Best LED cans for low light output on Leviton dimmers

(Dave) #1

Hi. I’ve recently moved into a new house and had all new lights and dimmers installed. The dimmers I used are the Leviton Vizia RF+ VRMX1-1LZ universal dimmers and I love them - honestly they’re every bit as reliable as the Homeworks system I had in my old house - although they still feel just a bit ‘cheaper’ than the Lutron alternatives. And they actually work with SmartThings so that’s a huge plus!

The problem is that the world has all moved to LED lighting since I last bought lighting and LEDs can’t seem to dim very well. I’ve got a motion sensor that turns the lights on in my bathroom at night so I don’t pee on the floor but unfortunately the minimum 10% dim level ST uses practically blinds me in the middle of the night. Does anyone have any suggestions on 4" recessed cans that can achieve a super-low dim level? I’m sure I’m not the only person who has wanted a lower dim level for a theater room, a bathroom, etc. I’ve bought every 4" can Home Depot had in stock and think the Philips (50W equivalent) is probably the dimmest of the ones I’ve found, but it’s still way too bright for my needs. FYI I’ve tried LED2, Philips, and soft white and daylight Crees. Even 1% brightness in SmartThings on the dimmer makes the lights look pretty bright.

Does anyone have any suggestions on a dimmer (lower-light) LED? Or should I give up and just go back to an incandescent can where I need super-low-light? If a different dimmer switch might change my situation I’m all ears to that as well. I’d also consider covering most of the can with masking tape, but I’m pretty sure the wife and designer wouldn’t like that much.

Thanks in advance everyone!



The first thing you could do is Try Core instead of the standard smart things features, as it will let you set a dim level of 1%.

I suspect smartthings uses the 10% in the official features because the GE dimmers, which are a very popular value brand, don’t handle low-level dimming very well. But the Leviton, particularly the universal, handle dimming in a different way and should be able to go lower.

(Dave) #3


That’s an awesome idea and I’ll give it a try - 1% is certainly a lot better than the minimum 10% I can set through the standard features. But 1% is still way too bright for me! I’ve gone out and bought another dozen or so cans on Amazon and I’ll see if any yield better or worse results than any others. Give me a week or so for houseguests to clear out and I’ll report back on which cans (if any) can be made noticeably dimmer than others. Of the Home Depot cans I bought the Philips 59221 look the best but that’s likely because they’re lower power than most (50W equivalent instead of 65W - or 520 lumens instead of 575 for the Crees) and because they’re a relatively soft light. But here’s hoping for an even better solution.

Thanks for the help!



If you want it to go really really dim, use a dimmable smart bulb (but not with a dimmer switch) and you’ll be able to get very small dimming increments.

At my house we use a smart LED strip in the bathrooms over the medicine cabinet for just this purpose, and a smart bulb in a table lamp on the nightstand as well. Late at night, these are the lights that come on when triggered by motion sensor, not the regular lights. :sunglasses::bulb:

(Robin) #5

I have a similar problem in my bathroom, I have Dimmable 240v LED down lights (sealed IP65 units) that are crazy bright even at 1%.

No solution bar changing the fittings which I don’t want to do!

In other rooms I have screw in (dumb) LED lamps that dim right down nicely, but this comes with other issues. If I try to turn them on below 7% nothing happens (not enough start up power, or maybe the Fibaro Bypass modules getting in the way?).

Any rules I setup to turn on at 1% therefore have to initially come on at 7% and then go straight down to 1% resulting in a very quick flash.

You may find you solve one problem just to be faced with another, but I’ll be interested to see how you get on!

(Alex) #6

@d_sly - I suspect you will have a real hard time finding a solution given the high efficiency of LED lights. My guess is that you would have to look for a dimmer that is designed (or has an exclusive mode) for LED lights only so that they can fine tune the setting to the light output. I have the same Leviton dimmers but I generally look for the highest lumens output lights I can find. For the 6" can lights, I am not happy if they are under 1000 lumens each. The minimum light setting is still very bright especially when your eyes are accustomed to the darkness of night therefore I simply do not turn the lights on. I installed a night light outlet made by Legrand that has 4 different light brightness settings and even being so small it makes more light than I need to find my way in the bathroom.

