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Dimming LED lights: Top tips for perfect lighting

If you’re cuddled up watching a film or enjoying an evening of board games with the family, the right lighting goes a long way to creating a happy, homely mood. Dimmed lighting is the perfect way to make your living room feel cosy – and to save money at the same time. But how exactly do dimmers work? What kinds of bulbs can be dimmed, and what should you consider when you’re choosing your switches? Read on to find out the answers to all of your burning questions.

Brightness on demand: How do dimmers work?

Dimmers allow you to switch and control electric current to set the brightness of your lights to exactly the level you need. The technology works using the principle of phase-cutting or phase-fired control. Both of these methods are ways to control electrical devices that operate on alternating current. Dimmer switches automatically switch on and cut off the supply of current to the bulb multiple times within very short periods of time; in a 50 Hz network, the current is switched on and off 100 times a second. Depending on the delay time, this enables you to infinitely adjust the brightness of the light.

Which bulbs are compatible with dimming?

It’s important to choose bulbs that are compatible with dimming technology. Fluorescent tubes and energy-saving bulbs are generally not suitable, but you can use any standard bulb, 230-volt halogen bulbs and low-voltage halogen bulbs (12 volts) with an electronic or conventional transformer. LED lighting can also be dimmed, as long as you select a bulb that is identified as “dimmable” on its packaging. Once you’ve identified the right bulb, the next step is to select the right dimmer for the job.

Which dimmer should you select for LED, halogen and other bulbs?

Traditional bulbs and 230-volt halogen bulbs are generally compatible with all standard dimmer switches. But if you’re using a low-voltage bulb type, you’ll need to consider your options a little more carefully. For 12-volt halogen bulbs with an electronic transformer, you’ll need a phase-cutting dimmer; if you’re using a conventional transformer, you’ll need a phase-fired dimmer. Check the packaging for the bulb and the dimmer switch for further information on compatibility. LED bulbs generally also need a special LED dimmer.

Living room with dimmed lighting

What do you need to look out for when buying dimmers and bulbs?

To ensure that your dimmer switches, bulbs and, where applicable, your transformer will all work together, you will need to look at the total wattage of all of your components. All dimmers have a minimum and maximum power rating indicated by the industrial labels R, L and C. If these load ratings on the dimmer, bulb and transformer match up, the components are compatible.

Universal dimmers are a great option, as they automatically detect and adjust to the load. However, this solution is not compatible with LED bulbs.

Connecting dimmer switches: What are your options?

Depending on the bulb type you have chosen, there are multiple ways to connect your dimmer switches:. Permanently installed ceiling lights are well-suited to surface-mounted or flush-mounted switches that replace your standard light switches. Table and floor lamps that you might want to move around work well with cable or socket dimmers that you can install between the plug and the power supply.

Modern interior with dimmed lights

Set the mood at the touch of a button: Easy switching and dimming

As well as considering the technical criteria, you’ll also need to think about how you want to operate your dimmer switch. Whether you prefer to turn, tap or touch, Gira offers dimming solutions and control devices to suit your needs.

Traditional rotary dimmer switches are a popular option; these switches may also incorporate a push-button function to switch the light on and off. You can control the brightness of standard bulbs, halogen bulbs and LEDs using the Gira rotary dimmer. The style of this switch is reminiscent of the round retro-look Gira S-Color switch, but is also available in many other models from the Gira design line. Touch dimmers have an integrated touch contact surface, enabling you to dim your lights with ultimate precision. The Gira touch dimmer is equipped with capacitive sensor technology, which means that it can respond to even the lightest of touches. If you hold your finger on the touch surface for a little longer, the current brightness setting is saved in the memory and can be accessed again later with a quick tap.

The Gira touch dimmer also responds to the lightest of touches to switch the light on or off. Holding down the rocker enables you to infinitely adjust the brightness. With the Gira KNX touch sensor 3, you can use this mechanism not only to control individual lights, but also to operate entire lighting groups for individually defined room scenarios. About to sit down to watch a film with the family? Just touch the switch to activate the “film night” scenario.

The Gira series dimmer is a space-saving and convenient control option that simply replaces your existing series switch, enabling you to control the brightness of two or more lights using a single central touch switch.

With Gira dimmers, there’s no need to sacrifice style for substance: The Gira design line is sure to include something for everyone, whatever your interior style.

Black and white Gira dimmer switch
Black and white Gira rocker switch
Gira switch with LED lights and "On/off" LED

Smart lighting: Dimming intelligent LED lights in your Smart Home

Alongside manual lighting controls, you can integrate countless other options for convenient lighting control and automation into your Smart Home. You can network all of the lighting technology in your Smart Home via a wireless or hard-wired (KNX) system. The Gira HomeServer acts as the on-board computer for the KNX systems, providing access to all of your lighting control commands. The intelligent Gira G1 control unit and Gira Control 9 and Gira Control 19 touchscreens put all of your connected light sources at your fingertips, enabling you to define individual brightness levels, merge lighting sources to create atmospheric room scenarios, and call up your stored configurations.

You can also adjust your lighting without even getting off the sofa. With the Gira HomeServer app, your smartphone or tablet can be transformed into a mobile light switch and dimmer for maximum convenience.

How does Alexa dim the lights?

If you’ve got your hands full or don’t want to scrabble around for the light switch in the dark, you can also control your lighting using your voice. Your system – for example the compact Gira X1 mini-server in combination with the Gira S1 security module – can communicate with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. You can use your voice not only to activate predefined lighting scenarios for film nights or a relaxing bath, but also to dim the lights in increments, such as by 80 or 50 percent.

Asia style smart home features Gira Control Client 19

In summary: When it comes to lighting, it’s no longer a question of “on or off”.

With a dimmer switch, you can easily adjust the brightness of your lights to suit your needs, without huge effort or expense, and without replacing your existing lights.

How have you created the perfect lighting in your home? Tell us about your lightbulb moment in the comments!

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