They are NOT all the same
Right off the top, let’s get this out of the way: LED selection and Dimmer-compatibility should not be undertaken by amateurs. That is the road to frustration, poor functionality, and massive disappointment.
LED bulbs are not like standard, power-hungry filament bulbs. You may see claims on the retrofit bulbs stating that they will work with a conventional dimmer switch—but if they work, it’s only because they meet a very narrow specification, in a specific circumstance, which is not likely to match yours.
Conventional dimmers are generally rated to handle 400 W of resistance (filament) lighting. Your 10-lamp chandelier of 40 W bulbs will work fine with that. If you replace those bulbs with 4-watt LED bulbs, you’ll only be consuming 40 W at maximum brightness, less than one tenth of the rating of the dimmer.
When you operate the dimmer to reduce the brightness to 50%, theoretically you would only be using 20 W, or 5% of the rating of the dimmer. If it doesn’t begin flickering like crazy, it will probably shut off completely. Imagine trying to control a single ten-watt LED bulb (equivalent to a 60-75 watt tungsten bulb). That is a load of only 2½% of the rated capacity when it is at full brightness.
Standard dimmers are completely inadequate for the task of controlling LED lights. Anyone who says differently is mistaken (or lying).
There are three methodologies for controlling the brightness of lights. The first, and most common, is called Mains Dimming, where the actual voltage is reduced. This is adequate for standard resistance bulbs common in the last century. Some LED manufacturers have tried to accommodate this, as mentioned above, but it is the least effective method. LEDs have been designed to be electrically stable, controlled by electronics.
Changing the incoming voltage is not compatible with the electronics of an LED driver circuit. In point of fact, many modern LEDs are designed to run with varying voltages from 85 volts (V) to 265 V, without changing brightness. This mean that if you are a globetrotter or international diplomatic, you can plug your lamps in anywhere in the world and they will work just fine.
The next method is called DALI, which stands for Digital Addressable Lighting Interface. You might have seen this in a public venue, particularly with fancy RGB (red/green/blue) LED bulbs that can be “tuned” to any color from pure red to chartreuse, to magenta, blue, or just plain white. This can have a stunning effect for an outdoor garden party, with lights changing from one color to another on a continuous basis. For home use it is usually tied to a hand held remote and a central terminal.
Lastly there is DMX (digital multiplex) whose function was originally intended for the stage, whether classic plays or rock concerts. It provides dynamic lighting, similar to DALI, but it is generally computer controlled, and tied to particular events.
In the home it could be programmed to assess the outdoor lighting, and keep the indoor lighting for a particular area consistent throughout the day or night. Such a system could detect human presence and provide lighting only when the room was inhabited.
Utilizing the database of past activities within the home, the system could create a realistic pattern of usage. This would make the home look inhabited even when you were spending a week or two in Nassau, Bahamas, or Las Vegas. Imagine the possibilities.
There are so many variations and possibilities available that it is almost impossible not to make a mistake undertaking something like this on your own. Mixing and matching bulbs, blending systems, and trying to force components to work together when they’re really not designed that way, is just asking for trouble.
When you’re waist-deep in alligators, is it really a good time to be thinking about how to drain the swamp? You need to get it right the first time, and avoid all the potential problems. Feel free to have a look at our gallery of lighting design, to get a taste of our successes.
Call us and let us manage your project. We only use professional quality LED lamps that are fully dimmable, and which produce exactly the right amount of light for your needs. Don’t get drawn into a long losing battle with an inexperienced installer, designer, or crew!
We at Illuminations Lighting are delighted to be located in beautiful Houston, Texas, and while we provide service over quite a wide area, we always love to hear from River Oaks, Memorial, West University, Bellaire, Southside, Heights, and Royal Oaks, or whichever part of town you call home…
Don’t be a stranger—give us a ring at 713-863-1133 and say “Howdy!” We would love to hear from you and get you started on the path to more economical lighting, and a reduced environmental impact!