What Are Dimmable Light Bulbs?

Choosing the correct light bulb is essential for planning your home’s interior design. Light bulbs not only play a massive role in the aesthetic of a space, but they also affect your home’s energy consumption.

Dimming your lights means the light bulbs work at a lower capacity but still offer the right amount of illumination for your space. By dimming lights to 75% of their full brightness, 20% of the needed energy to light the bulbs is conserved.

In this article, we outline one of the most popular new lighting options: dimmable light bulbs.

How Do Dimmable Light Bulbs Work?

how do dimmable light bulbs work

There are different mechanisms that dim different types of light bulbs.

With incandescent bulbs (more about them in a moment), the strength of the current flowing into the bulb controls a bulb’s brightness, which corresponds to its voltage. A dimmer switch reduces the voltage of the current flowing into the bulb, producing less light.

Dimmable Light Bulb Use

Dimmable light bulbs have two significant benefits: they reduce a home’s energy consumption, and they allow you to customize the lighting in your space.

The aesthetic qualities of dimmable bulbs are intuitive. Not all spaces need to be as bright as day, and not all rooms need bright light at all hours. With dimmable bulbs, you’re able to reduce the brightness of a bulb at your leisure; you can have lights ranging from brilliant white to soft yellow, all from the same light source.

As we mentioned, placing a light bulb on a dimmer setting reduces the voltage the bulb draws. That means you’re able to use exactly as much electricity as you need ‒ you won’t overspend a cent.

What Light Bulbs Are Dimmable?

what light bulbs are dimmable

There are several types of dimmable light bulbs, including LED, compact fluorescent light (CFL), incandescent, and halogen bulbs.

Incandescent bulbs are the traditional type of bulb. They work by running an electric current through a filament, which causes the filament to become so hot that it glows. These bulbs are widely compatible with dimmable lamps, though they’re no longer commercially available because they’re not very energy efficient.

Halogen bulbs function in a similar manner, producing light via a heated filament, but use a different type of glass and gas in their design. They are also widely compatible with dimming lamps and produce powerful, daylight-like light, but they only last between 1,000 and 2,000 hours ‒ a relatively short lifespan for light bulbs.

In the case of LEDs, certain bulbs are specifically dimmable, and you can activate them with a resistive dimmer. These types of bulbs are low-watt and energy-efficient, typically boasting a lifespan of more than 20,000 hours. However, it’s important to remember that not all LEDs are dimmable, so make sure a light bulb’s package marks it as dimmable before you buy it.

CFL bulbs, on the other hand, are not typically useful as bulbs in dimming lamps. Using a dimmer switch will normally shut off the CFL bulb entirely. However, some CFLs do come equipped with a dimmable ballast, meaning they can be dimmed; be sure to check the packaging on your bulb to see whether it’s dimmable.

How to Tell if a Light Bulb is Dimmable

In some cases, it’s easy to tell if a bulb is dimmable. You can typically assume the halogen bulbs are dimmable, but you need to check before buying to make sure your LED or CFL bulbs are dimmable.

Most of the time, whether CFL and LED bulbs are dimmable is displayed on their packaging. If a thorough examination of the package isn’t enough, however, consult your retailer. They’ll be able to offer more information about whether the bulbs are dimmable and whether they’re a good fit for your space.

Are LED Bulbs Dimmable?

are led bulbs dimmable

Not all LED bulbs are dimmable; in fact, dimmable LED bulbs use entirely different components than non-dimmable bulbs. However, dimmable LED bulbs typically come in one of two varieties: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and analog.

Analog bulbs control their current to either dim or brighten the intensity of the light, depending on the setting. PWM bulbs are a bit more complicated.

In general, LED lights work by cycling their lights on and off in the span of milliseconds, so even though the light bulbs seem on to the human eye, they save energy by turning off for milliseconds at a time. PWMs can adjust this cycle depending on their setting, making them appear brighter or dimmer.

For instance, if a PWM bulb dims to 50% brightness, the light is set to be on 50% of the time and off the other 50%. If you set the bulb to be dimmer, the light will be on for less time, and vice versa.

Do Dimmable Bulbs Cost More Than Non-Dimmable?

do dimmable bulbs cost more than non dimmable

In some cases, a dimmable bulb doesn’t cost any more than a non-dimmable bulb. Since all halogen bulbs are dimmable, for example, it won’t cost you anything extra to get bulbs that can dim.

Dimmable LED bulbs, however, typically cost more than non-dimmable bulbs. LED bulbs are constructed with more complex technology than standard bulbs, meaning they tend to be more expensive to produce, which trickles down to the price. And while LED bulbs tend to be more costly in general, the cost is worth it since they last so long.

Where Can You Buy a Bulb Dimmer?

where can you buy a bulb dimmer

One of the common problems with using dimmable LEDs is that they aren’t always compatible with standard dimmers because they use so little wattage that dimmer switches aren’t always able to register them. That means when dimmed, LEDs might flicker, shut off, or not be dim at all.

The easiest way to mitigate this problem is to buy an LED-compatible dimmer switch. Dimmer switches turn on and off the energy flowing through a light bulb’s circuit, diverting electricity from the bulb and reducing the current flowing from the bulb. In practical terms, that means the bulb becomes dimmer.

Dimmer switches are available anywhere you might buy home improvement products, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Amazon.