How to Tell If A Dimmer is LED Compatible

How to Tell If A Dimmer is LED Compatible

How to Tell If A Dimmer is LED Compatible

Have you joined the dimmable LED revolution? Today, more households than ever before are enjoying the freedom and the modernity of dimmable LED bulbs in the comfort of their own homes. With just the turn of a dial, the touch of a button or the swipe of a smartphone homeowners can control the ambience, mood and atmosphere in every room of the house, effortlessly.

What Are The Benefits of Dimmable LEDs?

There is a myriad of reasons why households are fitting their homes with dimmable LED bulbs, some of the most popular include:

  • They’re a great energy saver: Because less energy is used at lower lighting levels, users spend less on their energy bills
  • As dimmed LED bulbs run at cooler temperatures the overall longevity of these bulbs is extended, this also ensures the colour temperature lasts for longer
  • Ambient lighting can create a variety of moods and atmospheres throughout homes and businesses, from darkening conference rooms to settling your children down to sleep
  • Increase productivity and concentration in certain environments and reduces fatigue and strain caused by brightly lit environments

These reasons explain why so many individuals are investing in dimmable LED bulbs, however, in our excitement to upgrade the lighting in our living spaces, many people are making the mistake of mixing dimmable options with incompatible dimmers and failing to understand why their circuits are flickering, cutting out and decreasing the longevity of their LED bulbs. So, with this in mind let’s explore how to tell if a dimmer is LED compatible and how you can get the most out of this stylish lighting solution.

Understanding Leading Edge and Trailing Edge Dimmers

Before we can ascertain whether or not your current dimmer is LED compatible, you’ll need to understand the difference between leading edge and trailing edge dimmers. These are the most commonly found types of dimmers in households today, and they work by carefully reducing the level of power they send to the bulbs within your circuit, effectively trimming the voltage at specific intervals – as the name suggests. Let’s explore them a little further.

Trailing Edge Dimmers

These types of dimmers have certainly seen an increase in popularity in recent years. Trailing edge dimmers are designed to be specifically used with LED bulbs. As LEDs are designed to have a much lower wattage than their incandescent counterparts, the wattage range within trailing edge dimmers is much more compatible than other options, meaning users will get the most out of their dimmable lights, for longer. Of course, trailing edge dimmers can be used to alter the brightness of your incandescent bulbs, but only if the wattages are within a specific threshold.

Leading Edge Dimmers

If your home has had a dimmer installed for several years, well before your LED bulb installations, then chances are it’s a leading edge dimmer. This dimmer has been used to dim traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs for decades - this is possible, thanks to its higher wattage capabilities. It’s due to this high wattage range that makes leading edge dimmers incompatible with modern LED bulbs, as the high wattage of the unit is likely to cause issues with your low watt LED bulbs and prevent them from working correctly.

So, How Can I tell That My Dimmer is LED Compatible?

With so much data about dimmer types, wattage and bulb types available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by the information available. The best way to see if your current dimmer is LED compatible is to check the minimum and maximum load range of the switch itself. And also consider what we’ve discussed about the most common dimmer types:

  • Trailing Edge Dimmers: Specifically designed for LED bulbs due to low wattage capabilities
  • Leading Edge Dimmers: Traditionally used for halogen and incandescent bulbs due to high wattage threshold

Sign You Have an Incompatible Dimmer

Maybe you’ve retrofitted LED bulbs into your current dimmer circuit without this knowledge and now you’re curious about whether or not you’re getting the most out of your dimmable LEDs. The most common indications that you’re using an incompatible dimmer with your LED bulbs include:

  • Your lights are flickering when the lights are bright and on low levels
  • A buzzing or faint humming sound is coming from your lights
  • They’re not dimming or getting brighter on command
  • Your LED bulbs are blowing and need replacing

Remember, if you’re unsure or you need assistance, you should always contact an electrician or an LED expert for more information.

How Many Bulbs Can I Install on My Dimmer?

Now you know whether your dimmer is LED compatible, it makes sense to ensure that you’re not overloading your circuit with too many bulbs. Thanks to the low wattage of LEDs, the number of bulbs you can install within your dimmer circuit might surprise you. To calculate this, take the maximum rating of your dimmer switch and divide this by 10. Like in this example:

Dimmer Switch Rating

LED Bulb W

Number of Bulbs


/10 = 40W

5 x dimmable 7.1W LED bulbs

How to Make the Most of Your Dimmable Bulbs

Now you have a better understanding of what is required to set up the right environment for your dimmable LEDs, knowing how to make the most of them, and preserve their longevity is your next challenge. These tactics will ensure your bulbs dim properly.

  • Ensure your dimmer is compatible with your choice of bulb
  • Purchase Dimmable LED bulbs
  • Ensure all your dimmable LED bulbs are of the same type and from the same manufacturer
  • Avoid cheap versions to ensure components are of the highest quality
  • Update your dimmer from a leading edge version to a trailing edge dimmer

Now It's Your Turn

Creating an ambient and fully customisable home environment is a lot trickier than it first appears! However, when done right – the benefits of dimmable LEDs are obvious. Reach out to the professionals in dimmable LED technology for more advice.