Dimmable Led Lamps: How It Works + How To Choose The Best One

Nearly, choosing an electric light bulb was a simple and uncomplicated matter. It was enough to tell the seller the desired power, and you got a device that shone brightly and consumed a lot of energy, or shone worse, but was a little more economical.

Now, to choose correctly dimmable LED lamps, you need to have at least a minimum of knowledge - the characteristics that affect their operation are very many. In this article we will deal with the main of them, so that you become clearer the technical parameters indicated on the package, and their meaning. What will allow you to choose the right version of the bulb.

The content of the article:

  • What is a dimmable LED bulb?
  • How the dimmer works
  • The benefits of using a dimmer for LED fixtures
  • Criteria for choosing a quality dimmable lamp
    • ¹1 - The shape of the lamp and its effect on lighting
    • ¹2 - Flicker of light and methods to detect it
    • ¹3 - Device power and operating voltage
    • ¹4 - Light output and dimming limits
    • ¹5 - Color temperature and color rendering
    • No. 6 - cap and housing
    • No. 7 - device lifetime
  • The best manufacturers on the lighting market
    • LED lamps from Uniel
    • A wide selection of Philips LED lamps
    • LED products from Gauss
  • Conclusions and useful video on the topic

What that dimming LED-lamps?

It is a device equipped with a block with PWM function, i.e. pulse width modulation capabilities. The block has a specific circuit in its design to recognize the regulation. It controls a stabilizer, which is located in the housing and changes the brightness of the light.

Common energy-saving electric lamps cannot be switched via a dimmer - the two devices are incompatible. The conflict is manifested by blinking or a weak glow of the device when it is turned off. Other causes of blinking of the LED lamps are explained here.

And since LED or fluorescent lamps are designed for a certain number of cycles of activating the light source and switching it off, they will burn out in a month or two if used like this.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The design of a dimmable LED lamp differs by the presence of a special driver which is responsible for dimming

The point is that the energy saving lamps have a capacitor (electronic converter) inside which a certain amount of current is supplied even when the lamp is off.

The capacitor, gaining the necessary charge, feeds the diode and it flashes from time to time, despite being off.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Dimming of LED lamps was impossible before the dimmable models appeared - they were not suitable for use with dimmers

The principle of operation of a dimmer

Dimming dimmers allow the intensity of artificial light to be changed. The dimmer controls the electrical power by changing the voltage in a rheostat or transformer. Special dimmers are available for diode lamps.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Dimming devices do not differ in appearance from conventional ones. They can be identified by the word \"dimmable\" on the packaging

Dimming lamps sometimes do not cooperate well with some dimming controllers. This manifests itself in a sharp change in brightness when adjusting or in extraneous noise - hum, crackle.

Sometimes the conflict of devices manifests itself in flashing at full power of all the LED lamps in the chandelier, immediately after turning on. The problem can be solved by replacing one of them with an incandescent lamp.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

It is necessary to buy those dimmers that are designed to work with diode lamps, and among them also select the appropriate model. Better if they are from the same manufacturer

Benefits of using a dimmer for LED fixtures

A considerable advantage of using a dimmer is the possibility not only to save electricity, but also to create a unique atmosphere with dimmed light. Or advantageously highlight a certain area of the room by highlighting it with a dimmer controlled LED strip.

Common LED lamps cannot be used in combination with dimmers. Their brightness will not change when the dimmer is scrolled. The device will only turn on when sufficient voltage is reached at full brightness.

This is because the driver compensates for the voltage fluctuations that occur up to the normal operating current of the LED. But in the design of LED dimming lamps there is a special driver which makes it possible to control the brightness.

Benefits of LED devices:

  • economy - consumes up to 90% less energy than incandescent lamps;
  • absence of UV and IR radiation;
  • long device lifetime - up to 30 000 hours;
  • warranty period 36 months;
  • high color rendering index.

Long warranty period allows high cost recovery. The dimmable LED lamps that fail early are replaced in retail outlets with new ones, so even greater savings are achieved.

Criteria for choosing a quality dimmable lamp

Many technical characteristics that we see on the packaging, manufacturers indicate for a reason - they are all weighty criteria for evaluating the device.