The build quality is awesome and installing them is super easy. I would add one or two of these replacing any non GFCI outlets you might have in the bathroom. The light goes off when there is enough ambient light to preserve the LED/energy or you can turn it off by pressing the lit up portion of the outlet.

In my toilet (not the bathroom) I have a 5"/6" retrofit LED light that seems to dim pretty low. I can’t recall the brand/model but is is something like this:

I believe I saw an equivalent for 4" cans… maybe that will work better as I see the lumens is lower to start off with… in the example above it is only 675 (everything else I use is 800 or above).

(Robin) #7

WOW… Do you really have outlets in your bathrooms in the US???

Wall switches and outlets (even circuit protected ones) are banned here in UK bathrooms… All we are allowed are low voltage shaver sockets and pull cords. Even those are only allowed in specific zones of the room away from splashing and wet kids hands etc.

There must be a lot of crispy Americans in cemeteries across the US!!

(Alex) #8

@RobinWinbourne - I moved from Italy to Texas and there too we had outlets near the sink for hairdryers mostly. I am guessing that the two outlets I have near the two sinks in the master bathroom are both for hairdryers and accessories of that nature. The outlets are GFCI protected which is nearly the same as the whole house protection we had in Italy and likely in the UK. I believe what is absolutely not allowed are outlets near the bathtub as a radio / hairdryer / etc falling in a tub with you in it is certainly resulting in you ending up “crispy”.

Most american homes barely have any “electric shock” protection… as until recently the only requirement was to have GFCI outlets where water is present. In Italy our entire house was protected by a main switch that sensed dispersal to ground (GFCI) and thus tripped if anyone got a shock. As a kid I tested that switch soooo many times! I got my fair share of 220V shocks starting at 6 years of age when I first started experimenting with electricity. I’ve read that the US is slowly moving to protecting whole areas of the house with GFCI breakers with the goal to protect the entire house in a number of years… better late than never… compared to tiny old Italy that would be 30 or so years later.

I have already replaced 7 or 8 of my 20A breakers with AFCI/GFCI breakers as I have a 1.5yr old child whom will likely take from me when it comes to electrical experimentation ;-). I am not aware of a 200A GFCI breaker so I can’t do it for the whole house with a single breaker… after all it is better to have a portion of the house go out in case of an issue rather than the whole thing.

(Ron Talley) #9

Definitely have a outlet right next to my tub, of course it is GFI protected but what I found strange is that in my house, built in 2001, there is only 1 GFI for the both baths upstairs…weird but apparently its within local code to do so.

I talking about 2 outlets in hall bath and 3 outlets in master bath all on one GFI located in the hall bath. My master bathroom outlets went out and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where the damn GFI was nor the breaker. I thought I had some faulty wiring. Come to find out, the GFI in the bathroom way down the hall had tripped…:fearful:

(Robin) #10

I’m shocked… this kind of setup would put a UK electrician in jail, even though we have whole house protection!!

I would NEVER put my trust in electronic / electromagnetic protection, especially when I’m sitting in a tub full of water… These things can and do fail!

I can’t count the number of times I have been ‘tingled’ during wiring jobs without the protection breakers tripping (we call them RCD’s). They are not faulty.

RCD’s detect current imbalance between live and neutral, thus indicating a leak to earth / ground. If you are grounded to earth when you touch a hot wire you will (hopefully) trip the protection, but when grounded to neutral you can be in big big trouble! Hopefully your bath and plumbing is earthed? (We earth all plumbing / conductive fixtures using dedicated earth circuits)

A basic safety principle is to try and eliminate a risk before considering other control measures (i.e. No outlet before considering a protected outlet)

An RCD / GFCI outlet will (half) protect anything (or anyone) plugged into it, but the wires behind and much of the guts within won’t be protected at all.

If you get enough water splashes / bathroom steam in and behind that outlet I’ll be using that ‘crispy’ word again :fireworks:

(Ron Talley) #11

Yeah, I was kinda surprised myself! First when I saw the outlet next to the tub then even more shocked when I realized it was protected by a GFI in a totally different bathroom! :scream:

Hey, they say if you don’t have a picture then it doesn’t exist so…

p.s., If my wife knew I uploaded this picture of our not so clean bathroom she would have my head!

(Robin) #12

Looks 10x better than my bathroom, but that’s because my wife delegates bathroom cleaning to me (and I’m too busy tinkering with HA)

(Robin) #13

At least with the GFI in another room the wiring and guts behind the outlet are also (half) protected.

