Dimmable LED lights are great for creating mood lighting – whether you're having a romantic night-in, watching a movie or even playing your favourite video game. Before you rush out to buy a new set of dimmable LED bulbs, this short guide will arm you with five useful nuggets of information that'll help you buy with complete confidence.
How Dimmable LED Lights Work
There are two main methods of LED dimming: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and analogue. In the case of PWM, dimmable LEDs work by creating a dimming effect. Unlike traditional lighting such as incandescent, dimmable LED bulbs don't rely on voltage to dictate their level of brightness. Instead, they essentially rely on a cycle of being on and off. These cycles operate in a matter of milliseconds, so you won't be aware of them actually turning on and off. For example, if you have dimmed your lights to 10%, they will be 'on' for 10% of the time and 'off' for 90%. For analogue, the process is more straight-forward. This is where the current is controlled to either dim or brighten the lights – increasing or decreasing accordingly.
What Causes Dimmable LED Lights to Flicker?
The main cause of flickering with dimmable LED light can usually be traced back to the dimmer switch. Dimmer switches come with a minimum compatible load (in short, the amount of Watts it can process). Popular leading-edge dimmer switches are mainly designed for older bulbs on a higher wattage, so their minimum load will be high. In a lot of cases, you won't be powering enough LED bulbs to meet that minimum requirement as they consume such a low amount of energy (and fewer Watts). That's why it's important that you get a compatible LED dimmer switch to avoid any potential flickering. The quality of the dimmer switch you install will also have a bearing on the performance of your lights. A good quality dimmer switch will have different modes and ranges of dimming capability. Most of the time, flickering dimmable LEDs can be remedied by simply changing the mode on the dimmer switch, or resetting the dimmer to its factory settings.
How to Install Dimmable LED Lights
Firstly, you need to make sure you have a compatible dimmer switch. It's likely that if you're upgrading from traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs to LED, your current dimmer switch won't be compatible. So, we'd recommend getting a specialised LED-compatible dimmer switch to allow for a smoother, quieter and flicker-free performance. If you are using 12v LED spotlights, such as MR16s or G4s, you will need a dimmable transformer. An LED dimmable transformer allows dimming of constant voltage LED products, and works with most standard dimmer switches, so you might not need to replace your existing dimmer switch. LED dimmable transformers are available in a number of powers. Make sure you know how many bulbs will be powered before buying your transformer. It's also important to remember that we strongly advise that the total wattage of all bulbs combined doesn’t exceed 80% of the transformer's wattage. For example, if you're powering four 4W MR16 bulbs for a total of 16W, then you'll need a 20W transformer to produce a sufficient amount of power (and the subsequent 20% wattage deficit).
Why Dimmable LED lights Are More Expensive
You might be wondering why you're shelling out more for dimmable LED lights than non-dimmable LEDs. This is because dimmable LEDs feature additional technology that increases the cost of manufacture, and therefore the price (by about £1 per bulb or spotlight). They are also more expensive than halogen or incandescent bulbs. This is because they feature superior technology and come with long-term benefits. When compared to halogen bulbs, they: • Consume 90% less energy – saving big money on your energy bills • Last up to 20-times longer, so you don't have to buy constant replacements • Run a smoother, quieter operation – so you won’t have to suffer any buzzing, which is common among traditional bulbs when operated with a dimmer switch So, in the long run, LED bulbs will save you more money than you spend on them.
When Dimmable LED Lights Are “Worth it”
All the property experts say it: "location, location, location". And that doesn't just apply to real estate. You have to be tactical with where you install your dimmable LED bulbs. It's all about context and purpose. For example, if you're lighting a workspace or an area where you need focus, such as a kitchen counter, then dimmable LEDs are probably going to be of little use. In those situations we'd suggest you go for a non-dimmable cool white LED that casts a fresh glow to help you concentrate on the task at hand and see more of what you're doing.
Dimmable LED bulbs are perfect for creating mood lighting - that's when they come into their own. They're also ideal for living spaces, bedrooms and accent lighting. For movie nights-in or romantic meals, dimmable LED bulbs can be all you need to set the perfect atmosphere. They're also great for highlighting specific decorative items such as artwork or sculptures. Because they can be set at a different level of brightness to the rest of the room, it helps draw attention to otherwise innocuous objects in an impressive way. You can view our full range of dimmable LED bulbs and spotlights here.