No. 1 - Shape of the lamp and its effect on the lighting

With the right lamp shape you can achieve the desired effect in the room - illuminate the whole room evenly, accentuate a certain working area, create a narrow beam of light.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The light effect very much depends on the shape of the bulb - a transparent or frosted protective cover - through which the light passes and spreads the rays at different angles

They are:

  • Brush type. The bulb is the same diameter as the body, so it only shines forward. Installed in a chandelier or fixture with the lamps pointing downwards, it does not light up the ceiling and forms round shadows on it.
  • In the shape of a familiar incandescent bulb. Intended for traditional use, light angle up to 240°.
  • In the form of a candle or balla. This shape is designed more as a decorative one, the angle of illumination is quite wide, from 240° to 360°. Used in open chandeliers, floor lamps, sconces, etc.
  • Reflector type. Used in stores, beauty salons, boutiques, used in spotlights. Narrows the luminous flux by spotlighting a specific area.
  • Point (accent). Used for spotlights that are installed in a variety of structures - stretch and suspended ceilings, in the case or base of furniture. They do not emit heat, so they can be used almost anywhere. But unlike halogen bulbs, which have an angle of illumination of 30°, give light with an angle of luminous flux of about 100°, so a little \"glare\". Models with a narrow beam are less common.

To ensure a pleasant, even light, the bulb is made of frosted glass. It is coated on the inside with a special coating that can have different light transmission coefficients. Products with a transparent bulb are also available.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Electrical equipment with a transparent bulb has higher brightness, and a special \"filament\" technology makes them similar to conventional ones - LEDs resemble filaments

#2 - light flicker and methods of its detection

This phenomenon is typical for LED and fluorescent lighting fixtures. Pulsation causes a feeling of fatigue, discomfort, negatively affects the condition of the eyes. Lighting device that has a strong flicker, can not be used for residential premises. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in low-quality cheap models.

Check the presence of flicker visually:

  • If you move your gaze from one object to another, a stroboscopic effect is created and the human eye sees several objects instead of one.
  • Taking a felt-tip or pencil, quickly move it as a pendulum. If no distinct contours of the object can be seen, the flicker is weak and unnoticeable to the human eye. If it appears that there are several pencils, the flicker is high.
  • The flicker can also be determined with a smartphone: by looking at the light source through the device's camera, one can see bands, which will be the brighter the stronger the flicker.

It is fundamentally impossible to completely eliminate flicker in the device as this phenomenon is characteristic of its operation.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

It is necessary to purchase products with a minimum appearance of flicker. To stabilize the current, a special driver is built into their body

No. 3 - Device power and operating voltage

LED lamps are produced by manufacturers with a power from 1 to 25 W. Traditionally, users use the power of incandescent light bulbs as an equivalent for estimating their luminous flux.

Usually, the power indicators of LED and incandescent lamps are correlated as 1 to 10-8. That is, a diode lamp at 10-12 watts in electricity consumption and light output is similar to a traditional light bulb at 75 watts. More about the power of LED bulbs we talked in this article.

The standard for most dimmable LED bulbs class A, with the improvement of technology, ceased to be the highest. There are now devices with A+ and A++ class which consume much less energy.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The power is not a characteristic of the brightness of the light - there is such an indicator as lumen for this. It is stated on the package of each product

With regard to the operating voltage, it can be quite different from the standard 220 V in the power supply system. This is especially common in suburban power grids.

Voltage spikes can put the expensive dimmable LED lights out of action. Therefore, it is better to buy models with a wide range of input voltage, which can operate from 170 and up to 250 V. The possibility of connecting dimmable LED lamps to a network with a particular voltage depends on the characteristics of the power supply unit.

¹4 - Luminous flux and dimming limits

The minimum level to which the brightness of a dimmable LED lamp can be reduced is 10%. Models from different manufacturers may act differently and have their own minimum, reducing brightness to 5,10 or 25%.

When testing their operation with different dimmers, device compatibility may affect the result. Diode illuminators even at 10% brightness shine quite strongly. Therefore it is better to choose models with as low on/off as possible.

With regard to brightness, the ratio of power to brightness in LED lamps does not always show the real picture. Therefore it was necessary to specify the luminous flux (Lumen). This could be between 200 and 2,500lm.

