LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs can work well with dimmers—if they're the right type of dimmer. Replace older, standard dimmer switches with compatible models, and make sure you buy dimmable bulbs.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Install dimmer switches for CFL or LED bulbs
Convert dimmable incandescent bulbs to LED
The prices of LED bulbs are dropping, making them the perfect choice to replace your energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. But if your current bulbs are on a dimmer, you may run into issues even if you install dimmable LED bulbs. That’s because all LED bulbs run on DC current and there’s no industry standard for how bulb manufacturers build their AC-to-DC circuits. So the new bulbs may flicker, stay lit even when the dimmer is shut off or suddenly pop on to full brightness when dimmed. The industry is working on new standards, but in the meantime, you’ll most likely have to buy a new dimmable LED switch and fit the fixture with bulbs that are listed as compatible by the dimmer manufacturer.
Many new dimmers work with a microprocessor that requires a neutral wire in the switch box, and the package descriptions don’t always list that requirement. So check your switch box to see if it has a neutral wire. If it does, you can buy an LED compatible dimmer from the hardware store or home center. If you don’t have a neutral wire, you’ll have to find a ‘no neutral required’ dimmer.
CFLs also require compatible dimmer switches. Fortunately most new LED compatible dimmers are made for both CFLs and LEDs. However, if you have an older CFL-compatible dimmer and you want to replace the CFL bulbs with LEDs, it’s a good idea to get the model number from the dimmer and then check at the store or with the manufacturer to make sure it will work with the LED bulbs you’re buying.
Required Tools for this dimmable LED switch project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Non-contact voltage tester
Required Materials for this dimmable LED switch project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.