Dimmable lights: what do you need to know?

A dimmer is a switch that regulates the current or voltage that is travelling to your lamp with the result that you can control the light intensity/brightness of a lamp. For example if you want full brightness for work purposes or a more dimmed and atmospheric romantic lighting when having dinner.

Always check if the lamp and bulb are dimmable

Not all lights are dimmable, take into account a number of things such as if the lamp itself is dimmable, is the bulb dimmable and what type of dimmer switches do they need. So it is important when purchasing a lamp that you pay attention if it is dimmable, so for example if a lamp comes with a built-in light it is indicated if it is dimmable by stating that dimmer switch is included or a dimmer switch is needed.

Energy saving bulbs

Not all energy saving bulbs are dimmable, if a CFL bulb is dimmable it will clearly state on the packaging or website details. When it comes to energy saving bulbs, it is important that you take into account that a compatiable dimmer switch is required to not damage the bulb. The results of using a non compatiable dimmer switch with energy saving bulbs are that they may flash, buzz or explode.

Halogen bulbs

A 230V halogen bulb can be dimmed with any dimmer switch. A 12V halogen bulb can be dimmed with an electronic dimmer switch.

LED bulbs

Not all LED bulbs are dimmable, so when purchasing LED bulbs pay close attention whether it is dimmable or non dimmable as it is shown on packaging or website details. LED dimmable bulbs are only compatiable with LED dimmer switches.

Which dimmer should you choose?

There is a minimum and a maximum Watt on a dimmer switch, if a bulb has a total wattage of a minimum or maximum can be dimmed without problems. For example a dimmer switch with a range of 40W to 300W, if you use a 25W bulb with this dimmer switch the bulb will either flash or not light up at all. Another example if you use 400W bulb, this exceeds the maximum of the dimmer switch, the bulb will either explode or cause the main fuse to burn out.

Look at the symbol on the dimmer switch

There is a dimmer symbol on dimmer switches which indicate which type of dimmer switch it is and which type of bulbs it is compatiable with, this is usually on packaging of bulbs. The letters mean the following:

  • If you see an R on the dimmer switch, this is compatiable with incandescent bulbs and 230V halogen bulbs.
  • If there is a C on the dimmer switch, this is compatiable with incandescent bulbs, 230V and 12V halogen bulbs, LED bulbs and energy saving bulbs.
  • If there is a L on the dimmer switch, this is compatianle with incandescent bulbs, 230V halogen and some LED bulbs, however this needs to be specifically mentioned on the actual dimmer switch.

Which dimmer switch is suitable for which light bulb?

Standard dimmer switch

Standard dimmer switch can dim almost any light bulb, an incandescent dimmer switch is the one of the oldest ones that can still be used to dim all bulbs at 230V. Usually there is a lamp icon on these dimmers.

Electronic Dimmer

Electronic dimmer switchs often have the letter symbols of RC, this means that this type of dimmer switch is suitable for electronic transformers, 12V bulbs such as G4s, G6.35, MR11, dimmable LEDs and all 230V halogen bulbs

Dimmer & transformer

A dimmer and transformer all in one is able to dim in combination with a transformer, however keep in mind that it must be able to adjust the voltage output as the input voltage is reduced. Dimmable transformer is always stated on packaging or product information.

LED dimmer switch

Standard halogen bulbs do not dim properly due to voltage drop, therefore if you use a standard dimmer switch on an LED bulb as there is low voltage already the bulb will not dim properly or at all and starts to flicker or make buzzing sound. Therefore it is best advised to use an LED dimmer switch as it has a built-in driver to allow the LED bulb to be fully dimmed and to your desired light intensity.

Plug-in dimmer switch

For floor and table lamps there are plug-in dimmer switch where a socket is used, plug in the lamp´s cord into the plug-in dimmer switch and put it into a socket. Easy to use allowing you to easily switch from bright light to atmospheric lighting.