Can Halogen, LED, and Fluorescent Bulbs be Dimmed?

Packaging for a GE dimmable CFL bulb

When shopping for a dimmable bulb, check the packaging to make sure it can be dimmed.

There are many different kinds of lights on the market today. Three of the most popular are Halogen, Florescent, and LED. Each of these three types of lights has its pros and cons. Some bulbs have better energy saving features while some bulbs will have stronger outputs.

But can these bulbs be dimmed? Home, office, and even public environments often require different light levels at different times, and being able to identify the right bulb to use for different situations could save time, money, and embarrassment. Not to mention add a touch of style to your home lighting. Here are the details on the new generation of energy-efficient dimmable bulbs.

Can halogen bulbs be dimmed?

Halogen is an incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament — similar to the regular incandescent we’ve all grown with. The bulb is filled with halogen gas (unlike the traditional incandescent). As the bulb heats up, tungsten from the filament evaporates through the halogen gas in the bulb and deposits on the inside of the glass “wall.” The halogen gas then carries those tungsten particles back to the filament and re-deposits them. For this reason, halogen bulbs often have much longer lives than regular traditional incandescent ones.

All halogen bulbs can be dimmed, and finding a dimmer for halogen bulbs should be easy. Most dimmers are compatible with halogen bulbs. As long as the light and the dimmer are compatible, the bulb will be able to dim to most frequencies — but at the cost of a shorter life. You will have to replace a dimmable halogen bulb more often, so keep that additional maintenance in mind.

Packaging for an LED bulb that can be dimmed

It’s easy to find an LED light bulb that can be dimmed. Most LED bulbs are dimmable.


Can you dim LED bulbs?

LED lights are a more recent invention; they use a lot less wattage than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of output. An LED bulb with comparable output to a 60-watt incandescent uses less than 8 watts — a huge power-saving improvement! They are much more expensive than incandescent and florescent bulbs, but can last decades. An $80 LED bulb can last more than ten years and save tons of energy (and money) in the long run; a $7 incandescent bulb may last a fraction of the time and eat up much more power. In other words, your cost-per-year is much lower with a long-lasting LED bulb.

Most LED bulbs can be dimmed. Simply check the packaging to verify its dimming capability. Some LED bulbs turn off at the lowest dimming setting; this seems to be less of an issue as LED technology improves through time. In order to maximize the quality of your LED lights’ dimming, look for dimmers that are made for LED’s.

Are fluorescent lights dimmable?

Fluorescent lights work with a constant electrical current flowing through ionized gas in a bulb. This is why they take a few minutes to turn on and brighten. For the same reason, most florescent lights, bulbs, and strips cannot be dimmed. But don’t despair! There are special florescent lights that can be dimmed. According to, CFLs dim a bit differently than incandescents. They will dim to 10-40% of the light’s full brightness, but will not dim all the way to darkness.

Dimmable fluorescent bulbs are expensive, and won’t work with traditional halogen dimmers. They require special florescent dimmers. To check if a florescent bulb is capable of dimming, a quick look at its packaging will often do the trick.