How to Dim LED Lights & Choose the Perfect Controller
How to dim LED lights and choose the perfect controller
Buying LED bulbs and strip lights with the intention of using a dimmer can be tricky. The ability to dim LED lighting is relatively new. Due to their low wattage, LED bulbs are rarely compatible with dimmers traditionally used for high wattage incandescent bulbs, so specific drivers have been developed.
Here, we're going to talk you through everything you need to know about dimming LED lighting solutions and explain how you can ensure you always choose the perfect dimming controls for your setup.
Can you dim LED lights?
If you're wondering how to dim LED string lights, bulbs, and strip lights, you'll be pleased to know it's possible — you just need to make sure you pick up the right variety. Here at Ultra LEDs, all of our LED tapes will work with a dimmer but some of our bulbs won't. This means you need to specifically shop for dimmable LED bulbs if you want to have this kind of control over your lighting.
Compatibility is vital when you're looking to combine your LED lights with a dimmer. The easiest way to ensure your chosen lighting will work with a dimmer is to check the manufacturer's specifications, which will sometimes include a dimmer compatibility sheet. If you already have a particular dimmer in mind, you'll need to ensure that type or model is listed as compatible. On the other hand, if you already have your lights but aren't quite sure which controller to go with, check their specifications for a list of those that will be compatible. If you don't do your research, you could buy your lights and controller, only to find that they won't work well together. If you're ever unsure, you can get in touch with our team, and they'll be more than happy to help ensure you get the products you need.
How to choose the right dimming controls for your LED lighting
There are different types of LED dimmers available, and they all have their own applications or work with different varieties of LED lights. Here, we're going to take you through the five most common options and explain when each of these is going to be the most suitable for you. We'll cover:
Mains voltage dimming
Best suited to: LEDs in your home or office space that are integrated into your mains voltage system.
Our dimmable drivers are designed to power and dim constant voltage LEDs via a mains dimmer switch. They work by chopping out parts of the mains voltage and therefore reducing power to the LED. They can either be ‘trailing-edge’ (ELV) or ‘leading-edge’ (TRIAC):
- Leading-edgemains dimmers are simpler and therefore the cheaper option. However, they usually have a higher minimum load, which means a narrower dimming range for low-voltage bulbs like LEDs.
- Trailing-edgemains dimmers are slightly more sophisticated, offering smooth, silent dimming, and are usually better suited to low-power bulbs like LEDs.
Dimmable drivers typically come in the form of traditional wall dimmers, but some are compatible with our Elencho control systems, which use a radio frequency remote control.
Radio frequency controllers
Best suited to: LED strip lighting in multiple rooms that you'd like to control from one place.
Radio frequency controllers are a great wireless option for dimming your strip lighting. Using radio frequency transmission between a handheld remote control and a receiver, they are easy to install and sync up: simply place a receiver between your LED driver and the run of LED tape you are installing. Endless receivers can be controlled from one remote and they can be grouped into ‘zones’, which can correspond to rooms in your house.
Best suited to: Stage lighting, hotels, and homes with more complex lighting systems.
DMX lighting controllers are much more specialist. They are typically used in theatres for smoother, more exact dimming, as well as mixing and combining RGB lighting. However, they can also be useful in hotels or homes when you need a more sophisticated lighting control system. They are all wired and require a compatible driver. This kind of controller is usually managed with computer software or a dedicated lighting desk.
Best suited to: Gadget-loving consumers who want a sleek and savvy home lighting system.
A Zigbee LED control system offers wireless control over all the LED fixtures in your home. It can be used to integrate your lighting system into a smart-home hub, such as the Philips Hue® or Amazon Echo® Alexa, meaning you can dim your lighting via a smartphone app or even voice command.
Zigbee can be installed with a mains voltage system and specified LED drivers, including our DALI drivers.
Best suited to: Commercial spaces.
Short for ‘digital addressable lighting interface’, DALI dimming systems use computer software to control LEDs. These controllers typically have a wall-mounted touchscreen, making it incredibly easy for you to gain complete control of your lighting. As well as having dimming and on/off functions, DALI systems can control colour adjustment if you opt for RGB lighting. These controllers are also compatible with automatic adjustment sensors, which adjust the brightness of the lighting based on the amount of sunlight — a great feature for saving on electricity usage.
We hope we've given you enough information to help you pick out the perfect LED controller to suit your needs. But, if you would like any further guidance, get in touch with our team, who can help you to find the ideal solution for your home or project.