Everything You Need to Know When Buying Lighting Dimmers

Dimmers are probably one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to lighting. While not many people use them, they can make a big difference to the look and feel of a home or office, and can even improve the energy efficiency of your LED light bulbs.

If you’re thinking of installing a dimming controller in your Scottsdale home, here are the basic things you should know.

Available Dimmer Types

First things first—what dimmers are currently on the market? Here are the most common types:

  • Standard or Rotary Dimmers – These are the oldest type of dimmers available in the market and work much like a spigot on a hose. As the name suggests, twisting the dial allows you to modulate the flow of electricity fed to your lights, thereby controlling their brightness.
  • CL Dimmers – This is a specific dimmer designed for compatible LED and CFL bulbs.
  • Magnetic Low Voltage (MLV) Dimmers – These dimmers are designed to work with magnetic drivers, allowing them to read and respond to power fluctuations without hardware damage.
  • Electronic Low Voltage (ELV) Dimmers – Like MLV dimmers, electronic low voltage dimmers are design to work with drivers, only this time, with LED bulbs as the light source.
  • 0-10 Volt Dimmers – These are special dimmers often used in Europe and for commercial applications in the U.S. These require extensive wiring, so it’s best to have a professional around when installing these.
  • Integrated Dimmers – These dimmers come with their own proprietary light bulb because they tend to offer complex dimming capabilities and even features like Wi-Fi connectivity.

What’s Your Light Source?

The second thing you need to consider is your light source.

What type of light bulbs do you have in the room you wish to install a dimmer in? The four most common variants are incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

  • Incandescent bulbs are the easiest bulbs to dim. Lowering the power supply reduces the flow of electricity to the bulb, bringing down its brightness. A standard slide or rotary dimmer will work with most incandescent bulbs, although some low voltage incandescent systems can have transformers that require an MLV or ELV dimmer that protects the driver.
  • Most fluorescent tubes are not compatible with usual dimmers. For those that work with dimmers, you’ll generally need a 0-10 volt dimming controller.
  • Like their tube counterparts, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) are rarely dimmable. You’ll need to look for models that specifically offer dimming capabilities. Those that are can usually be dimmed using CL or standard dimmers installed on the main light switch.
  • LEDs offer the best of both worlds: energy efficiency and dimmer compatibility. Most integrated LEDs can be dimmed with an ELV dimmer, while others might need a 0-10-volt system. Regular LED bulbs are generally dimmable using a CL dimmer. More modern LED bulbs even have integrated dimmers that let you control their brightness through an app on your mobile device.

Now that you know what to look for, take time and find the best light bulb and dimming system for your needs.