This a question we get asked a lot: “What kind of lighting is dimmable?” The good news is that most lighting today comes in a dimmable bulb. You will pay significantly more up front for the most efficient bulbs, but they will pay for themselves in a few years.

To start at the beginning, there are 3 basic types of lighting:

  • Incandescent (heats a metal filament until it glows): Some of these will no longer be sold in 2012; they are highly inefficient light emitters, using far more electricity per watt of light than the alternatives available today. Lifespan – about 750 hours.
  • CFL (Cathode fluorescent lamps): Very efficient bulbs; light output color is similar to incandescent bulbs. These bulbs have a “warm up” time, taking time to reach maximum light output, and they contain mercury which is extremely hazardous if they break in your home, and have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. CFL bulbs lives are shortened by frequent turning off and on. CFL’s have a lifespan of about 6,000 to 15,000 hours.
  • LED (Light emitting diodes): LED bulbs contain no mercury and they turn on instantly. Frequent turning off and on does not shorten life expectancy. Most LED bulbs are directional in the way they emit light, which works better for track lighting, flood/ spotlighting and recessed lighting applications.  Currently these are very expensive, around $25 per bulb and up. 50,000 hours is the life expectancy of an LED bulb

But are they dimmable?

  • Incandescent: yes, but they may not be available by the end of 2012.
  • CFL: There are dimmable CFL bulbs.
  • LED: There are now dimmable LEDs  Is a good source for more information on this topic. – another excellent source of information, especially about kitchen lighting.