Finding Quality CFL Dimmers
Our lighting expert explains where to turn for dimmable CFLs and the control systems that love them.
 
Which manufacturers have a CFL that can be dimmed? Which companies have a quality dimmer for the CFL?
We need to break this question down into two categories. The first would be manufacturers of CFLs that are dimmable and that screw into a standard socket and have an integral ballast. The other would be manufacturers that make hard-wire CFLs that have dimming ballasts within the housing. Most people are looking for dimmable, warm-color-temperature (27K) CFLs that can replace existing household bulbs. More and more companies are starting to offer this type of lamp, but not all of them are created equal. Some do not have instant start and take a few seconds to come on, while others take a minute or so to come up to full brightness. In colder climates it can take even longer. If you are doing a remodel or a new construction project in which you can specify a fixture made specifically for the use of a hard-wire CFL, the field is full of good products. These fixtures—whether recessed, surface-mounted or hanging—are available with rapid-start ballasts, as well as the ability to dim. I can’t list all the manufacturers who are making good versions of these products; there are just too many. But I will name a few in order to help you get started on your research. For screw-in, dimmable CFLs, take a look at Technical Consumer Products (www.tcpi.com). They have a lovely warm color and no hum, thanks to an electronic ballast. At normal room temperature they only take about three seconds to reach full brightness. I know that everyone is used to the instant-on that we get from incandescent lamps, but just suck it up and make a little sacrifice for the sake of the planet. I’ve found that TCP’s electronic ballast dims best with an electronic dimmer, such as the Lutron Diva DVELV300P (www.lutron.com). Match the dimmer type to the ballast type. The same is true for low voltage fixtures: Match the electronic transformer to an electronic dimmer and a magnetic transformer to a magnetic dimmer. For recessed cans, check out Number 8 (www.8lighting.com) and Con-Tech (www.con-techlighting.com). Both companies have lensed versions to help hide the CFL from view. For pendant fixtures, try Scott Lighting (www.scottlighting.com) and Boyd Lighting (www.boydlighting.com). These and other forward-thinking companies offer both incandescent and fluorescent versions of their most popular styles. The hard-wire fluorescents need fluorescent dimmers, such as the Lutron Diva 10-P. Many manufacturers make recommendations on their Web sites for the dimmers that work best with their fixtures.
Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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