A Guide to LED Dimming Methods: Should Companies Put LEDs on a Dimmer?

By April 30, 2021 Interior Lighting, LED, Retail

Commercial spaces, from the largest warehouses to the most compact office suites, can all benefit greatly from LED lighting upgrades and energy efficient lighting. LEDs reduce energy costs, they provide bright, high-quality light that is useful for both safety and productivity, and they require less maintenance than their fluorescent and incandescent counterparts. 

But even energy efficient solutions like LEDs can be improved. One of the simplest ways to manage energy output is to place lighting systems on a dimmer, but there are a few considerations to make before converting an existing lighting system that uses LEDs. 

Find out more about LED dimming methods and how dimmable LEDs can lead to even greater energy efficiency.

An Intro to LEDs

LEDs are everywhere these days, and while many may be familiar with the term, few may be familiar with the technology that makes LEDs energy efficient and low maintenance. An LED is a type of lamp that creates light when an electrical current flows through a semiconductor.

LED lighting products produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs.  To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink. LEDs are “directional” light sources, which means they emit light in a specific direction (unlike other lighting types such as incandescent and fluorescent which emit light and heat in all directions). This allows them to be able to use light and energy more efficiently in their lighting applications.

What are the Benefits of Dimmable LEDs?

Dimming LEDs not only allows a proprietor the ability to set an appropriate mood in a space (such as low lighting for restaurants or brighter lights in stores or offices to keep customers or workers alert), but also helps control energy usage and costs by providing only the light levels that are needed at a specific time or setting. 

For example, lights in an unused parking lot or garage late at night could be dimmed to save energy (but still allow for visibility as needed) and put on a motion sensor to come back up to full brightness if there is activity in the area. 

LED lights are ideal for dimming scenarios because they react instantaneously to changes in power input, allowing them to appear to dim quickly and seamlessly.

How do LED Dimmers Work?

There are two main LED dimming methods: analog dimming and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) dimming. Due to the fact that LEDs don’t rely on voltage to dim like incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, they require different methods to lower energy output.

What is PWM Dimming?

The first method, PWM dimming is an LED dimming method that uses the off and on cycle to create a dimming effect. This on/off cycle is very fast and undetectable to the eye, but the LEDs will appear dimmer as the driver varies the cycle of the pulses.

In PWM dimming, If an LED is dimmed by 50%, this means the light will be on for 50% of the time and off for 50% of the time. Conversely at 10% dimming, the light will be on for 10% of the time and off for 90% to produce an even dimmer output. 

What is Analog Dimming?

Similarly, analog dimming, or analogue dimming, is another method for dimming LEDs that can help conserve energy and reduce electricity consumption. Unlike PWM dimming however, analog dimming dims by reducing the electrical current fed to the LED. The process is similar to traditional dimming, but placing LEDs on an analog dimmer requires system compatibility and not every LED can dim this way.   

When to Use the Different Types of LED Dimming Methods

PWM dimming is generally more complex to implement than analog dimming as it requires specific electronic components installed through the driver, but PWM dimming maintains high efficiency and ensures the LED light output does not vary in color, which can occur with analog dimming. Analog dimming can be simple to implement but may not deliver the best overall performance. 

If color maintenance and high-performing light output is important for a facility or environment, PWM dimming would be the recommended method to implement. If ease of installation is important, or if a dimming system is already in place from an earlier lighting system that is being upgraded to LED, analog dimming would allow for an easy transition.

For many facilities and corporate spaces, lighting can fall to the wayside when considering the overall efficiency of a space or a building. Are you looking for information on possibly saving money through LED lighting rebates? See our Guide to LED Lighting Rebates and other Energy Efficient Savings. If you’re interested in commercial interior lighting, exterior lighting, energy management solutions and more, contact our team – we’d love to help you get started on your next lighting project, today.