Whether we’re putting together plans for the electrical components of our new house or updating the electrical system on an old one, one of the things we think about are the switches and whether or not we want the ability to dim the bulbs in a particular room or rooms in the house.

Dimmer switches have long been popular. They create mood and ambiance, can allow for both bright and low lighting, and also save energy. They’ve been around for a long time and even though they may look and work a little differently than the ones developed years ago, they perform the same functions.

But let’s get back to basics.

Dimmable vs. non-dimmable lights

A dimmer is a device used to lower and adjust the brightness of a bulb. This is done by changing the wattage in the lamp by means of a piece of equipment known as a dimmer switch. The first dimmer switch is usually attributed to Luton Electronics, which manufactured it and introduced it to the public in 1959. Since then, these switches have been growing in popularity.

If you’ve purchased a light bulb or two recently, you’ve likely realized that there are many different types available. But do they all work on dimmer switches?

The incandescent lightbulb, which has been around since Edison’s time, can indeed be a dimmable light and is compatible with older dimmer switches but not some of the new ones being installed in today’s homes or offices. Because there aren’t any electronic components in this simple bulb, the task of dimming can be achieved easily by simply using the switch to raiser or lower the voltage. Halogen bulbs basically dim the same way though they burn hotter and brighter.

The LED bulb, however, is a whole different animal. They are available as both dimmable and non-dimmable lights. You can find this information on their packaging. LEDs have internal electronics you won’t find in incandescent or halogen bulbs, which makes them much more advanced and makes the way in which they are dimmed a little more complicated than with an incandescent bulb.

If you’re buying a LED bulb, you’ll need to be careful as to which you’re choosing because a non-dimmable LED light won’t work on a dimmer switch. However, you’re less likely to find non-dimmable LED light bulbs today than you would have several years ago, except at the lowest price points, because dimmable LEDs can also be used with lamps on non-dimmable switches. That means making two kinds of LED bulbs become non-cost-effective.

Is one better than the other?

Ask most homeowners why they choose a dimmable light over a non-dimmable one and most will tell you that it’s all about creating a mood. The aesthetic potential is much higher when you have a bulb that can go from bright white to a much more elegant and mood-setting shadowy hue in just the turn of a knob or flick of a switch.

But there are other advantages as well. Dimming bulbs save energy. As a matter of fact, energy consumption is reduced significantly when bulbs are burning at a lower wattage. And when using LED bulbs, the energy savings is even more pronounced.

In addition, when you dim them, your bulbs will last longer as well. The less energy they use, the longer they last. It’s that simple!


Need to know more about the advantages of using dimmable lights in your home? Want to talk to an electrician about upgrading your switches to accommodate LED dimmable bulbs? Contact us at our Vancouver-area headquarters and we’ll provide you with an overview of what we can do to help you enhance your lighting and save on your energy bills, too.