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Do I Need a Special Dimmer Switch for LED Light Bulbs?

Do I Need a Special Dimmer Switch for LED Light Bulbs?

Most LED bulbs, unlike incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs, are dimmable. However, not all dimmable LED bulbs dim in the same way. Sometimes LED bulbs work with old dimmers, sometimes they don’t.

One question that people shopping for LED bulbs ask, “Do I need a special dimmer switch for LED bulbs?”

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. That’s because dimmable LEDs work with most old dimmers but not all of them.

Also, with some old dimmers, LEDs might not work seamlessly. What that means is they may work but every now and then you may encounter some minor issues.

Because LEDs use such a low wattage, some old dimmers won’t function with them in the same manner as they work with incandescent bulbs, which consume high wattage. You may notice the following when you dim an LED with an old, incompatible dimmer:

  • Smaller dimming rage (Roughly 70-90 percent range compared to 100 percent with incandescent bulbs)
  • LEDs might not turn off at lowest dim setting (That happens because the dimmer assumes the LED bulb is fully turned off because of its low wattage usage)
  • Some amount flickering in LED bulbs

Before you purchase an LED bulb, it is recommended that you check with the manufacturer if the bulb will work with your old dimmer. If it won’t, you should consider upgrading to a new LED dimmer.

Of course, you can use a dimmable LED bulb without a dimmer. However, the bulb will work at 100% output, which in turn defeats the whole purpose of buying a dimmable LED in the first place.  

Since dimmable LED bulbs are only marginally costlier than their non-dimmable cousins, they are worth the investment. And if they are not compatible with your old dimmer, buying a new dimmer may be a smart move. Dimmable LED bulbs not only allow you to adjust the light according to your needs, which may vary at different times of day, but they also help you cut down on your electricity bill when used at less than 100% capacity.  

Another related question that customers frequently ask is, Can I install non-dimmable LED bulbs with a dimming switch?

Yes, you can. But bear in mind that the bulb will always function at its 100% capacity.