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Understanding how to dim LEDs the easy way...

Choosing the right lighting in a room is as important as the furniture and the surroundings. When you want to dim the lights down low for a cosy feel or brighten the room to see what you are doing, LED bulbs are the way to go; with the added benefit of smooth control, silent running, soft start and multi-way dimming, LEDs really set the mood.

However, unfortunately dimming LED bulbs is not as easy as you may think. The wattage and the number of bulbs you can dim will affect the smooth running and the longevity of the LED bulbs. In this guide we will look at the easiest ways to dim LED bulbs and make the technical jargon as easy as 123.

Can I dim any LED bulb?

No, not all LED bulbs are dimmable. LED bulbs are manufactured with different circuits that determine whether they are dimmable or non-dimmable and must be purchased as such. (All bulbs will be labelled)

I have bought dimmable LED bulbs - do I need a compatible dimmer?

Yes, this is known as a trailing edge dimmer.

*Trailing edge dimmers are designed to fade the voltage to zero rather than switch it abruptly off by applying a resistance to create a ramp. This increases the amount of heat dissipated, since the resistive period generates heat.

Can’t I just use my existing dimmer? It's worked fine with other bulbs

No, this is known as a leading edge dimmer. All our bulbs are tested with trailing edge dimmers, however there are newer versions on the market that are designed to work as both trailing and leading edge versions, making this an easy way to dim LED, incandescent and mains halogen. We offer both here.

*Leading edge dimmers are predominantly used with incandescent or mains halogen light bulbs. Leading edge dimmers are compatible with resistive or inductive loads and are able to reduce the load by shortening the cycle at the leading edge of the input waveform.

What is a gang?

The gang is the number of switches on the dimmer. If you want to dim bulbs but not all at the same time then you can choose between 2 and 4 gang dimmer switches.

What is the minimum to maximum rated wattage?

*The Varilight brand of dimmer switch has been tested with each of our products and is sutable for use with all of them.

The minimum figure of 10W is the amount that the dimmer needs to load in watts to be able to dim LED bulbs correctly - anything lower and it will struggle to dim and run smoothly.

The maximum (depending on the gang/switches) is the total load in watts that the dimmer will take, not the total amount of LED bulbs you can use. For example, the maximum for a 1 gang dimmer switch is 400W; the rule of thumb for the amount of bulbs is to divide the 400W by 10, which then gives you 40 watts or rather, the maximum worth of LED bulbs for the dimmer.

How many bulbs can I put on the dimmer?

This will depend on the wattage of the bulbs and the gangs on the dimmer switch.

*Using our NxtGen Series III 5W GU10 LED bulb as an example, the following shows the number of bulbs that can be used on each dimmer and per gang...

1 Gang Dimmer Switch (Minimum of 10W to Maximum of 400W)

8 bulbs – 8 x 5W = 40W x 10 = 400W

2 Gang Dimmer Switch (Minimum of 10W to Maximum of 250W per Gang)

5 bulbs per gang – 5 x 5W = 25W x 10 = 250W on each gang

3 Gang Dimmer Switch (Minimum of 10W to Maximum of 300W per Gang)

6 bulbs per gang – 6 x 5W = 30W x 10 = 300W on each gang

4 Gang Dimmer Switch (Minimum of 10W to (Maximum of 250W per Gang)

5 bulbs per gang – 5 x 5W = 25W x 10 = 250W on each gang

For your dimmer to work the bulbs used must exceed the minimum requirement but not the maximum wattage. Also, make sure you don't mix different types of bulbs e.g. incandescent and halogen, as this can also cause problems.