Dimmer Knowledge

You wake up to a pale light that welcomes you to the new day without blowing the sleep straight out of your eyes, instead matching the mild hues of the morning. You eat your breakfast, get the coffee machine going, and sit down to work as the day gets brighter. You clock out in the afternoon and turn up the light all the way to get you through rush hour, and you turn it back down when it’s time to enjoy dinner and settle into the cosy evening atmosphere.

Dimmers and other light control systems were initially invented to reduce energy consumption at a time when the incandescent bulb dominated and electricity was expensive. A lot has happened since then, and these days, dimmers do much more than just save electricity. But which dimmer should you choose? Should it go on the cable, or should it be built into the switch? Which bulb do you go for?

The dimmer market can be hard to navigate, so we’ve created this page to help you find the perfect solution for your needs. Find out how to get the right control system for your home!

LED dimmers

LED dimmers are available in three overarching versions: built into your designer lamp, mounted on the cable, or placed next to the switch on the wall. These are the main types, and this article will focus on the last two types because those are mounted after the fact.

Both types work in the same way, but whereas a dimmer switch has to be installed by an electrician, you can mount a dimmer on your lamp yourself. There is a wealth of dimmers out there, and you can see some of the many options below. But how do you make sure that you pick the right solution? And how do you avoid ending up with an LED bulb that flickers when you dim it?

Find a dimmer for your lamp here

Calculate watt and pick the right dimmer

Picking a dimmer is neither difficult nor complicated, but you do need to know your bulbs and dimmers, and it helps to remember the basic principles of maths!

When choosing an LED dimmer, you might have noticed that they all come with a watt value. This is often listed as a range, and it typically looks like this:

LED Light dimmer 5000 (4-250W)

But what do those numbers mean, and what should you choose? The range should be interpreted as a maximum and minimum—and when your LED bulbs flicker with a dimmer, it’s likely because they’re using a lower brightness than the minimum listed in the range.

  • The maximum is the highest wattage the dimmer can handle. In other words, the connected bulb—or bulbs—in this example must never exceed 250W. And it should be mentioned that LED bulbs often use more electricity than listed for a few seconds as they turn on. 250W is high for LED bulbs, but don’t forget that your light fixture might be using multiple bulbs.

  • The minimum is the lowest level of electricity  that the bulbs use. In other words, the connected bulb—or bulbs—must never go below the listed minimum. If you buy a 5W bulb and your dimmer has a minimum value of 4W, you can adjust your bulb’s brightness between 4W and 5W. If your LED bulb uses 3.5W, it will flicker.

    If your light fixture contains more than one bulb, or if you want to use your dimmer switch for multiple lamps with single light sources, you need to calculate the total wattage.

    You do this by taking the number of bulbs in the fixture you want to dim and multiplying it by the wattage. If your lamp contains four bulbs that each use 20W, you need to multiply 20W by 4, which equals 80W. You then take the 80W that the bulbs use all together and multiply it by 1.25 to compensate for the extra electricity used to turn on the bulbs. In this example, you need a dimmer with a max value of 100W.

  • Dimmable LED bulbs

    Whether it’s for a film night, gaming night, romantic dinner, or you just need to get up and use the toilet in the middle of the night, a dimmable LED bulb is a great addition to your light arsenal. But how can you be sure to pick the right one? And does the bulb you want actually work with your dimmer?

    LED bulbs use two different dimming methods.

  • Analogue: When you adjust your dimmer to 10%, the dimmer scales down the bulb’s power. That is, it gives the bulb less electricity, which dims the light.
  • Wavelength modulation: When you adjust your dimmer to 10%, the interval between the bulb turning on and off shortens. LED bulbs work by turning on and off very quickly—faster than the eye can see—and when the dimmer is at 10%, the bulb is on for 10% of the time.

    Both methods create the same result, and for you as the user, the way the bulb dims is mostly irrelevant. But its’ worth knowing how it works and why you can’t use a traditional dimmer for your LED bulbs, just like you can’t use an incandescent or halogen bulb with an LED dimmer. Besides, LED lights operate with much less power than traditional bulbs.

    The most important thing is to choose dimmable LED bulbs. Not all LED bulbs are dimmable, and you’ve probably wondered by dimmable bulbs are more expensive than their non-dimmable counterparts. A classic incandescent bulb can be dimmed by simply cutting down the amount of power it receives—it’s not that simple with LED. A dimmable LED bulb contains a circuit that allows the bulb to process changing phases and power supplies.

    So, if you want to use your bulb with dimmable switches or make use of lamps with built-in dimmers, make sure to choose a dimmable LED bulb!

    That being said, you can still use a dimmable bulb in a non-dimmable lamp.

    Find our range of dimmable LED bulbs here!

  • How do you install a dimmer on a cable?

    Unlike installing a new dimmable light switch on the wall, you can mount a dimmer on the cable yourself. The process is simple, but remember that the warranty is void the minute you start installing a dimmer. The ‘measure twice and cut once’ and ‘RTFM’ (Read the F. Manual) rules of thumb apply.

  • Turn off the electricity, and unplug the lamp - never work on lamps with live electricity.

  • Decide where on the lamp you want the dimmer switch - make sure it sits somewhere on the cable that’s easy to reach.

  • Cut the cable! - and make sure to cut in the right place! Measure twice, cut once. Use pliers or similar tools.

  • Strip the outer jacket - this will reveal the two inner cables. Strip the piece you’ve cut and the piece attacked to the lamp. We recommend stripping about an inch.

  • Open your dimmer, and inspect it! - not all dimmers are identical, so you should open the dimmer and read the manual one more time. Find the positive and negative terminals.

  • Strip the inner jacket, and mount - once the copper is visible, you can roll this into a point with your fingers. Mount the negative cable (usually blue) and the positive cable (usually brown) in the dimmer, and use the valve if your dimmer has one. Make sure no copper touches copper as this will make the lamp short-circuit. We recommend stripping about a centimetre.

  • Close the dimmer, and test your installation - if everything works, your lamp should dim!

  • Dimmable incandescent and halogen bulbs

    These days, halogen bulbs are mainly used in fridges and headlamps, and most incandescent bulbs have retired. The ones that still exist are mostly found in ovens and retro lava lamps. Neither bulb type is sold in the EU, but perhaps you have a special older bulb or lamp that you want to dim.

    If you have an older lamp with a built-in dimmer, you might have noticed that a modern LED bulb flickers when you light it. That’s because the dimming mechanism is designed to work with a halogen or incandescent bulb. We recommend getting in touch with your local retailer to find out if they have any halogen bulbs in stock. The halogen bulb was banned in the EU in 2018, but it’s not illegal for a retailer to sell one if they acquired it before 2018.

    If all else fails, you might be able to get an oven or fridge bulb—but if you go down this route, note that the yield might be limited.

    Philips Hue Dimmer Switch

    If you choose a smart bulb solution rather than a traditional LED light, you don’t need to think about dimmers and switches because you can do it all from your phone. But if you like the simplicity of having a dimmer switch on the wall, the different smart bulb manufacturers create a range of solutions, and we’d like to highlight the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch.

    The elegant remote and switch combination is mounted on the wall, and once it’s connected to your Philips Hue light system, you can control the light in the room using the dimmer switch. This can be mounted with double-sided tape, and the switch itself is attached to the back plate using magnets, so if you want to move around the house, you can just put it in your pocket and take it on an adventure.