Q: I installed compact-fluorescent and LED bulbs throughout my house. They work well everywhere but not with dimmer switches. The bulbs either dim insufficiently, flicker, or they don’t light at all. It’s driving me crazy. How do I correct this?
A: The complex circuitry in these new bulbs makes them difficult to dim. In many cases, a typical dimmer switch (now called a legacy dimmer in the electrical industry) won’t work properly, if at all, with CFL or LED bulbs.
Legacy dimmers were designed to work with incandescents; CFL and LED bulbs bear no electrical resemblance to these types of bulbs. Comparing them is like equating an electric heating element and a television set. Both use electricity and both give off light, but that’s where the similarity ends.
The solution is to buy a dimmer switch rated for both CFL and LED bulbs. Next, buy dimmable CFL and LED bulbs that you know will function with your switch. Though these bulbs may also work with the older legacy dimmers, it’s likely you’ll experience some of the problems you mentioned. If you have any questions about whether a specific switch is compatible with your wiring or a specific bulb or light fixture, contact the manufacturer’s technical service department.
By David Agrell and Roy Berendsohn