After helping countless sparkies address issues associated with flickering lights, I decided to put some words down that might help all you other guys faced with a similar situation. This blog covers some basic strategies that may help you get to the bottom of why your lighting control or dimming system suddenly starts flickering the lights its controlling.
The most common call for help we keep getting is: "Can you help me fix these lights that are flashing on and off??!"
In situations like these, it's important to determine whether or not the flashing started after lights were changed, or occurred from the get-go in a new system build. If the flashing occurred after changing some lights in a room, then it may mean you've installed light,s or light fittings, that are incompatible with the dimming technology currently being used. I'm assuming of course, that you're using something like a Clipsal C-Bus or a Philips Dynalite Lighting Control System. In most situations, we find that LED light fittings are used to replace existing halogens, or other light sources that once dimmed smoothly with the system at hand but now are barely able to hold a dimming level, or even turn off completely without incessant blinking or sporadic flashing even after the lights have been turned off. This has much to do with the electronic make up of the LED light fitting internal structure, and the dimming electronics not being able to cope with that type of load. Needless to mention that phase dimming technology (leading/trailing edge) was designed for resistive loads such as incandescent and halogen lighting... Certainly not LED type loads. The reason for that is because an LED is effectively a semiconductor where the others are resistors... in basic terms of course..!
On many occasions, if this occurs, I've found Load Correction Devices, offered by several manufacturers, such as Clipsal and Phillips Dynalite, to be of some use. I refer to specific devices, such as the Clipsal 31LCDA or the Dynalite DMAL120F-V2 Active Load. These units can be connected across the load and Neutral terminals of that specific dimmer channel. This is not a blanket guarantee that the flickering will be resolved however, it should improve the performance. The best advice I can give in these situations, would be to first procure a handful of the intended light fitting replacements, and connect them to the system at hand and then monitor the performance. Unfortunately, the LED fitting market, is very much like the Wild West currently, with no compelling standard for manufacturers to adhere to, or overall compatibility requirement to dimming systems. This will ultimately help you determine whether or not the fittings you're proposing to use as replacements, will play nice with the resident dimming technology.
If you're about to embark on a new build and you're required to incorporate lighting control and dimming throughout, it's pretty hard to go past DALI as a solution to potential dimming compatibility hazards. DALI stands for Digital Addressable Lighting Interface and basically means that the dimming smarts are handled at the driver or fitting (if it also incorporates the driver, such as track light fitting) and not by the lighting control system dimmer. Although DALI light fittings are a little more expensive than non-DALI fittings (at least this seems to be the case at the time of writing) it does mean you will need considerably less lighting control system hardware at the electrical distribution board. In fact, I'd argue that using DALI offers substantial savings to the sparky at rough-in, provided they know what they're doing, in comparison to both traditional, or conventional smart home mains wiring.
As with all our Tips and Tricks, this advice is for the professional Electricians, who have a basic level knowledge of home automation systems. If you tried your hand and it didn't go as planned, we'll send out our Technician to fix things up and make you look good again.