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How to Stop LEDs from Flickering

How to Stop LEDs from Flickering

LED-bulb

If only life were simple! If only we could buy an LED fitting, or retro-fit LED lamp, wire it in, connect it to a dimmer and hey presto – a perfectly dimming light.  Unfortunately, as so many of you will have experienced, this is not always the case and lamentably, the answer is not always crystal clear.  So how to stop LEDs from flickering? The following explanation in layman’s terms may help you resolve any problems you may have or, even better, avoid them in the first place.

Speak the Same Language

All LEDs have electrical control gear known as Drivers – even retro-fit LED lamps have tiny drivers in the base of them. These need to speak the same language as the dimming module.  When using a simple Mains dimming switch there are two methods of dimming – one is Trailing Edge and the other is Leading Edge.  Trailing Edge tends to be better; the dimmers are slightly more expensive but they are less prone to buzz and are generally more compatible with a wider range of fittings.  The manufacturers of the LED driver or lamp should stipulate the dimming method recommended (some will say either) so then you can ensure that the correct dimmer is installed. Do check that the LED retro fit lamps are dimmable – not all of them are!

For large projects always check that the dimmers are compatible with the LED fixtures or lamps that will be used; I usually combine Philips MasterLED lamps with Varilight V-pro intelligent dimmers which currently work well together – please note the word ‘currently’ as specifications can change and  manufacturers will always state that testing should be carried out to ensure compatibility.  Forbes and Lomax combine beautifully styled fittings incorporating Varilight dimming modules but it always advisable to state that the dimmer will be used for LEDs when ordering

Don’t Overload the Circuit

A common mistake is to look at the maximum wattage on the dimmer, say 250 watts (in old money) and decide that, as the LED lamps are only 5 watts for example, you would be able to dim a multitude of fittings on that circuit. Wrong.  Ideally you should downrate by 6-10 times so in this case you would be best running  5 – 8 max fittings of 5 watts each.  It is possible to get larger load dimmers so it is best to check the number of fittings on each circuit before installation.

Don’t Underload the Circuit

Some dimmers, especially Leading Edge dimmers, need a minimum load in order to work, some as much as 40 watts before they will kick in. The more modern Trailing Edge dimmers will generally work from a lower load set point but be wary of trying to dim one or two LED fittings on one dimmer or you may need to incorporate a ‘dummy load’ to enable the dimmer to work.

Keep it Simple

Try to avoid using MR16 equivalent LEDs where possible when dimming as you then have three factors to bear in mind – the dimming module, the driver and the transformer which involves more ‘communication’ and more chances of incompatibility.  GU10 retro fit LED lamps or GLS replacement lamps are much simpler altogether.  However, on a positive note I have had success with using Philips MasterLED MR16 lamps with low voltage fittings on a Hamilton Mercury system but this was several years ago so may not be true today.  Always best to check.

Phase Adaptive Dimmers

If you don’t know whether you are going to use Leading Edge or Trailing Edge drivers then go for a Phase Adaptive dimmer; more high spec but flexible. Try Lutron for the latest in cutting edge dimming technology.  And if you’re wiring a new-build or self-build property it is worth considering a digital method of dimming such as DALI.

Favour Constant Current

Constant current LED drivers general work much better than constant voltage ones. The LED fittings for constant current drivers should be wired in series and your electrician should always check what products are specified before any wiring is done.

Dig Deeper

If you are still having problems with flickering lights and you have assessed all of the above then it may be time to check out the wiring in the property. Loose or faulty wiring or spikes and troughs in the electrical supply reaching the circuits in question could be having a knock-on effect so it is always advisable to check this out as well

Goodbye to Grey Light

Goodbye to Grey Light

It’s not unusual, in general conversation, to hear people moan about the terrible light that energy efficient lamps give out but luckily the days of having to wait several minutes for the lamps to warm up and actually give out some form of decent light are rapidly passing.

Lighting technology has come on leaps and bounds since the original compact fluorescent came on the market with it’s grey undertones, and the every-day bulb is now being replaced with LEDs and making our lives clear again!

So how about a revamp? Given that the compact fluorescent lasts for such a long time, many of us will be still using lamps that were purchased several years ago and just think how things have progressed since then.  Remember to dispose of your CFLs carefully (see Recolight) as these lamps contain hazardous materials so cannot be just thrown out with the general waste.  Then how about investing in some quality LED lamps that have good colour rendering properties and a sharp crisp light.

There were some excellent examples on display at LuxLive in November, amongst them the new Philips Master LEDbulb; the clear 40 watt equivalent version seemed to give out the crispest light but at the moment only comes in an E27 fitting (large screw-in base) and may not be quite bright enough for every situation.  Other, more powerful ones are available with bayonet fittings and greater output although not quite the same sparkle.  Instant light though and well worth the investment.

Controls

Ideally there should never be less than two control circuits, three being the optimum and a fourth giving prime flexibility. The first will be atmospheric lighting close to the house, the second will be security and facility lighting (this will often be on a PIR with a timer and over-ride facility), and the third will generally be for landscaping beyond the immediate vicinity of the house, such as driveways and additional features. The luxury of the fourth can allow for an entertaining circuit such as illuminating a barbeque and dining area, swimming pool or hot tub if such indulgences exist.

Lighting a garden can be a functional exercise or an exciting adventure which will add a totally new dimension to a property. There’s no quick fix solution to creating it but with careful consideration and measured planning the effect can be a work of art. It’s a matter of choice.