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Can You Put A Dimmer Switch On LED Lights? Compatibility Charts

Dimmer switches are great for setting the ambiance in a room. When you’re having a nice date dinner, you don’t want the place to be lit like a football stadium. You got to set the tone right, and that’s why I like a dimmer switch.

Replacing incandescent bulbs will reduce your home’s carbon footprint by almost up to 800%, and it will also significantly reduce the money you fork out to pay the bills every month.

But do LED lights work on any old dimmer switch? Or do you need an LED compatible dimmer?

LED bulbs can be used on a dimmer, but they need to be listed as dimmable. LEDs can still work with incandescent dimmers, but compatibility is an essential factor. Look at manufacturers’ websites to figure out the right bulb and dimmer for your home.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about dimming LED lights, including:

  • Whether all LED light bulbs can be used with a dimmer switch
  • Which major dimmer switch and LED lights are compatible
  • To check the wattage of your LED lights
  • If you can use your old dimmer switches for new LED light bulbs

So let’s get started on the first thing you need to know…

Are All LED Bulbs Dimmable?

T8 LED tube and various E27 bulbs

Technically, all LEDs will ‘work’ on a dimmer switch, but they won’t work properly. You need dimmable LED lighting if you want your lights to respond to a dimmer properly, and if you want them to last as long as they’re supposed to.

LEDs require drivers to operate. These drivers step the mains voltage down to the lower voltage needed for LED lights.

If you buy dimmable LED lights, then these drivers are adapted to work with dimmer switches, although even they may not work properly with older leading-edge dimmers, which were designed for incandescent and halogen bulbs.

Instead, you’ll also want the more modern trailing edge dimmers, which are sometimes referred to as an LED dimmer switch. The dimmer switch is just as important as the choice of light bulbs.

Can Non-Dimmable LEDs Be Used With Dimmers?

various LED lights

You can try using non-dimmable LED light bulbs with a dimmer switch, but they typically won’t work properly. They’ll usually work fine at 100% brightness, but as you turn it down, the LED light will flicker or buzz and will often cut out completely at something like 40% brightness.

If you have non-dimmable LED light bulbs, then you can try them, but not with leading edge dimmers. If you want a chance of them working at all, then you’ll need trailing edge dimmers.

But ultimately, using a non-dimmable LED bulb is not ideal if you want your LED light to be dimmable.

LED Bulb Dimmer Compatibility Charts

Woman's hand adjusts the lighting with a dimmer lever

When picking LED bulbs, you want to choose the dimmable ones. And, you want to pick ones that have a dimming range that suits you.

You can search online for manufacturer compatibility for dimming, and the information will be there.

But to save you time, I’ve found the details for some of the most common bulb manufacturers:

  • GE – link
  • Philips – link
  • Cree – link
  • Ecosmart – link (the guide is from Home Depot)

If you want to read more on this, the US DOE ran the test on dimmers from 3 companies, Lutron, Cooper, and Leviton. My dimmer is Leviton, and it’s a good choice (Amazon) if you’re looking to get one.

These manufacturers also provide dimming compatibility charts:

  • Lutron – link
  • Eaton – link (Cooper was bought by Eaton in 2012)
  • Leviton – link

Look at your bulb’s or your dimmer’s manufacturer data, and you’ll find the answer there.

Now, let’s explore different types of dimmers.

Selecting Dimmer Switch For LED Lights: Beware Of Total Wattage

turning the dimmer switch

It’s important to check the total wattage capacity of your chosen dimmer switch, because they will have a limit. While you can easily dim one LED light bulb on a circuit, if you add too many, then the dimmer switch might not work correctly.

If you’re using modern universal dimmers that allow for LED and other bulb types, then the maximum wattage will refer to that of the older bulbs.

As a rule of thumb, divide the wattage by 10 to find the maximum wattage of dimmable LED bulbs you should use.

Here are some examples of how many watts your LED bulbs might total:

Number of bulbs Wattage per bulb Total
3 4W 12W
3 8W 24W
6 4W 24W
6 8W 48W
8 4W 32W
8 8W 64W

So if your dimmer switch is compatible with 400 watts of light bulbs, that means it’s best to use no more than 40 watts of LED lights.

However, if you’re using a dimmer designed specifically for LED lights, it will advertise the maximum wattage for LEDs instead – so you can just calculate how many watts your LEDs are using and make sure that’s within the permitted range.

Do Old Dimmer Switches Work With LED Bulbs?

Human hand turning down electrical light dimmer switch.

Older phase control dimmers designed for incandescent lights might work with dimmable LEDs, but it may not depending on the manufacturer. Newer LED-compatible dimmer switches are a better choice when paired with dimmable LEDs.

If you try to use an old dimmer, you can have undesirable effects like:

  • Flickering light bulb
  • Audible buzzing noise from the LED bulb
  • Little change in the brightness when the dimmer is used
  • Pop-on or dropout – sudden lighting change
  • Ghosting – a low level of light output even with the power off
  • Reduced reliability and lifetime of both the LED bulb and dimmer

If you have a dimmer installed and want to find out which bulbs will work with it, you will have to get the manufacturer’s manual for that particular product.

Final Words

Even as the LED lighting market starts to mature, there are still some compatibility issues to consider between dimmers and LED lights.

But don’t fret… all it takes is looking at the website of manufacturers to find out what works with what.

This’ll remove any headaches regarding dimmers.

And I’ve got a specific guide for whether smart lights work with a dimmer switch too, if you’re considering upgrading to smart bulbs.

Looking for an LED bulb but not sure what type you need?

Check out my free bulb picker and select the right bulb within few clicks.

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