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LED Jargonbusting - Three Ways to Dim

Updated on January 23, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about dimmable LED Lighting which is available in the market for consumers worldwide, but where do you start? It can be awkward to get the first steps of a project together and not quite understand the basics of how something is done. Our jargon busting guide will allow you to feel confident with what you’re doing, and ensure that you don’t get caught with your pants down as a buyer. No-one likes buying the wrong thing; and hopefully after giving our guide a cursory glance, you won't be one of them.

First, there are three main dimming protocols which are available from all of the major lighting companies. Please keep in mind that within the entire industry at large, there's much more than these three. However - if you’re after the ability to dim your LED Lighting perfectly and painlessly, you’ll most likely want to go for products from larger manufacturers, household names such as Panasonic, Osram, and Sony. Look for an LED Supplier that can get you a great deal on LED Strip Lighting, and LED Rope Lighting - but supply you with branded products. You'll pay far less in the long run.

The smaller brands might be marginally cheaper, but if you’re after good quality dimming, reminiscent of the dimmers you might have in your present lighting (not jerky or jarring) you get what you pay for. This guide doesn’t cover the smaller brands – only the larger ones – and needless to say, if you go for the smaller brands, we really can’t be held to account for any unexpected results.

The first style of dimming you’ll be looking at is Mains Dimming. This is the oldest dimming protocol in existence, and as such more than likely already being used within your home as it is. This system essentially strangles and throttles the voltage that reaches your light, and as such doesn’t really work all that well with the electronics of an LED driver. Saying that, there are a few notable manufacturers that have tweaked the designs of their dimmers to try and get a sufficient result.

Our verdict: Viable, but milage may vary.

DALI (or Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) is one of the new terms that might be scaring you silly as a consumer. It’s nothing difficult – it’s just simply a method that is used to provide lighting control over more than one circuit, and thus fit more with how LED Lighting actually works. While it’s not really used in the domestic market (as of yet) the usage of DALI based systems is increasing massively, and more than a few domestic products are labelled with such.

Our verdict: A little known, but very viable option. One to watch for the future.

Finally, there’s DMX (No, not the rapper – DMX stands for Digital Multiplex) which was originally developed for the entertainment world. This method stands apart from the others via the virtue that it was designed to provide dynamic lighting effects with colour changing and effect illumination – using a special data cable which is screened to protect the cores in your LED Fixture.

Our Verdict: An option your LED Installer should have experience with, following their work on colour changing LED lights.

We would like to point out that for each and every situation, each and every solution might work better, and that the advice of your LED installer should always be followed. We hope that this article has proved informative, and at least cleared some of the mystery away from your retrofit.


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