Controls Evolve for Greater LED Compatibility
December 5, 2011 - 9:39pm
Smart controls help to compensate for the shortcomings in dimmability for many incoming LED products.

Despite improved efficiency and life, LEDs have often encountered complaints about their inability to “play nice” with traditional lighting controls. However, control manufacturers are working to remedy these issues. The major area of complaint is typically that LEDs don’t work with traditional dimmers. Since having to use different kinds of dimmers for different kinds of technology can be confusing for consumers, manufacturers are trying to simplify this. “Some manufacturers have come up with changes to their controls, like smart controls that can sense the light source or mix of sources on the circuit, so their goal is clearly to make this an automatic thing for the consumers,” says Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering and Technology for the American Lighting Assn. (ALA). In addition to not working with traditional dimmers, LEDs also don’t dim the same way traditional incandescents do. “One thing the tungsten bulb has been quite good at is having a very smooth dimming curve,” says Julian Carey, Director of Marketing at Intematix. “You just turn down the voltage and there you go. Plus, as it dims, it turns a reddish color. A lot of advances have been made in electronic controls in order to simulate some of those shifts with a smooth dimming curve.” McGowan agrees that it is possible to imitate incandescent dimming, but says it’s not cheap. “What the manufacturers are doing now is seeing if this is something consumers want enough to pay for,” he says. “There are some test products out there, so the issue now is how much extra consumers want to pay for that capability.”

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