Some interesting googling has shown some pretty good news about improving technology of dimmable CFL's -- to help us beat some of the incandescent lightbulb bans coming in some countries. Very interesting bits for those of you who have problems using X10 dimmers with CFL's...
CFL that can dim to 2.5% brightness
Most CFL's are not dimmable. Some CFL's can dim to 20% brightness. Now there's an interesting article about a new dimmable CFL that can dim down all the way to about 2.5% that also works with standard dimmers:
The brand name is Varilight from http://www.varilight.co.uk/
There is an amazing magazine bench test:
CFL: Magazine Comparision Review Article
"The Battle of the dimmables is joined"
Link to PDF magazine article:
Some additional technical comments:
Most dimmers use a triac, and CFL's do not have as much persistence so they can flicker with a dimmer. The new magazine review comparing dimmable CFL's, has a rating for flicker-freeness during dimming. All five-star "flicker" ratings are the ones that converts triac'd pulses internally into high frequency pulses for flicker-free dimming, with good Power Factor Correction electronics exceeding a 0.9 PF ... (ordinary CFL's have a PFC of only 0.65 which means it has little 'mini-surges' that may require an electric power plant in some cases generate 20W just to power 13W CFL...) -- the Varilight CFL is reported to do this internal power conditioning right in the compact base of the bulb, very clever breakthrough...
For locations where you want a better and warmer/romantic color temperature (reddish color), you may wish to get the Feelux DimPac dimmable compact fluorescent instead, even though it's a little less efficient. Its color is rated 4 stars, compared to incandescent at 5 stars. The 'reddening' of CFL during dimming is a work in progress and will take time;
New LED lighting that look exactly the same color as modern CFL's (CRI 90%! - None of the 'cold blue' LED's of yesterday), such as the new Pharox 3.4 watt LED lightbulb (similiar to the ones being installed in a Toronto condo
), with proper electronics, can dim all the way to 0% with no problems with good electronic dimmers, although no word on how well they work with ordinary cheap triac-based dimmers like many of the X10 dimmers in use too... Future LED lightbulb might dim the red component more slowly than the green/blue, for better incandescent-light reddening behaviour during dimming...
Preliminary Best Practices for Home Automation Dimming of CFL's
WARNING! .... Not ALL of these dimmable CFL's are all X10 compatible, though some of them are. Lamp dimmer modules, in general, tend to work MUCH better than wall-mounted dimmer switches (unless it's a three-wire, such as an Insteon dimmer).
Usually works fine: X10 lamp module, 3-wire Insteon wall switch, bulky dimmable X10 screw-in lamp module.
Usually works terrible: 2-wire X10 wall switches.
These are preliminary observations of X10/Insteon compatibility with dimmable CFL's. Not meant to be a guarantee. In other words, do your own testing. It's still the early stages of innovation before the 2012 incandescent lightbulb ban in some countries.
- You installers of ecofriendly-demanding customers, there is hope! There will be options, especially when North American variants arrive.
- Manufacturers of X10 systems, please buy these CFL's found in this magazine review (either North America and European versions), and ensure your HA equipment works, including burn-in testing.
- Home theater enthusiasts, please petition the home automation makers with a hyperlink to this message. We need to make sure that future home automation equipment works better with these new dimmable CFL's, especially ahead of the incandescent lightbulb ban happening in some countries within a few years;