There are different dimmers for different light bulbs and systems. Most of the time the manufacturer will include this information in their literature; as a general rule-of-thumb:
• incandescent and 120V halogen bulbs use standard incandescent dimmers
• low voltage bulbs use either an electronic or a magnetic low voltage dimmer; depending on the type of transformer used
• fluorescent lamps require both a dimming ballast and a fluorescent dimmer (note: some screw-in dimming bulbs can operate on an incandescent dimmer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions)
• be sure to check the dimming requirements of the LED driver in your application; requirements will differ between manufacturers, some are 120V, some 12V and some use 0-10V fluorescent dimmers. Not all LED drivers are dimmable.
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Photo courtesy of Leviton Manufacturing
Low voltage light sources give you more choices, will save energy, will give more light and will last longer than their 120V incandescent counterparts.
An incandescent A style bulb has no control; it gives light in all directions – a “blob” distribution. An incandescent PAR bulb has a parabolic aluminum reflector and can produce distributions from narrow spot to wide flood. A low voltage MR16 bulb can produce precise beam patterns allowing you to control and direct the light on the task plane.
Low voltage will give you more lumens per watt and produces a whiter brighter light than incandescent. Plus, they have a longer lamp life. Take a look at this comparison:
A 12V 50W bi-pin halogen bulb produces 1000 lumens with an average life of 2000 hours compared to a 120V 50W bi-pin halogen bulb which produces 700 lumens with an average life of 1500 hours.