
  • Multi-Location – Controls lights with multiple companion dimmers from multiple locations  
  • Plug-In – Dims lights in table and floor lamps

You want to make sure that the bulb and dimmer are compatible with one another. Sometimes this information can be found on the box but if you are not able to find it, you should check out the manufacturer’s website. For example, Philips will have a compatibility list for you to look at.

For more information on lighting controls, dimmers and sensors, check out our LED Lighting Control Guide.

Choosing a Bulb:

Once you have chosen what type of dimmer you want to install the next step is to choose a bulb. Remember that the bulb has to be compatible with the type of dimmer that you have chosen.

                                                                                     Different types of LED bulbs

To tell whether or not the bulb will work with a dimmer all you have to do is check the box. Look for the word ‘dimmable.’ This will let you know if the LED has a dimming feature.

It is important to note that when choosing your LED light bulb, you should choose from a recognizable company. Purchasing from a recognizable company ensures that you receive better product warranties, lamp life, and customer support.


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