I’ll still include a prayer for you tonight though! :innocent: (only kidding, not my thing)

(Ron Talley) #14

I have a bunch of echo dots and an echo and my wife loves taking the echo into the bathroom when she takes a bubble bath. She plugs it in there and everytime she does, I have to remind her how easy it would be for the thing to fall over into the tub and send zapidy zap zap. I know that it is the walwart converts the 120 to 14v dc and that is what the echo works off of so it probably would hurt much but still, I shiver everytime she plugs something up there.

But hey, if it wasn’t for the window there, I would have a 55" TV on the wall!

Sorry OP for getting off topic!

(Alex) #15

@rontalley @RobinWinbourne - We may have unintentionally hijacked @d_sly 's thread here…

…but I agree with you both that the safety measures taken could be better. Not having an outlet in the bathroom would be quite limiting so I would rather have one but I am also quite aware of what could get me in trouble so I know what to avoid. The issue is with those who do not and think that a radio plugged in sitting next to their tub is ok…

With regards to one GFCI protecting multiple rooms (anything connected after the outlet is protected by that outlet), I too agree it is dumb especially when it really doesn’t save that much money to do so. I’d rather not mix circuits from different parts of the house… but I guess I will have to be around next time we buy a new build as they did so in my current house. I believe you can remove the GFCI outlets if you have GFCI breakers, which I am in the process of installing for the entire house, so at least it will be a cleaner look and no hunting around the house if something trips. Protection is the same or maybe a tiny bit better considering Robin’s comment on parts of the outlet still being energized…

To steer the thread back to @d_sly 's topic…

This site may have some useful info on compatibility between LED lights and Leviton Dimmers.

This other PDF shows what LED lights were tested…:

(Robin) #16

Yes, sorry @d_sly for hijacking your thread, I can be worse than youtube for going off topic.

Just had a thought that may help though:

My (bright) bathroom lights are controlled by a Fibaro Dimmer 2, same as my other (dim) rooms, but the Fibaro modules run an auto calibration to choose between leading or trailing edge dimmer.

I wonder if the different type of fittings in my bathroom could have resulted in a different / incorrect dimmer type selection? I’ll try changing parameters tomorrow to force it both ways and see if that makes any difference to the minimum brightness.

Not sure if this could apply to the dimmers you are using but worth a look.

(Alex) #17

@RobinWinbourne - You said the magic word… Calibration. If the Fibaro Dimmer 2 calibrates itself to the load then it will work better as it can fine tune the 0 to 100% range to the load. Maybe it doesn’t apply to dimmers but when you are acquiring a 1V signal using a 16bit ADC on a 0-10V analog input, you will typically get a much better reading if you amplify the signal to match your full input range as the 16bits are fully taken advantage of. Not sure I can make it very clear using just a basic example and few words but the point is that there may be something to do with the load connected and the dimmer’s ability to adjust to it.

Ihappen to have 4 LED 1000 lumens can lights in my kitchen plus an identical can light for my sink. Given I wanted all of my kitchen lights on (what a pain to reach under the sink to turn on my sink light each time!) and I could not install a Leviton wall dimmer under the sink as there was no neutral, I resorted to using a Fibaro Dimmer 2 inside the sink can light itself. Then I programmed a smartapp to turn on my sink light when the kitchen light goes on, and of course also match my dimmer settings.

The point I am never getting to is that 1% light output on the Fibaro Dimmer 2 is much dimmer than the output on the identical lights controlled by the Leviton wall dimmer. There indeed seems to be a difference in dimmer performance. I will add pictures as soon as i can but with the naked eye the difference is pretty obvious and may help @d_sly achieve his goal.

Edit: Picture below doesn’t really show the real difference as the camera blows out the lights. They are all set to 1% but only the middle light is controlled by the Fibaro Dimmer 2 which by the way is a very impressive and customizable device.

This other one may show the difference a bit more.

(Dave) #18

Great input all and you’re probably right that the dimmer is more important than the can. I’ve got a giant stack of every (standard) LED can I could find ready to test this experiment but my apologies for not getting up the results sooner. I’m currently in a wheelchair from a skiing accident so I won’t be able to install the new fixtures for at least another ~2 months. Sorry for the delay but I haven’t forgotten about the project. Cheers!