One of the great features of recessed LED lighting is the ability to dim the lights.
While most LED lights are dimmable, a common complaint is hearing a hum or buzzing sound coming from LED lights when they are dimmed.
What Causes LED Buzzing?
The cause is often a compatibility issue known as em interference (EMI) between a dimmer switch and a LED’s driver (power supply). When traditional bulbs like incandescent and halogen buzz, it is usually the filament vibrating that you hear. However, LEDs are electronic devices and work in a completely different way. They don’t use a filament at all. The audible hum or buzzing sound you hear is likely the LED driver’s internal electronics vibrating.
Are Buzzing LED Lights Dangerous?
In most cases, buzzing or humming LED lights are not dangerous. That said, if you a hear buzzing or crackling sound coming from a switch, outlet, or wires, there may be a problem and you should contact an electrician immediately.
How To Stop LED Lights From Buzzing – Step by Step
Step 1 – Determine if only one light is buzzing, or if it’s all of the lights in the circuit. If it’s only one light, replace it with a new one. If it’s all of the lights, move on to step 2.
Step 2 – Bypass the dimmer switch. Turn the power off. Then take the two wires (usually black) off the dimmer switch and connect them together using a wire nut. Next, turn the power back on. Do the lights still buzz? If yes, there’s not much you can do other than replace the lights with high quality LED lights. If they don’t buzz, go to step 3.
Step 3 – Replace the dimmer switch. If the lights did not buzz when you bypassed the dimmer switch, then it’s most likely the dimmer that is incompatible with the LED bulbs.
LED lights are electronic devices, and using an older triac dimmer that was designed for the resistive load of an incandescent lamp will seldom work well. Most LED bulb manufacturers provide a list of recommended dimmers that they have tested to be compatible with their products. Of all the dimmers on the list, there are two types to look for that will likely work best at eliminating the buzzing.
What you’re looking for is a CL dimmer, LED+ dimmer, or an ELV dimmer on the list.
CL and LED+ dimmers are made by Lutron and designed to be compatible with LEDs. My experience with them has been excellent. They have a low-end trim adjustment that allows you to get the best dimming range possible. CL and LED+ dimmers will eliminate the buzzing on most brands of LEDs, but not all.
Electronic Low Voltage (aka reverse phase or trailing edge) dimmers are designed for electronic (capacitive) loads like LEDs. In my experience, a trailing edge dimmer will help or eliminate the buzz almost every time.
That said, there are two downsides to ELV dimmers. The first is that they require a neutral wire in the switch box, which your switch box may or may not have depending on how the circuit is wired. The second downside is they are usually more expensive then other types of dimmers.
What If They Still Buzz?
If you’re using a dimmer that is recommended by the manufacturer for your LED lights and all of the lights on the circuit still buzz, you only have two options.
- Option 1 – Remove the dimmer switch and replace it with a standard on/off switch.
- Option 2 – Replace the LED lights with a different model. I have some recommended LED lights and on this site that will not buzz or hum when used with Lutron LED+ dimmers.