Dimmers & CFL or LED Bulbs
We’ve previously addressed the upcoming phase out of the incandescent bulbs and discussed the different Pros & Cons of Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs and LED bulbs. Maybe you are replacing incandescent bulbs as the burn out, or selectively replacing the bulbs in certain light fixtures. Have you tried CFLs or LED bulbs in the dining room chandelier or any of your other fixtures with dimmer switches? Did the new bulbs work? The result was probably bulbs that did not dim at all, flickered at lower light levels, or had a limited dimming range. Perhaps in disappointment you thought, “I know I bought the CFL lamps that are dimmable” and you double-check the packaging to confirm you did buy the correct bulbs. What the heck is going on you ask?! Odds are the bulbs are not the problem, the old style dimmer switch is the problem.
The dimmable CFL and LED bulbs need to be used in conjunction with a new CFL and LED rated dimmer switch. This is very important for a couple of reasons, but the most important reason is that the new CFL and LED rated dimmers are UL Listed for use with these new bulbs. This means the dimmer switch was tested to the UL Lab’s standards to be safe and not cause fires or electrical shocks when used with CFL or LED bulbs. The other reason to use a new dimmer switch is that they have an adjustable dimming range when being used with CFL or LED bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs to prevent flickering.
Many companies offer CFL and LED approved dimmer switches. Leviton and Lutron are probably the most commonly available brands. They can be picked up at any local big box home improvement store. Dimmer switches are relatively easy to install yourself after you have turned off the power to the circuit at the load center. If you are not comfortable or confident in your abilities to work on your electrical circuits, please be safe and consult your preferred local electrician.