But the longer LED bulbs run, the more they lose brightness and therefore also their efficiency. In the first 3,000 thousand hours of operation the brightness decreases by 5% and then continues to decrease more actively, dropping to 50% of the original value.

The efficiency of an LED lamp, including a dimmable one, can be calculated by dividing the value of the luminous flux by the indicator that shows the power consumption. Different models have significantly different results - from 40 to 100 lm/W.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Even the cheapest LED lighting model will be much more efficient than an incandescent lamp whose light output is about 10 lm/W. A dimmed LED bulb will be even more economical

#5 - Color temperature and color rendering

The color temperature characterizes a light source in terms of its spectral composition, measured on the Kelvin scale. The values of 4,000-4,500 K are considered normal for most types of rooms

But for a house or apartment choose warm light, with values of 2,700-3,500 K, and for reading or workplace lighting the cooler tones of 4,000-4,500 K will do. Often the color temperature does not correspond to the one on the package and instead of 2 700 K you may receive a device with a color temperature value of 3 000 K.

For more details on choosing the bulb with the optimal color temperature value we highlighted here.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Some dimmable LED lighting devices may change to a warmer shade when brightness decreases. And then the light in the room resembles the light from the setting sun and causes a comfortable feeling

Color rendering index (CRI or Ra) is an important characteristic which indicates the level of correspondence of the visible color of an object when it is artificially illuminated with its real color. That is, it indicates how natural things look, evaluating the level of 8 color transfer.

Lighting index values of LEDs can be up to 90 Ra (the highest, 100 Ra for the sun).

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The normal value is considered to be ≥80 Ra. Lights with low Ra values are best not used in the home or apartment

The CRI index is actively used by manufacturers although it is not quite suitable for measuring color rendering in lighting fixtures that have white LEDs.

Better test methods were developed later that evaluate light quality by 15, by 99 colors. A good lamp, if tested additionally, will have high scores on all three indices.

No. 6 - The device base and housing

The commonly used E27 and E14 bases (27 and 14 are diameter of the base in millimeters) have a standard threaded connection. LED bulbs with E14 base (\"mignon\") are used in wall lamps, floor lamps, open luminaires and those with E27 base are used for closed chandeliers and lamps.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

There are many different bases but most are not yet used in dimming lamps

Dimming lamps with a bases with ventilation channels have appeared in new models from various manufacturers. These help to dissipate the heat better from the inside of the lamp and diodes and so increase the operating time.

More information about the main parameters and markings of the LED lamp bases we have given in the following article.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The bases can be made of different materials. Preference is given to those that better dissipate heat from the internal elements

Life of the device

The operating time depends on the quality of the dimmable LED lamp and the conditions of use and can range from 15,000 to 40,000 thousand hours if properly operated. Lamps with a vented base last longer.

But the actual effective life is much shorter. The cause of burnout or malfunction may be a poor condition of the electrical grid, poor quality production, factory defects. In addition, over time, the light output decreases and the LED lamp must sometimes be replaced even before it fails.

Shorten the operating time also high temperatures, which are created when installing a lighting device in suspended ceilings, in fixtures and chandeliers with closed plafonds. This is due to overheating of the LEDs, which burn out quickly at high temperatures.

Extremely low temperatures can also adversely affect service life by degrading the technical parameters of transistors, capacitors. High air humidity, which oxidizes the conductors, also reduces lifetime.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Lamps with LEDs are an advantageous purchase, especially since they can be replaced in the warranty period if they malfunction

To replace a LED lamp that burns out or starts not working properly, you must keep the proof of purchase. And since sales receipts burn out over time, it is better to ask the seller to fill out the device passport.

Best manufacturers on the market of lighting

Far from all manufacturers make dimmable LED lamps, and their range is not very wide. But even those that exist are still sufficient, because the popularity of dimmable lighting has not yet gained full strength.

Dimming LED lamps from Uniel

The manufacturer Uniel produces dimmable LED lamps in the Cristal Dimmable and Palazzo Dimmable series. Both series can be used with dimmers designed for standard incandescent bulbs. The CRI index is ≥ 80Ra. Dimming is adjustable from 10-100%.

