The Future of Lighting – Going LED is great??

Dimming LED Lighting is Tricky!

One of the trends we have noticed over the past year is that LED lighting is gaining more popularity in residential applications. LEDs have some attractive advantages over other light sources; the biggest advantages are their efficiency and longevity. LED bulbs last up to 10-15 times longer than comparable halogen bulbs. A 5-8 watt LED bulb provides a light source equivalent to a 50 watt halogen, this can add up to significant energy savings.

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LED lighting is still a developing technology and as such, not all products are compatible. This is most evident when it comes to dimming. We have all come to appreciate the ambiance and functionality that dimmable lighting can provide. However, dimming LEDs can be tricky. It can be accomplished with fantastic results, it just takes some careful planning and coordination between the lighting designer, the lighting control system designer, and the electrician.

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The highly efficient nature of LEDs means that dimming must be accomplished within a much smaller range. Think of how difficult it is to merge onto a highway with a short onramp as opposed to one with a nice long access lane. In order to accomplish a smooth dimming range, three factors must be taken into account: the type of driver (transformer) that powers the LED, the dimming technology the LED fixture and driver utilize, and the dimming technology provided by the lighting control system.

The LED driver is a transformer that converts the 120 volt household power to 12 or 24 volts used by the LED fixture. These drivers may be electronic low voltage, or magnetic low voltage and are not always dimmable. Even if a manufacturer says their LED fixtures and drivers are dimmable, they may not dim smoothly from full brightness (100%) down to 1%. We have seen some manufacturers note in their literature that fixtures are only dimmable to 60% of full brightness.

There is also a technology known as 0-10 volt control. While 0-10 volt dimmable fixtures have some of the smoothest dimming ranges, they require additional wiring and interfaces between the dimmer and the driver that must be planned and wired for in advance.

Lastly there is the lighting control dimmer itself. Not all dimmers work well with all LEDs or with all LED drivers. Lutron tests products from many manufacturers and publishes their findings. Their LED product selection tool is a great resource: http://www.lutron.com/en-US/service-support/Pages/technical/design-selectiontools/leddimmermatrix.aspx

When LEDs, drivers, and dimmers are not compatible the LED fixture may flicker, dim in jumps rather than smoothly, dim in a limited range, and occasionally not dim at all.

LEDs may be the future of lighting but there is still a lot of development and coordination needed. If you are thinking of dimming LEDs in your house please let us know. We integrate and install lighting control systems and are familiar with many of the products on the market; we want to make sure your LED lights will dim the way you expect them to.

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Give SoundVision a call today to set up your lighting consultation.

Until next time,

Scott Sullivan
SoundVision, Inc.
415-456-7000

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SoundVision designs and installs systems for Residential, Commercial, Home, Business, Corporate, Restaurants and Hotels.

Areas served are: San Francisco, Marin, Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Larkspur, Ross, Kentfield, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, Novato, Napa, Calistoga, Oakville, Rutherford, Yountville, Saint Helena, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Cotati, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Berkeley, Piedmont.

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