Our plain english guide explains some of the abbreviations and phrases related to lighting control.
LED: Light emitting diode, a type of lamp popular for its long life and efficient energy saving. LEDs have a built-in driver which maintains a constant current, which is why they can’t be dimmed with standard dimmers which interrupt the current. The light output reaches full brightness very quickly. They typically emit narrow beams excellent for task lighting.
CFL: Compact Fluorescent, an energy saving lamp filled with gas. They’re cheaper than LED but with a much shorter life and are slow to warm up to full brightness. must be disposed of with care as they contain toxic mercury, and breakages must be cleaned up very carefully.
Incandescent: This term can refer to any lamp which produces light with a wire filament, including halogen, but is most often used to describe classic tungsten light bulbs.
Tungsten Lamp: The classic incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament. Easy to dim, cheap to buy and the hue is very close to natural daylight. However, they are very inefficient so they’re being phased out in favour of more environmentally friendly LEDs.
Halogen Lamp: Another type of incandescent lamp, with a longer life and slightly higher efficiency than traditional tungsten lamps. They contain gas to enable the filament to burn just as brightly while using less power than a traditional filament lamp.
LV Low voltage: A low voltage dimming method using a controller and separate 0-10V drivers (transformers) for each lamp. Popular in bathrooms and where large numbers of lamps are used, this reliable method saves energy and reduces interference to improve lamp life. Requires a separate cable between the controller and the drivers.
1-10V One to ten volt: A low voltage dimming method using a controller and separate 1-10V drivers for each lamp. It requires a separate cable between the controller and the drivers. This reliable method saves energy and reduces interference to improve lamp life. Unlike 0-10V, the 1-10V method only dims down to 10% so requires a separate on/off switch.
DMX: Digital Multiplex is commonly used for colour programmable fittings. The DMX signal is generated by a lighting control system and requires dedicated cabling between the controller and driver. DMX is generally used with professionally designed lighting control systems.
DALI Digital Addressable Lighting Interface : A digital lighting control system founded by Philips which allows alteration of the colour and brightness of each individual light source added in line. It requires extensive programming and is often used for commercial projects.
De-rate / down rate: This simply means to operate a device at less than its maximum capability. Sometimes it is done to extend the life of the product, more often it is to avoid overheating when operating a group of devices together.
T&E Twin and earth cable : Housing two insulated current carrying conductors and a separate earth conductor, this is the most commonly used cable for domestic wiring.
Waveform: Just like the squiggly line on a heart monitor, is a display of electrical activity. A basic visual representation of the changes in voltage over a period of time.
Triac: Dimmer for incandescent lamps. It controls by interrupting the current which saves energy but can be irregular and is the main cause of flicker, especially with LEDs.
Torroidal transformer: These small copper wire-wound coils are used to stabilise current surges with triac dimmers. They are the cause of the buzzing sound when dimming.
Leading Edge Dimmer: Dimmer for incandescent lamps. It controls by interrupting the current which saves energy but can be irregular and is the main cause of flicker. Cheap but ineffective for low loads and incompatible with modern lamps, particularly with LEDs.
Trailing Edge Dimmer: More sophisticated than leading edge dimmers with resistors replacing the copper coil, they are quieter and have a soft start which preserves lamp life. Suitable for low loads, but as with all triac dimmers, ineffective with LEDs.
Dummy Dimmer: An on/off switch that looks like a rotary dimmer. These are used alongside regular dimmers to simply keep the differing switches neat and uniform in appearance.
Ballasts: A ballast stabilises the load by storing and regulating power. They are used to improve lamp life, save energy and keep lights steady by preventing power fluctuations.
Drivers: Drivers are simply ballasts specifically for lamps. They help lamps to start up efficiently without overloading and regulate the power supply.
Transformers: A Transformer converts power for things which use a different level to mains.
Overload Protection: Overload protection means the circuit or product is designed to switch off when it begins to overheat to prevent damage or fire.
In-rush: This refers to the current surge when a device is switched on.
Two-way and intermediate: Dimming from more than two controllers on one circuit.
Load resistor: Resistors provide precise amounts of resistance to a load which prevents overheating and protects lamps from power surges.
Smart settings: Our award winning technology enables you to set minimum & maximum levels for your lighting. This helps eliminate low level flicker of poorly performing lamps.
Rocker switch: A regular on/off switch usually used for lighting.
Retractive switch: Very similar to a regular on/off switch usually used for lighting, except that a retractive switch springs back into place after it has been pressed.