LED Strip: Is it Safe to Dim?

It appears that we have travelled a long distance in a short time with LED. Given its success as a lighting technology – it is sometimes difficult to believe that it had a dodgy start in life. Frankly, the first generations were harsh, somewhat blue in colour and they failed to dim! In fact, many of these issues have now disappeared, yet a lack of confidence persists amongst the trade and design professionals.

With LED tape in mind, I visited a wholesaler as recently as last week, who continues to advise their customers to stay away from dimming. An outdated notion perhaps, certainly a hangover of a legacy of unreliability and a very real concern if you have had fingers burnt in the past which costs everyone money and time to resolve.

It seems a pity that designers do not embrace LED in all its forms and across all budgets. I am mindful of the residential or small leisure / retail project that doesn’t warrant the expense of a fully digital dimming system. Here, refurbing a room or rooms mostly lends itself to a simple solution which is ‘mains dimming’.

Believe me, mains dimming LED downlights is now easy and reliable and it is a topic that we have covered on frequent occasions in the past. The mains dimming of LED tapehas been around some time too BUT the range of dim i.e. how low it reduces – was inadequate and hardly worth the trouble. I’m here to tell you that with the right combination of LED module and driver, these days the dimming of tape is reliable.

The module we prefer to use at Orange Lighting is a common inexpensive model – another bonus! Importantly, it has a potentiometer on the side, a small screw which gives the installer the opportunity to raise and lower the range of dim.

If you desire peace of mind, when you buy from Orange Lighting we help customers specify the a complete install as part of the service and we will recommend the modules to suit each circuit for the project you are managing. For instance – downlights need a dimmer module suited to the sensitivity of constant current LEDs – we take the chosen lamps and dedicated downlights and ‘marry’ them with a model best suited as a constant voltage driver for the fittings.

Another stumbling point for designers who are running solo on their own projects, is the choice of switch plate which may not allow for the different versions of dimmer module. This is an area which requires scrutiny, for instance, we recently had to modify a plate to fit the 2 types of module.

The good news is that it is safe to specify dimmable LED tape for your next interior project. However, it still essential to specify the right equipment for the job. Compatibility issues exist between the fitting and the driver and details like ‘minimum’ loads need to be checked and calculated before installation. Why not rely on the accumulated experience and know-how of the Orange Lighting  team, when navigating through the perils and pitfalls of LED dimming next time you require lighting – it can save time, money and your reputation with the client!

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.