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.

What is ADA Lighting?

Americans with Disabilities Act logoIn searching for light fixtures for your home or business, you may have noticed that some fixtures are labeled “ADA compliant.” What is ADA lighting?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, requires public buildings to construct safe and accessible buildings for all disabled people. Created in 1990, it guarantees equal opportunity for the disabled, with the goal that people with disabilities have equal access to education, employment, public services, and transportation.

The ADA sets regulations that assert limits and standards that contractors must meet and comply with when installing light fixtures in public buildings. If a fixture is more than 80 inches above the floor, then it is automatically ADA compliant. There are no further restrictions on those ADA sconces. There are further requirements, however, for a wall sconce placed under 80 inches. To be considered ADA compliant, it cannot extend more than 4 inches away from the wall.

A contemporary ADA compliant wall sconce with a circle pattern

Our 7.5″ Floating Orb Contemporary Wall Sconce measures just 4″ deep, making it ADA compliant.

Under chapter 4.4, the ADA mandates that “any object that extends from the wall (such as a wall sconce) that is at between 27 and 80 inches (2’3″ and 6’8″) above the floor” is prohibited from protruding more than 4 inches out into the hallway, walkway or corridor. Naturally, this includes wall-mounted light fixtures.

What is the purpose of this rule? Wheelchair and scooter users are at risk when a room has wall sconces that are not ADA-compliant. If a light fixture is placed below 6’8″ in height and protrudes more than 4 inches away from the wall, wheelchair users can bump into them — at the risk of injury. People who use other assisting devices like crutches and walkers are at even more risk. Non-ADA compliant fixtures can trip these people, resulting in potential falls and injuries.

Ribbon-style cylinder sconce, ADA compliant

Because it does not extend more than 4 inches from the wall, this 5″ Contemporary Cylinder Ribbon Wall Sconce can be mounted between 27″ and 80″ from the ground.

Violations of the ADA-established regulations can result in serious injuries; enforcement of these regulations are very strict. As of 2010, if it is suspected that a public building has wall sconces (or any other light fixtures) that are not ADA-compliant, the Department of Justice may file a federal lawsuit against the building managers or the contractors; the compensation required for these violations (depending on injuries) can range up to $55,000 for a first offense and up to $110,000 for subsequent ones.

All wall sconces that are placed above 80 inches (6’8″) and below 27 inches (2’3″) in height are ADA compliant. All other wall sconces must hug the wall closely in order to ensure safety and comfort for all people — whether they are wheelchair users, in crutches, or not disabled at all.

At Fabby, many of the wall sconces we manufacture are less than 4″ deep, meaning you can mount these fixtures between 80 inches and 27 inches above the ground and they will be ADA compliant. You don’t have to sacrifice style and craftsmanship to comply with ADA regulations. Browse our ADA light category to see all our options.

DIY Lighting or Hire an Electrician?

Installing a ceiling light fixture

Installing a new light fixture can be a fun DIY project, or a nightmare better handled by a pro.

Been watching home improvement TV shows lately? Of course you have! They make it all look so easy and get us excited about those three little letters: DIY. Take a deep breath and a dose of reality. When it comes to home lighting projects, it’s important to think carefully about what the job requires. Only then can you make a smart decision between hiring an electrician and doing it yourself. Here’s a checklist of questions that may help you figure it out.

Do you understand electrical wiring and connections?

You don’t have to be a pro to complete simple projects, but a basic understanding of electrical outlets and wiring is essential to your safety. Do you know where your circuit breaker panel is? Do you know how to turn off the power supply to the fixture you’re working with? When you pull off the fixture and are confronted with a tangle of wires, will you know which is which? There are guides online to help explain it step by step, but look them over first and see if you can follow along or if it’s all a bit overwhelming.

If installation of a light fixture will involve switching out or rerouting cables, this adds some complexity. In this case, unless you have special knowledge of or prior experience with wiring, hiring an electrician is best.

What tools are required for the lighting installation?

Using a screwdriver to adjust a light switch

You may have all the tools around the house, or the project may require an electrician’s tool bag.

DIY lighting may require particular tools. For example, to replace most fixtures you will want a wire stripper to prep the fixture for attachment to ceiling or wall electrical wiring. If you don’t have a stripper, use a utility knife in its place. A power drill makes mounting new fixtures simple and fast, but a screwdriver is a reliable option as well. We strongly recommend using a voltage tester to confirm that the power is off before you start fiddling with bare wires.

Are you adding a new fixture where none existed before, either on the wall or the ceiling? You’ll need quite a hefty list of tools, from a stud finder to a jab saw, making this an ambitious DIY lighting project.

Does your new light fixture come with mounting materials, and clear instructions?

When you pull your new sconce, ceiling light, or pendant out of the box, you might feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Put your giddiness in check, and check the box for mounting instructions and supplies. Most lights will include a mounting bracket and screws that fit the fixture. Like our stylish 13.5″ Drum Top Ceiling Light, which comes with a plate for semi-flush mounting. Your fixtures should also come with instructions showing materials included, configuration of wiring, and also the maximum wattage for lamping. Fabby’s ceiling fixture installation guide includes a clear, helpful diagram. Easy instructions make do-it-yourself lighting projects simple.

If mounting instructions are not included, the task before you becomes more challenging. Can you fit tab A into slot B based on intuition and clever guesses? Electricians have seen just about every type of fixture out there, so hiring a professional may be easier than trying to figure it out yourself.

Is there any visible damage or wear?

When working with electrical wires, wear and tear is a sign of danger. It can cause shorting and lead to an electrical fire. If you begin to replace a light fixture and notice that the hardwiring in your home looks distressed, then it’s time to hire an electrician.

