Felix Salmon

Dimmable LED bulbs!

By Felix Salmon
September 17, 2009

Many thanks to Andrew Leonard and Alok Jha, who have discovered the Philips Econic. Here’s the relevant bit of their flyer (warning: 9.9MB PDF):


Yes, that really does say “dimmable”. And Jha says that this is the “new bulb that will hopefully make the doubters shut up”.

When I moved into my new apartment in 2005, we ended up needing a huge number of 40W reflectors, all on dimmers, which between them consume an insane amount of electricity. What’s more, they need very frequent replacing, which is non-trivial. If I can just replace them with dimmable LEDs which last for 25 years, I will be a very happy person indeed.

9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

This is progress! One of my major gripes about the new lighting mandate is that the new bulbs are not dimmable or three-way (ol’ fashion dimmable).

…but who wants to dim a 40W equivalent bulb? I assume there are technology issues in dimming a 150W equivalent bulb, but this is progress.

Note: We were just discussing the new technology with a lighting store (we’re buying new outdoor lamps) and he highlighted the emergence of LEDs. The mercury issues are forcing CFBs to an early demise.

Other issues with new lighting:
–”Warm-up” period to get light to full brilliance
–Perform poorly outdoors (a problem for us)

Still, our conversation indicated that these will likely be resolved in the next 2-4 years. Let’s hope.

Posted by Terry | Report as abusive

I tried some dimmable CFB’s and found that they wouldn’t dim to ‘nearly off’. My best estimate is that they dim to about 50% brightness. LED’s might be different.

The mercury thing about CFB’s – when you include mercury emissions from power plants, the CFB’s are better than standard bulbs because they reduce the amount of mercury emitted by the power plant, even though they increase the amount of mercury used in a bulb.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

one of the important things to look for in LED’s or flourscents besides the “temperature of the light” is the CRI (color rendering index) just an FYI. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rende ring_index


CRI is a misnomer since an incandescent bulb is the standard (100).

What matters on LEDs are corrected color temperature (CCT), heat sinks & management, lamp/reflector design and then CRI but only as a tertiary concern.

In short, hire a lighting designer.

Posted by sunsetbeachguy | Report as abusive

you can buy cfl’s or ccfl’s which are dimmable, but i agree……….they dim to about 50% brightness. there is also no change in the color temperature. bottom line, dimming is not so great, but it is possible.

regarding the LED’s, they are now even available in costco and home depot. you can buy them everywhere on the internet. they are much more efficient at visible light production than incandescent bulbs and even better than cfl’s. They are also coming out with dimmable ones which compete with incandescents. they will dim much better than the cfl’s because they have a range of voltage dependent light production and are pretty much being sold operating at higher voltages to get more light. if you operate them slightly dimmed, they should outlive you.

unfortunately, LED’s are way overpriced now. however, have a bit of patience. put in cfl’s to save money, and wait a year. with sylvania, ge, phillips, osram and others now beginning to market them, the prices are going to drop faster than flat screen tv’s. right now, at 10 – 12 cents a KWH, you cannot justify purchasing them even if you compare them to incandescents. if you compare them to cfl’s or ccfl’s there is no way the price will be justifiable for several years.

my wife likes to have lighting outside our house at night. i have switched to a combination of cfl’s and LED’s and even though i light our home like a christmas tree at night (using less than 40 watts), because of the LED price it will take me several years to break even. there is no way i can justify the LED’s at the current prices to replace the lighting within the home because with the exception of one lamp, we don’t have illumination in other areas for more than a couple hours a day.

i will revisit the issue in about a year or two when the LED’s are much cheaper.

Posted by j.f. kadlec | Report as abusive

I think the right way is not to try to simulate the original bulbs using LED, perhaps this can be right only for the phase of “transition”.
You can also design LED lamps, working from the beginning to use the light source LED, getting the best.
We are working on this theme for a couple of years, take a look at:



If you’ve ever tried to use LEDs or even most CFL’s with dimmer switches before you’ll know they only function at the fully on or 100% power position. Since these lamps lack any sort of advanced circuitry to allow them to operate with dimmers, many have been forced to keep expensive to run, incandescents in these fixtures.
LED Manufacturers

Posted by sdkeywords | Report as abusive

I have a couple of points. Made in USA often means more, not less, expensive. Government subsidies because a product is “green” simply means all taxpayers contribute to the purchase. Why should others pay you to save on your electricity bill? Each consumer should choose whether to pay now or later. When electricity costs grow high enough, LED bulbs will be compelling for many more than now, even at $50. In the meantime, consumers can choose to bide their time, waiting for the technology to mature or, perhaps, for existing bulbs to fail.
Modern Lighting

Posted by lucianaLucy | Report as abusive

I think the manufacturer is crazy to believe that the average consumer will pay anywhere near $40 for a light bulb, let alone when the light output is only 1/3 a true 60W bulb. And the introductory price gimic is just that. It’s far more likely that in 3-6 months time the LED will be considerably cheaper than its $40 “introductory price.” I’m all for saving energy, but I give this product an F for value.

Posted by lucianaLucy | Report as abusive

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