Give your Eyes a Break by Fixing those Flickering Lights
As licensed Electricians we have seen flickering lights become a pesky problem. The lights may still be working, but nobody wants to live with constant flickering or glowing lights. The phenomena first became a real issue when LED lights entered the market. Their ultra low power consumption caused problems for older lighting systems that depended on traditional lights. LEDs are not designed in the same way as older incandescent or halogen lights and thus can confuse older systems.
What are LEDs?
LED lights are low voltage diodes that use a transformer (also called LED driver) to reduce the voltage that comes in allowing light to be created. Old incandescent or halogen lights work in a different way by using filaments to produce light. The voltage passes through these filaments until they are hot enough to glow. These differences in the LED light bulbs are what has caused such problems such as flickering and glowing lights, especially when the LED lights are controlled by dimmer switches.
In order for dimmer switches to dim the light bulbs, they lower the voltage that comes from the power source of the house. In the US dimmers lower voltages from 110v-120v to 0. (We normally have 120v in our homes). Most dimmer switches are capable of controlling the older light bulbs, but only some can handle the new design of LEDs. Not all LED transformers (LED drivers) are made to be dimmable because they do not translate the voltage reduction correctly. Normally the LED transformers need a certain type of voltage in order to turn on, and a certain amount of voltage in order to continue working once dimmed. If the transformer is not getting the correct voltage, it can result in the LED light flickering which means the LED transformer is trying to get enough voltage in order to fully turn on.
Types of Flickering
Not every LED will flicker in the same way. Even if the cause of the flickering is the same there are a few ways in which your lights may decide to flicker or even glow. If you notice any of these reactions in your lights it may be an indication that there is a problem with your LEDs or dimmer switches.
The mains types of flickering / glowing are:
Flickering lights when actively dimming on a dimmer switch.
Flickering or glowing once you have turned the light completely off.
Flickering once you have turned the light completely on.
Flickering on a dimmer switch when brightness is not set to completely on or off.
Causes of Flickering LED Lights
There are many causes that can contribute to flickering lights.
1. The dimmer is not LED compatible.
Not all dimmers are created in the same way. Dimmers that do not explicitly say they are compatible to the LED lights you own can cause issues when using them. Since LEDs work differently there can often be problems in translating this reduced voltage into decreased light output.
2. Your LED lights are not dimmable.
Only certain LED lights are made to be dimmable. The packaging should be labelled as dimmable otherwise you can assume they are not. Since LED lights are inherently made differently they have to be adapted to work with dimmers.
3. Your dimmer switch is too old.
Another cause of flickering or glowing can be that your dimmer is simply too old. If it was installed before LEDs were welcomed into the market it might not even recognize the light bulbs are connected. This will prevent the dimmer and light bulbs from communicating and giving you dimmable lights.
1. Find compatible units: For new builds
The most important step is to first figure out what type of lights and dimmer switch you want to install in your new space. Once you have found two options that you like you must then make sure they are compatible with each other. Compatibility should be easy to find on the packaging or website of said product. Ensuring that the products are compatible will save you from the headache of flickering or glowing lights.
2. Change the light bulbs:
If you already have an LED compatible dimmer switch and your light bulbs are still having issues your LED lights might not be compatible with the brand of your dimmer. The next step would be to research your current dimmer switch and what LED lights it is compatible with. Swapping your light bulbs can be an easy fix.
3. Change your dimmer:
If you have just bought and installed dimmable lights on your dimmer switch and they start having issues you might not have a compatible dimmer switch. Even if your dimmer says it is LED compatible you must look at the model type as well. The same is true if you already have the dimmer and are looking to add new lights. Dimmer switches that are too old are most often not compatible to this new kind of light.
4. Install a LED capacitor to create some resistance:
If you have made sure that both the dimmer and the LED light bulbs are compatible, but you are still having issues with the light not completely turning off or glowing you might have to install a capacitor between the light and the dimmer switch. The capacitor is used to create resistance in the circuit between the dimmer and the LED light bulb. Sometimes the LED light bulb is so low in consumption that the LED dimmer switch does not recognize it as being connected, which results in a constant glow or flicker. An example of a LED capacitor that could help solve this issue is the Lutron LUT-MLC.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to call. One of our team members would love to assist you!
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