Dimmable vs. Non-Dimmable LED Lights

The old incandescent lights were easily dimmable. But lighting technology has changed to LEDs. On the on hand this brings many advantages but on the other hand the technology has gotten more complex. Controlling the brightness is not always possible as there are dimmable and non-dimmable LED lights. In this guide we cover the difference between these two types and what’s important to dim your LEDs.

What is a dimmer switch?

A dimmer switch is a specific switch that is used to change an electric bulb’s brightness or to make the light dim. This switch is not only used for turning the lights ON or OFF but it can also change the light’s intensity. To make this work a dimmer is more complex than a simple switch. It additionally includes an electric circuit to reduce the brightness of the connected lights.

Dimmable vs Non-Dimmable LEDs

But not every light can use a dimmer switch. This is especially true for LED lights. Only LED lights that are made up of advanced technology and have a dimming feature can be used on a dimmer switch.

Dimmable or Non-Dimmable options in LED lights

There are two varieties of LED lights being sold today – the dimmable and the non-dimmable LEDs. It is very important to choose the right type of bulb for your fixture when you buy it. You will note that there are more options when it comes to dimmable LED lamps than non-dimmable ones. There is one important thing to remember when transitioning to energy-efficient light sources.

You should never use a non-dimmable LED light with a dimmer switch. This will always almost cause some issues. Sometimes the issues are not noticeable at a first glance what makes the situation even more difficult. If the dimmer is at 100% or fully on all the time, then your non-dimmable bulb will likely operate normally. But dimming the bulb will make it flicker or buzz. Ultimately, your bulb can get damaged.

Dimmable LEDs, on the other hand, have special circuitry inside. This makes them able to respond to changing phase forms that produce the dimming effect. Non-dimmable LEDs are designed to either be fully powered ON or OFF. Its circuitry cannot handle special phase forms. It will soon become damaged. However, putting a dimmable bulb on a non-dimmable circuit will work fine. You will not just be able to dim the light.

Buying dimmable LEDs

If you are buying dimmable LEDs, you will be able to tell one with its box label. If it is not labeled as dimmable, then you will know that it is non-dimmable. Also the dimmer you use for your dimmable LEDs should only be one designed for dimming LEDs.

What is great about dimmable LEDs is that it can create mood lighting. It is great when watching movies, or if you are having a romantic night-in, etc. You can also use them for bedrooms, living spaces, and accent lighting. If you want to highlight decorative items in your home like artworks or sculpture, then your dimmable LEDs will work just great. It can also help dull objects get the attention that they need impressively.

However, if you need light for a space where you need focus, then a dimmable LED will be of little use. In these places, you can use a non-dimmable cool white LED. With its fresh glow, you will be able to greatly concentrate on what you are doing and can see more clearly with it.

Types of Dimmers

There are two types of household dimmers you can use – the leading-edge and the trailing edge dimmers. Leading-edge dimmers’ design is for incandescent bulbs. These will not work well with your LED bulbs. If there is a dimmer already installed in your home used for incandescent bulbs, then you most likely have a leading-edge dimmer. This is not compatible with LED lights.

The trailing edge dimmers are designed to work specifically with LED lights. These dimmers are newer and less common than leading-edge dimmers. Differences between the two dimmer types are their wattage range and the way the current phase control works. Leading-edge dimmers mostly work with high-wattage loads like incandescent bulbs that use a lot of energy.

But LEDs use up very little energy or are extremely low-wattage. This is one reason why leading-edge dimmers can’t control LED circuitry very well. With trailing edge dimmers, LED bulbs can easily and effectively be read and controlled because they have a much lower wattage range.

LED Dimming Options

LEDs can be dimmed in two ways – the Pulse-width modulation (PWM) and Constant Current Reduction (CCR).

PWM Dimming

In PWM dimming, the LED is turned on and off at a very high speed. It’s on time cycles are split. The intervals where the light is on and off are measured in milliseconds (thousands of a second). For a 10% brightness effect, the LED is on 10% of the cycle and off the other 90%. LEDs will look brighter if the on periods are longer relative to the off periods.

So, why don’t we see the light blinking? The flicker is so fast that our eyes don’t notice it. Human eyes only have the ability to assimilate the average amount of light out of the pulses. It won’t perceive any pulsing as long as the rate is high enough.

Analog Dimming

Constant current reduction (CCR) is also known as analog dimming. In this type of dimming, the forward current being fed to the LEDs is controlled. The current is reduced and so the LEDs are dimmed.

Some Helpful Tips

Your dimming circuit should be upgraded with good quality dimmers designed for LEDs. This will be a good investment since your LEDs have a long lifespan. Make sure you purchase the right dimmable or non-dimmable LED for your type of circuit.

The model and brand of LED lamps you buy for all the fittings in an area or a room should be the same. If you are making changes in your circuit, make sure to consult a qualified electrician to perform the task.


Today, you have the option to buy dimmable or non-dimmable LEDs to light your home. But you can have more benefits if you choose dimmable LEDs since you can use them whether you have dimmer switches in your home or not. With dimmable LEDs, you will be able to have additional energy savings. A dimmed light will use only a percentage of the energy it would normally need to illuminate.