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Dimming LED lamps and luminaires: things to know

As LED lighting becomes an industry standard, new LED luminaires with existing dimming technology can present a tricky proposition. In a world without overarching standards to guarantee a unified performance, how can you maneuver fixtures, bulbs and drivers in an ever-changing world? Here are three things to know about dimming LED lamps and luminaires. 

Selecting the right dimming method

How do you choose the right dimmable fixture from thousands on the market for your upcoming project? First, before you select your LED luminaires, decide what kind of dimming you want.

There are three major dimming methods: mains dimming, digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) and digital multiplexing (DMX):

  • Mains trailing edge dimming can be used to dim most dedicated LED fittings when they are coupled to a mains dimmable driver, with no extra control cable required.
  • DALI is more commonly found in commercial environments and is an extremely flexible digital system. It requires a control cable, but it can run between many fittings.
  • DMX  is commonly used for programmable color fittings. The DMX signal is generated by a lighting control system and requires dedicated cabling between the controller and driver. 

Choosing a driver

Once you’ve identified the dimming method that’s right for your installation, choose LED drivers that match the performance and the protocol.

For example, the digital signaling from a DALI control system cannot always be translated by the driver into the appropriate or required lighting state. Beyond a certain level of dimming, the LEDs may simply switch off.

Similarly, DMX signaling is ideal for color-change installation, but not all RGB drivers can cope with the demands of the system, leading to poor color effects. Always check with the controls manufacturer to confirm that your preferred LED product is compatible with their system.

Fixing a problem

Should the electronics of the LED driver and dimmer not work together properly, problems can occur. Here are some common examples:

  • Flicker
  • Flashing
  • Stuttering dimming
  • Insufficient dimming
  • Failed LED driver
  • Failed dimmer 

Whether your LEDs are flickering or randomly dropping out, most LED dimming problems can be avoided by keeping these four things in mind: 

  • Not all LED lamps are dimmable.
  • Not all controls work with dimmable LED lamps. Read the manufacturer’s compatibility charts.
  • Check and confirm that the LEDs are well tested.
  • Always perform a mockup.

All projects are not created equal. When approaching dimming with LED luminaires, remember to consider the dimming method, the driver and the LED itself. It’s best to work with lighting manufacturers that provide dimming guidance and clearly mark the dimmability of their LED luminaires. 

Source: LUX