Dimming Basics

Dimming Basics

There are various controllable lighting options that will dim your lights for ambiance or energy efficiency.  Dimming lights 20% saves approximately 20% in energy savings.   Controllable lighting solutions can be pretty simple for a single room or complex for total building lighting control.  There are several components in a controllable lighting system: a dimmable lamp, dimming ballast, dimming control including dimmer and an optional sensor.  

Most types of lighting technologies can be dimmed including incandescent, fluorescent, compact fluorescent, LED and halogen lamps.  In some cases, there are both dimmable and non-dimmable versions of a lamp.  

Fluorescent lamps require a dimming ballast.  There are many types of dimming ballasts and things to consider when converting to a dimming fluorescent system.  

The first thing to consider is dimming range.  If it is strictly an energy savings application in a commercial environment, step-dimming or load-shed dimming ballasts are a good cost effective option.  These ballast however, have limited dimming range of 40 to 60%%-100% or limited control such as 3 Step Dimming (ie: 0%, 40% 100%).  Full range dimming is typically 10% or below to 100%.

The next thing to consider when selecting a ballast is the accessibility to your light fixture from your dimming controls.  If there is limited access from the lighting control to the ballast and additional wiring cannot be easily added, you will need to use a powerline type of ballast where the dimming control is transmitted across the power lines of the ballast.  This can be done with both with Philips Advance Mark 10  or Sylvania Powersense ballasts.  Lutron also provides a wireless solution such as the Maestro Wireless series to tackle this problem.  

If it is fairly easy to add additional wires from your 3 Wire, 0-10v or DALI dimming ballasts are a better solution.  Many vendors provide 0-10V ballasts including Philip Advance Mark 7,  GE UltraStart or Fulham.  Sylvania Powersense ballast provides capabilities for both 0-10V and powerline dimming.   3 Wire Dimming is exclusively used within Lutron product families and requires 1 less wire.  DALI is an industry standard dimming control specification for total building control systems.  EcoSystem from Lutron is a variation of the DALI specification used exclusively with Lutron products.  

Dimming controls consist of either a dimmer and/or a total building controller.  Lutron provides a wide variety of dimmers depending on the type lamp and control system being used.  The Lutron CL dimmers work on a variety of lamps including incandescent, certain compact fluorescent, halogen and led lamps.  Lutron’s Diva DVTV is a popular 0-10v dimmer.  Lutron also has a number of 3 Wire Dimmers for their Lutron’s fluorescent ballasts.  Complete building controllers such as Lutron’s Grafik Eye  will can handle multiple rooms and scenes.  

There are many types of sensors that work in a controllable lighting solutions.  Occupancy sensors and vacancy sensors can be stand alone components or integrated with dimming switches.  They will turn on/off the lighting based on the presence or absence of a person.   The state of California requires vacancy sensors for all controllable lighting solutions. Photocells and daylight sensors both detect the amount of ambient light in an area.  Photocells are used to turn lights on/off based on a specific threshold of ambient light.  Daylight sensors will interact with dimming ballast to maintain a consistent level of light depending on ambient light conditions.  

If this brief overview seems overwhelming, please don’t hesitate to call.  We have qualified lighting specialists that will make sure that you getting a product that best meets your needs.