In this article the team at Zano Controls identifies some of the headaches that LED dimming has caused in recent times and the solutions it has created to deal with these issues.
LED is a great technology, but we all know it’s not without its frustrations. Over the years, as LEDs have evolved, dimming solutions haven’t always been quick to catch up. At Zano, we’ve always strived to stay ahead of the curve, addressing the most pressing problems in LED dimming and creating innovative solutions.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important obstacles we’ve overcome to help installers deliver flicker-free and silent dimming on every project:
1. EARLY COMPATIBILITY ISSUES: FLICKER AND BUZZ
When LEDs launched onto the mainstream domestic lighting market, dimming posed a major hurdle to the new technology’s uptake. Compatibility was an issue from the start: domestic lighting at the time was entirely tailored to the resistive loads of incandescent and halogen lamps. With LEDs operating on a continuous forward current, major change was needed to bring control systems up-to-date.
Due to simple resistive loads, a triac dimmer would work to dim incandescent and halogen, even though sometimes you could hear a buzz. That buzzing came from the coil fitted inside the dimmer, designed to absorb the voltage spikes caused by the triac switching on and off at the peak of the mains cycle.
Dim an LED with a triac dimmer, however, and both the dimming range and user experience is restricted (it’s bad news for the lamp’s life span, too). As mentioned, a triac dimmer switches at the peak of the cycle where there are maximum volts. When the triac switches off the energy has to flow somewhere. Where does it go? Through to the coil, which tries to absorb it, across the cable network and into the LED power supply. The result: flicker and buzz!
However, as this spike radiates out across the cabling on the circuit, it can also disturb Wi-Fi, DAB radio, and any other radio signal in the building.
Problem solved: digital dimming
While some manufacturers attempted to address these LED dimming issues by creating variants of the triac model, none worked completely: it simply wasn’t compatible. Zano Controls’ developers recognised that the coil needed to be removed in order to dim LED successfully, and turned to digital solutions for the answer. The ZGRIDLED was born, which replaced the coil with a digital microprocessor that could control without interference.
2. LOAD COMPATIBILITY
While there have been huge improvements in LEDs’ range of colour, tone and shape, one significant problem has remained: in-rush current and load disparity.
It’s a contentious subject, but independent testing has found a huge disparity between the wattage listed on an LED’s box and the power it actually consumes. An LED’s in-rush current – that surge of energy as a lamp ‘powers up’ – is often not included in the wattage on the label. In Zano’s testing lab, we’ve seen lamps regularly double their labelled wattage, with one 12W lamp reaching 32W. This makes it difficult to gauge what dimmer will work with an installation.
At the other end of the spectrum are those LEDs with very low loads. It’s a particular problem with downlights in small spaces such as closets or small hallways, where only a few low wattage LEDs are needed. With many dimmers starting at 10W, those low wattage installations would frequently fail to dim to lower levels without drop-out.
Problem solved: increased wattage range
Zano looked at ways to increase wattage range and improve compatibility for a wider range of projects. The ZGRIDLED was the first LED dimmer with an extended range of 5 – 250W, while the ZBAR range of dimmers were developed to support 0W up to 1,000W (along with multi-point control: more on that later!).
3. CREATING MORE VERSATILE SOLUTIONS
Even with improvements in the quality of LED dimming, installers were still restricted in the options they could offer their clients. Once upon a time, if your client wanted full control of a circuit from multiple switch points, you’d need to install a bespoke dimmer: an expensive and often complicated piece of equipment. Even seemingly simple requests such as three-point dimming were impossible to fulfil with an off-the-shelf solution.
Problem solved: multi-point and three-way dimming
Zano’s first multi-point dimmer, the ZBARLED, allowed users to install as many as 32 control points on installations of 0 – 300W or 0 – 1,000W with an easy to install dimming pack. It gave installers a flexibility never seen before in an off-the-shelf LED dimmer.
ZBAR remains a popular problemsolving product, for both its multi-point capabilities and extensive wattage range. Yet it was Zano’s next multi-point product that really changed the game for LED installers, by solving a simple dimming request: three-way dimming.
The ZSMARTLED, launched earlier this year, allows three fully dimmable control points to be fitted on a single circuit: no re-wiring, no dimming pack. Installers finally have the opportunity to offer three control points in bedrooms, hotel rooms and staircases – even in retrofit installations.
4. MATCHING INNOVATION WITH AFFORDABILITY
At Zano, we’ve invested in innovation from the start. We’ve always made it a priority to address every LED dimming issue that we encounter to make installations easier and more efficient for our customers, and our clients. Yet our goal has always been to make that innovation accessible to everyone, and bring high-quality dimming to every project.
Problem solved: ZMO150
That’s why we’ve launched the ZMO150. We’ve built all of our latest LED dimming innovation into this low-cost 0 – 150W dimming module. With Zano smart settings, learn and adapt technology, easy-fit installation and even greater lamp compatibility, ZMO150 delivers flicker-free and silent dimming on every good quality 0-150W LED installation – and it won’t break your budget.