Dimmable vs Non Dimmable

The older incandescent lights were easy to dim. As long as the appropriate switch and circuit were available for the fixture, a compatible bulb could create different lighting levels.


With LED technology development, a few things have changed. Although you can still find dimmable and non-dimmable bulbs, the installation process has gotten a bit more complex. It's not always possible to control brightness levels, especially if you don't have compatibility included with your setup.


Dimmable Bulbs Need a Dimmer Switch

Dimmer switches change the bulb's brightness levels, creating more or less based on the energy levels sent to the fixture. These switches also provide the traditional option of turning the illumination on or off.


With a dimmer switch, there's an electric circuit that reduces the brightness of each connected light. LEDs aren't always compatible with this technology. If you want to have a dimmable bulb, you'd need to purchase a product that comes with a consistent feature that works with a dimmer switch.


Dimmable vs. Non-Dimmable LED Lights

Two varieties of LED lights are currently sold: dimmable vs. non-dimmable. You can tell which option is in your possession by reading the information on the package or in the product description. The designation is sometimes seen on the front of the box, but it is usually printed on the back.


Although more dimmable vs. non-dimmable options exist, you must look at the product carefully to ensure you're purchasing the correct choice.

When you install a non-dimmable LED light on a dimmable switch, you might have it set at 100% the entire time to ensure it operates correctly. The bulb can start buzzing or flickering once you lower the power threshold to the fixture. Those activities can damage the product or significantly reduce its lifespan.


If you have a dimmable LED installed, the circuitry inside allows the product to respond to the changing phase forms. That permits the dimming effect to occur. In comparison, a non-dimmable bulb only works like an on/off switch, unable to handle the different phase forms.


You can place a dimmable bulb into a non-dimmable circuit. It will operate at full power without the option to dim it.


Types of Dimmers Found in Homes

Home circuits come with two types of dimmers: leading-edge and trailing-edge designs. The first option is meant for incandescent bulbs. Although they'll work with LED bulbs to a point, it's not the best choice. You likely have this option if you already have a dimmer switch and incandescent lights.


The trailing-edge dimmer switch is meant to work with LED lights. They're newer, making them less common, but they also work with the appropriate wattage range.


LEDs are dimmable through CCR (constant current reduction) or pulse-width modulation (PWM), creating more potential energy savings once correctly installed.


CCR dimming is the analog version of this technology. The forward current fed to the bulb is controlled, reducing its levels to create a dimmable light.


With PWM dimming technology, the LED gets turned off and on at high speeds. The on-time cycles get split into millisecond intervals to create a dimming effect. It blinks so quickly that human eyes don't notice the change. As long as the rate stays high enough, the pulsing isn't seen.


If you're interested in dimmable LED lights, it's a good idea to evaluate your circuit and switch to determine if it is compatible. Once you know what you've got, you can buy the correct dimmable or non-dimmable light for that fixture. It helps to have the brand and model of your lamps be the same in each room or area to ensure no conflicts occur.


Sign up to to receive LEDVANCE Product Launch Updates and Webinar Invites!

Stay up to date on the latest innovations from LEDVANCE