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LED-Specific Lighting Controls

LED lighting is growing in popularity because of the energy savings and long life. A wide array of LED fixtures is available, allowing them to be used in almost any application or setting. Additionally, LED lamps, unlike CFL lamps, do not contain mercury and emit very little infrared radiation.

Maximize Energy Savings with Dimmers, Timers, and Photo Controls

A single 25 watt LED lamp can replace a 100 watt incandescent bulb. That same bulb can provide up to 5 times the lifespan of fluorescent bulbs and even more for halogen bulbs. Timers and photo controls allow you even more savings by ensuring lights are not accidentally left on, or set to illuminate when the environmental light is sufficient.

Dimming LED lamps allows you to further maximize your savings. If you dim a LED to 50%, you can save almost 50% of the associated energy usage. Dimming  LEDs allows them to run cooler, which can extend the life of the components in the LED driver, doubling or tripling the lifespan of the LED lamp. Furthermore, there are benefits to controlling lighting for comfort and productivity.

Problems with LED Lamps & Traditional Controls

LED lamps, when used with traditional controls, can have several problems including never turning off completely, flickering, “dropping out”, and “popping on”.  This isn’t an issue with LED technology, as much as it is a compatibility issue with controls and dimmers designed for other types of lighting. Electrical loads for LED lamps have different electrical characteristics than old-school incandescent bulbs.

Every LED light has a driver, which is similar to an electronic ballast, that determines how much start up current is needed to turn on the LED light. This in-rush current can create a temporary current spike of 10-40 times when the light is turned on. That current can put additional stress on the control circuits, shortening its lifespan.  Your control needs to be able to hold up to or work around that spike.

Drivers convert AC power to low-voltage DC power and maintain an even current, which allows the LED to emit a steady level of light. Incompatibility of controls can significantly impact light output, as LEDs react faster than traditional bulbs to changes in current.

LED drivers determine the range of dimmability, which can range from 1-100%. The right control reduces flickering and impacts your ability to achieve the desired dimming range.


Be sure to look for controls where the manufacturer has done the appropriate testing and research to ensure their products will work with LED lamps and fixtures. Intermatic and Nsi Tork both have controller options built and tested for use with LED technology.