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Articles

December 6, 2014 3:06 pm

THE CHALLENGE: DIMMING LED Lighting

THE CHALLENGE: DIMMING LED Lighting

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), advancing the broad adoption of LED lighting could reduce energy usage by almost 4 trillion BTUs per year in the United States alone.  If the US switched to LEDs “overnight”, annual energy savings would amount to over $37 billion!

Magnitude has determined that broad adoption of LED lighting hinges upon one remaining technical issue:  a broad-based and inexpensive solution to the problem of dimming.

Why Dimming?

Over the course of the past 15 years, dimming of Lighting Sources has become common place.  Consumers expect to be able to purchase any standard dimmer, install it in place of the on-off switch, and thereby customize their lighting and the ambience of any room as they see fit.  Despite the dramatic cost savings associated with LED lighting, consumers resist any change that retracts an element that they learned to take for granted.  They’d rather pay more—even up to 7-times more—than give up the ability to dim.

Aside from saving energy, dimming lets homeowners change the ambience in any room.  Essentially, any room can be adjusted to the mood and wishes of the occupants, and accommodate the different usages they may want to make of the room.  In situations where homeowners are retrofitting LEDs, the existing building may have dimmers already installed.  In such situations, it is important that the LED driver is compatible with standard dimmer switches.

Industrial users understand that dimming reduces electricity costs, extends the service life of LED lights and permits adaptive lighting in spaces while eliminating the need for separate circuits of fixtures of varied luminosity.  Despite their informed awareness of the advantages of dimming, they reject solutions that require re-wiring, expensive retrofits, and non-standard solutions they might find difficult to adopt and maintain.

Common approaches / Common problems

Researchers have proposed many solutions and quite a few have come to market, with limited success.  These approaches “offended” users by requiring one or another sacrifice, or by reducing the applicability and increasing complexity.  Studies have identified four categories that limit the adoption of the first LED dimming solutions:

  • Reliability and Predictability:  Due to incompatibility between drivers and dimmers, the dimmer switch can fail to work at all or it may cause the lamp or fixture to pulse, flicker or turn off unexpectedly.  Many consumers report one or more “bad experience” with such issues that have made them wary when choosing their next solution.
  • Annoyance Factor:  Humming.  Some dimmers cause an annoying audible humming noise.
  • Operational:  When operating most if not all current solutions, the dimming fails to achieve a consistent effect on the brightening or dimming of the light source.  Users experience this as “dead spots” on the dimmer when turning or sliding the control.  They interpret this lack of consistency as worrisome—electrical controls are supposed to be deterministic and function in a predictable manner.  When they don’t, it can mean that the device is faulty or that a bulb needs replacing.
  • Adoption:  Re-wiring is not an option.  Some solutions (especially the so-called “1-10″ dimming) requires placement of an additional wire.  Aside from being costly, this solution is limited to new construction and even so is susceptible to disruption if not shielded from full-current wiring.

The above dimming effects and problems are typical when existing incandescent dimmers are used with LED powered lamps.  They are caused because the dimmer is designed for resistive electrical loads rather than electronic loads and loads that are much higher than required by the typical LED sources.

The High-Tech / Low-Cost Solution

Instead of vainly waiting for expectations to change, the industry is in need of a high-tech, low-cost solution. At least in the first phase of adoption, this solution must permit existing, standard TRIAC dimmers to predictably adjust LED intensity.  Also, the solution must not require re-wiring or re-training of electricians; apply to all classes of LEDs;  as mentioned above work with all standard dimmers; and achieve predictable behavior without humming. dimmable

Solution of Choice

Magnitude’s technology addresses the need for broad-adoption by solving these problems our series of small-form factor dimmable LED drivers.   Designed for residential and commercial applications, Magnitude Drivers eliminate all common LED dimming problems, delivering predictable dimming to any application.  In short, they do not make dimmed light sources warm or yellowish in color when dimmed and eliminate flicker, poor dimmer quality and performance.  In short, they allow the LED light sources to act as though they are incandescent.

Magnitude. We drive Light.

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