The range of input voltages at which the illuminators can operate is quite wide, from 40 to 250 V. The bulb of the devices is matte.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Lamps of both series are available in two color temperatures. With a lifespan of approximately 30,000 hours and 36-month guarantee

The Cristal Dimmable series has a traditional aluminum alloy body with an E14 base. The LEDs are placed in a bulb on metal lobes and create a wide light transmission angle of 360°.

The Palazzo Dimmable series comes with a unique shape which has four channels for ventilation. They provide additional ventilation to the internal structural elements, prolonging the life of the device.

Made for reflector and spot light fixtures as well as Illich bulb, candle, balloon shapes. The socket types used in dimmable luminaires are GU10, GU5,3, E14, E27. The light flux intensity is 500-600 lm, the power is 5 to 7 W. The luminous flux is slightly narrower than the previous series - 240°.

A wide selection of Philips LED lamps

In the MASTER series, the manufacturer Philips produces dimmable pear- and globe-shaped, candle-shaped LED lamps. The range also includes dimmable reflector lamps (Master LEDspot) and accent lamps (Master MV).

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Dimming lights produced by filament technology (Classic and LEDclassic series), the so-called Edison lamps, have LED filaments that resemble the glowing spiral of a traditional electric bulb. They shine brightly and last longer than conventional bulbs, but much less than other LED models-just 15,000,000 hours

While dimming a conventional LED-type lamp leaves the light cold after a decrease in intensity, with the DimTone function the light becomes warmer when the brightness decreases. The same effect is observed when dimming halogen light sources and traditional incandescent lamps. This function is used in some models of the MASTER series.

The AirFlux technology involves a hidden ventilation system in which dimmed LED lamps last up to 40,000 hours longer. Used only in some models of the Master LV series.

The energy efficiency level of Philips products is divided into classes from A to A++. The most economical devices are produced under the names Master MV Value, LEDclassic.

Other of our articles provides more detailed information about the types of Philips LED lamps, their pros and cons.

LED products from Gauss

The Gauss company produces quite a wide range of lighting equipment, including dimmable lamps. The products are distinguished by a wide plug of 185-265V input operating voltage, high Ra>90.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

Different models are produced in two color temperature values - 4100 and 2700 K. The operating time is 35,000 hours

Dimmable lamps are available in the following types:

  • Philament lamps. These are candle and ball-shaped devices with 5W power. The luminous flux values are 420 and 450 lm. Guaranteed for 3 years.
  • Phyto lighting. Available with a GU5.3 or GU10 socket, 5W output, 500 and 530lm luminous flux. The products have a three-year guarantee.
  • Capsule. With a G9 base, incandescent light output of 280 to 300lm, 3W. The warranty period is 1 year.

We recommend to know in details the specifics of Gauss light bulbs, their technical characteristics, as well as the pros and cons according to the owners' feedback.

It is necessary to tell separately about lamps with stepped dimming function of Gauss Step Dimmer series. They have a completely different principle of operation and cannot be considered as classic dimming lamps.

They are not suitable for connection to a dimmer as they are equipped with elements for dimming already built into the base. That is, their work is not combined with dimmers. They can be used with 180 - 240V voltage standards.

They are produced in ball, candle and incandescent form, with a declared power of 10 and 7 W, in two color temperatures - 4,100 and 2,700 K. Due to the improved technical characteristics, the warranty period is 3 years.

Dimmable LED lamps: how it works + how to choose the best one

The \"smart lamp\" not only allows a comfortable light intensity, it is also energy efficient

It is controlled with a normal switch and is adjusted in steps, changing the brightness from 15 % to 50 % and 100 %. Each flip of the switch changes the brightness of the light in three steps, the fourth step being off.

Conclusions and useful video on the subject

Wiring different types of lamps to dimmer:

Dimming LED lamps overview:

The production and use of dimmable LED lamps is actively gaining momentum. Until recently, LED lighting devices were incompatible with dimmers. And now you can sometimes observe a conflict in the interaction of devices. Therefore, when buying, it is necessary to carefully choose the manufacturer and model.

Would you like to replace your existing bulbs with dimmable bulbs, but doubt the correctness of your choice? Ask your questions in the block below the article - our experts and other site visitors will share with you their experience of using products of a certain brand.

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