As long as you disconnect power, have all the right tools, and feel comfortable with a project, DIY lighting installation is a safe and fun project. For more complicated wiring, we recommend letting your electrician take it on. Happy renovating!

Recycling, Donating & Storing Your Christmas Lights

Strings of Christmas Lights, wound up for storage

Recycle, donate, or store your Christmas light strings

Getting with the holiday program entails a lot of joyful shopping, wrapping and lighting. You know, deck the halls! But after the last Christmas cookie is gobbled down and we begin to think about the New Year our households are often left with storage debacles and waste. Where to put all the stuff and how to dispose of old or unneeded items?

One item that always seems to show up on the list of post-holiday hassles is Christmas lights. Depending on what you’re working with – working lights to keep, extra light strings you don’t need anymore, or non-working strands to be disposed of – you have several options: recycling, donating, and carefully storing.

Recycling Christmas Lights that No Longer Work

Workers recycling Christmas lights

Every year, workers shred Christmas light strings to recycle them.

Festive American families love to decorate with tons of holiday light strands. This means multiple seasons of coiling, uncoiling, stringing and sometimes 24/7 displays of lighted bulbs. Even the heaviest duty Christmas lights have a lifespan which leads to the question of where lights go after they’ve expired.

This holiday season we recommend recycling Christmas lights that no longer work. The Christmas light recycling process sounds rough and merciless. Strings are loaded into giant shredders, whose sharp teeth reduce them to tiny bits of plastic, glass, and copper wire. All those little pieces are then cleaned and sorted, so they can be melted down and used to manufacture new strings of lights.

Your usual recycling pick-up probably won’t handle Christmas lights, but there may exist a number of options for free drop-off of old or damaged lights. Some home improvement businesses take old strands and there are also free recycling centers for Christmas lights. For more details, check your city’s government website or search the web for local options.

Donating Christmas Light Strings

The holidays are a special time for us all. For families who are struggling with unemployment, poverty or the loss of a family member though, the arrival of Christmas can equal stress and pressure to make ends meet. Few things lift spirits higher than the simple hanging of bright and twinkling lights on an evergreen tree or in the frame of a window.

If you open up decoration storage this season and notice lights to spare then why not brighten the home of another family? Check with area shelters, non-profit organizations or businesses that organize holiday drives of goods and decorations and give the gift of dazzling light.

Storing Your Christmas Lights for Next Year

Getting the most out of Christmas lights is a cinch with just a little extra effort. As you pack up after each holiday, remove light strands from your tree and other displays with patience – taking care to avoid knots, breaks and pinches. Use cardboard from gift deliveries to wind strands around as you unravel from the tree. This not only keeps strands flat and organized but it is also a smart way to reuse materials. Or purchase Christmas light reel and bag sets for simple winding around a spool.

Put smart storage and handling of Christmas tree light recycling on the holiday to-do list this winter. You and generations of Christmas-lovers to come will be glad you did!

Dark Sky Lighting can combat light pollution

Light pollution in a big city

Light pollution makes it almost impossible to see the stars, and can disrupt animals’ natural behavior.

If you live in a big city or even a nearby suburb, consider what you see when look up into the night sky. For more and more of the world, stars and constellations are no longer visible at night. Instead, the sky is a blank haze. Light pollution, or the artificial brightening of the night sky, has hidden the beauty of the stars. It disrupts the natural rhythms of animal and insect species, and may threaten human health, as well.

Some light pollution is an inevitable part of industrialization. Modern society is a 24-hour affair. We come and go long after the sun has set, enjoying the freedom that widespread electric lighting has brought us. But that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with the overly bright sky we have now. We can change the way we light up the night.

Dark Sky Lighting Strategies

Dark sky lighting is a method of reducing light pollution by improving exterior lights. There are two steps to cutting the amount of light you project into the sky.

Dark sky light fixture, ceramic wall sconce

Custom-order a dark-sky light fixture like the 7″ North Star Ceramic Wall Sconce.

First, don’t use more light than you need. According to the International Dark Sky Association, many home owners and community leaders are using too many lights and lights that are too bright. “The idea that more light always results in better safety and security is a myth,” reads an IDSA guideline sheet. “One needs only the right amount of light, in the right place, at the right time. More light often means wasted light and energy.” Too much light can cause glare and actually make it more difficult to see at night, not to mention wasting energy and driving up electricity bills.

Second, use the right kind of light fixtures. As National Geographic Magazine explained in 2008, “Light pollution is largely the result of bad lighting design, which allows artificial light to shine outward and upward into the sky, where it’s not wanted, instead of focusing it downward, where it is.” If an outdoor lamp is intended to illuminate a pathway so pedestrians don’t trip and fall, why let the light go up into the sky where it’s wasted? Dark sky fixtures direct the light down, minimizing light pollution.

Communities Adopt Dark Sky Ordinances

Some people install dark sky fixtures on their own initiative, but it’s also common for cities and neighborhoods to pass outdoor lighting ordinances. From California to New Hampshire, light laws may require dark-sky friendly fixtures on public property and direct private citizens to use them, as well. These regulations can spark intense political debate as star-gazers, environmentalists, business owners, and legislators clash over competing priorities.

Dark sky compliance can be complex. It usually involves limitations on the brightness of outdoor lights, the height of light fixtures, and the amount of “uplight” that a fixture allows. Here at Fabby, any of our ceramic wall sconces can be custom-manufactured as dark sky light fixtures for a small upcharge. We close off the top of the sconce, ensuring that light only escapes from the bottom. Simple steps like this help keep light pollution in check and make our sky as dark as possible.