April 13, 2021

Today’s dimming and lighting controls are more complex since the invention of LEDs and interconnected lighting systems. But as the future for LED lighting grows stronger, complexities like compatibility between lamps, drivers and controls should be assessed.

This article will cover the evolution and benefits of LED lighting with dimming and controls, and how SMART IoT systems are now a driving force behind consumers adopting the technology.

Dimming Control for LEDs

Essentially, dimming is controlling the power in a circuit. Most LED circuit dimming is done via reverse-phase dimming. Far gentler on drivers, this means the voltage is ridden gently through the circuit and then shut off. Reverse dimming was discovered after common forward-phase dimming, aka TRIAC dimming – chopping off the forward “positive” part of the sine-wave and back part of the “negative” end. The idea was to improve the longevity of circuitry, particularly of drivers.


TRIAC vs ELV vs 0-10v

TRIAC (or forward-phase) dimming was traditionally used to dim older incandescent or halogen bulbs on 120v AC. But since poor compatibility caused negative effects on LED efficacy and lifespan, other methods for controlling current using drivers are used.

Extra Low Voltage (ELV) dimming, unlike TRIAC, uses reverse-phase dimming – also used to control LED lighting. Aside from smoother dimming, it reduces energy consumption, prevents unnecessary power surges, and puts less strain on drivers. ELV uses a transformer (or driver) to control a 120vAC power supply to 12vAC or 24vAC.

0-10v is typically used in commercial environments. Originally used to dim fluorescent lights, it uses a dedicated DC voltage between zero and ten volts. The design is such that 0v is the lowest dimming level and at 10v the light source should be at 100% of its output.


Controlling the quality of light

The ability to change light intensity and color without distraction, in itself is a major advantage. A system that controls color and brightness can improve productivity and a sense of wellbeing – which in turn, helps improve energy and concentration. 

In a residential or hospitality setting, the benefits of lighting controls may appear more obvious – users are likely to sense a natural feeling of relaxation and ambiance.  Other commercial environments like in retail, can make use of dimming to highlight certain product lines. This would be an area where both light intensity and color temperature work synergistically to create the best possible effect.

It’s this flexibility that offers most of the advantages of controlling a light source. Because as our needs change, light should be responsive and flexible enough to meet them – it’s how light profoundly transforms the look and feel of a space.


Good Dimming vs Bad 

Dimming your LEDs opens a whole new experience to the look and feel of a space. So what makes good dimming? When you have the flexibility to seamlessly dim down to as low as 1% (particularly with 0-10v dimmers) that’s pretty exciting. The comfort from controlling the way your surroundings look and feel is immensely satisfying.

In the natural world, as light intensity reduces, the color becomes warmer. And good dimming pairs with control-compatibility and high CRI lighting. This becomes critical to maintain a feel of natural light in a space throughout the entire dimming cycle as brightness and color change. Using LEDs such as high-spec downlighting not only provides greater driver compatibility for greater control but improves the quality of light and longevity.

However, despite the best intentions bad dimming is still an issue. Often incompatibility between lights and controls causes issues with flicking, flashing or complete failure.

So it’s important that drivers and controls match the spec of luminaires – particularly with retrofit installations. Since inexpensive LEDs have become so widely available, they become attractive to people and business owners who wish to upgrade. However, compatibility is often seen as a costly issue for both residential and commercial properties.

The point is, it’s worth investing in lighting that works across a multitude of high-grade dimming systems. This creates an environment where you have maximum control, reliability while providing an inviting space for people.

Creating Comfortable Spaces

Today, building occupants and lighting system architects are drawn to the benefits of controlling a light source for a variety of reasons. For example, with LED lighting in the home or workplace, you can now control both the brightness of a light source and the correlated color temperature (CCT). In fact, studies show an improvement in the wellbeing, safety, and productivity of employees (1).

When we’re exposed to natural light – or the equivalent, it literally enhances the quality of our lives – since we feel alert during the day and rest better at night. This is what technologies like Warm Dim address since it gives users the flexibility to create a vibrant and comfortable space. Should we add in some specific content around DMF Warm Dim technology here?


Compatibility & Systems Integration

EcoSystem technology is a control method for LEDs that provides addressing of individual fixtures and status feedback from the LED drivers. This makes it easy to digitally assign occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, time clocks, manual controls and other controls to one or many fixtures without complicated wiring. This opens up an entire suite of energy-saving, system-monitoring and system-control schemes where the design, setup and rezoning are all done within software, making the electrical and control design simple.

An increasing number of homeowners now wish to integrate their homes with advanced lighting controls. After all, controlling the light in our environment has a huge impact on making better, more practical use of spaces. For example, a family dinner vs watching a movie – you want to control the lighting to reflect the mood.


However, SMART lighting goes beyond these “mood” benefits. For example, the way it improves efficiency for unoccupied rooms or provides optimal brightness or color for a task using high-CRI lighting. And with more of our built environment taking advantage of WiFi-enabled controls, IoT technologies – and adaptive lighting – integration and controls have become a primary consideration for designers and contractors.

Business owners are also exploring the benefits of SMART-controlled lighting. Attention is placed on how it can not only improve the “feel” of a work environment through a progression of natural lighting but how it offers improved safety (highly-focused lighting) and energy savings too (e.g. reducing wastage in unoccupied spaces or unnecessarily over-lit rooms).


System Integration and DMF

The compatibility of LED dimming controls is a major factor for OEMs. For highly flexible lighting, it’s essential that drivers and dimming controls are future-ready and adaptable to existing fit-outs.

From advanced commercial systems to simple wall-box dimmers, DMF downlighting is ready for your control needs. High performance TRIAC/ELV, 0-10 and Lutron® Ecosystem are built-in, and DMX, DALI, and PoE are always available. Each product is rigorously evaluated against leading lighting control solutions at our in-house dimming lab to ensure compatibility with today’s control systems. We then publish the results with our product Specification Sheets and Dimming Guides. The result is a seamless, worry-free dimming experience.


Please see product Specification Sheets and Dimming Guides for more information.

Contact our team to discover the advantages of our flexible dimmable-lighting technology.


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