Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

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Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

The Outback inverter we have supposedly produces a pure sine wave. If that is the case, why do my LED lights flicker? It's so annoying sometimes that I just turn off the lights.

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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by 706jim »

I know that if you take a string of Christmas tree lights and wave them back and forth you can easily see them turning on and off rapidly. Maybe all LED's do this?
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

pioneerMan wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:14 pm The Outback inverter we have supposedly produces a pure sine wave. If that is the case, why do my LED lights flicker? It's so annoying sometimes that I just turn off the lights.

Thank you.
We installed inexpensive LED ceiling lights and found out one reason they are cheap is because the driver circuits and emitters are cheap. They flicker at times, especially if used with a dimmer. Other times, they seem to be impacted when motors/compressors are running.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

raysun wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:24 pm We installed inexpensive LED ceiling lights and found out one reason they are cheap is because the driver circuits and emitters are cheap.
Has anyone found a brand of LED light that is higher quality? So far I've been using these amber bulbs because they block more of the blue light emitted by regular LED lights. Dr. Mercola says the blue light is damaging to the eyes especially at night time.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value- ... /155153029
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by EA6LE-ONE »

I have some led lights like that and they do blink while dimmed. there are some special dimmers that reduce the flicker but they are expensive. the led lights do flicker when a significant load starts. the dimming also amplify that flicker. have some led lights that are dimmed to lowest and they almost go off for a fraction of second sometimes.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by fcwlp »

raysun wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:24 pm We installed inexpensive LED ceiling lights and found out one reason they are cheap is because the driver circuits and emitters are cheap. They flicker at times, especially if used with a dimmer. Other times, they seem to be impacted when motors/compressors are running.
@raysun has it correct. I have worked with with a number of the LED companies in the past. Based on my experience I only use Philips or Cree LED lights and have no flickering issues. I also trust their quality control. If you do use a dimmer, you must make sure it is for LED lights and has been tested for the specific LED light model.
Last edited by fcwlp on Fri Jan 08, 2021 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by provo »

pioneerMan wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:20 pm
Has anyone found a brand of LED light that is higher quality?
I like these, partly because I can get them in 5000°K color, and partly because of the radiating ribs. A lot of my fixtures are fully enclosed, and if they don't have ribs they die quicker.

TCP dimmable.jpg
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by sbrownian »

706jim wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:16 pm I know that if you take a string of Christmas tree lights and wave them back and forth you can easily see them turning on and off rapidly. Maybe all LED's do this?
LEDs are -DC- powered devices.

Most of the time, the flicker is due to poorly designed, (read cheap @ssed,) power supplies that do just half wave rectification that results in pulsed DC feeding the LEDs. (The el cheapo Christmas lights.)

The higher end products have actual switching power supplies that turn the AC into high voltage DC and then 'chop' that using variable duty cycle switching elements. The resulting high frequency pulses are fed into filters that smooth out those pulses into fairly clean DC that goes to the LEDs.. (I haven't seen linear power supplies used for this type of application in literally decades.)

A less expensive methods is to >not< really filter it much at all as that switching frequency is a lot higher than what you can perceive.

As an interesting side benefit of that, they have found that you can actually place information IN that pulse stream and have devices 'read' that and transfer data via the visible light. (Shades of TEMPEST, anyone?)

Old timers (me included,) will remember infrared networking file transfer ports on early laptops...

The reason for specifying LED rated dimmers has to do with the way the old dimmers work. They basically have an SCR or TRIAC circuit that 'waits' until the AC waveform gets partially thorough the cycle and then switches on, letting the remainder of that part of the cycle 'through' to the light. The thermal delay, or 'ballistics' of a tungsten element is long enough to smooth out the resulting pulses of AC power.

That loss of energy between pulses can excede the ability of the LED power supply filter it out, cause instability issues, or just plain not deliver enough voltage for the power supply to work.

Look up AC rectification and TRIAC light dimmers for more info.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by BLACKROCK50 »

I have a ceiling full of Cree can lights which, sadly, intermittently exhibit the flickering. All attempts to diagnose the problem have failed. I suspect the Cree lights (and various other brand bulbs installed) are using pulsed drivers whose duty cycles are somehow being perturbed resulting the episodes of flickering.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

LED lights are a blessing and a curse. Yes they use a lot less electricity, which is good for someone living off grid. But they also produce "dirty" electricity and most bulbs produce a lot of blue light, which is harmful to your eyes in the evening hours:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/arti ... risks.aspx

I have found that my eyes feel better with these amber bulbs that block out much of the blue light:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value- ... /732147447
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

I find Marcola articles often paint a picture with a very broad brush.

Yes, blue light is harder on the eyes, and in typical daylight, pupil dilation helps to attenuate the dose.

LEDs come in all manner of light quality. The best will have a high CRI - Color Rendering Index - a measure of their faithfulness to the same slice of spectrum produced by sunlight.

Some LEDs are classed as "full spectrum", a fancy-sounding marketing term implying emission of the "full spectrum" of visible light. A full spectrum LED with a high CRI more faithfully reproduces the power distribution of the light waves within the visible spectrum. Conversely a low CRI full spectrum LED does not, and may have emissions with skewed power distribution.

Some LEDs are designed to produce less than a full spectrum, their dominant emissions will be measured in Kelvin using the "black body radiator" scale. The lower the Kelvin rating, the "warmer" the light, having less blue. These LEDs will still be rated for CRI within their dominant emission spectrum.

Of course, very narrow spectrum LEDs also exist - principally in the IR and UV portions of the light spectrum.

The qualitative issue of "flicker" is an issue with LEDs. Actually its an issue with most all electric light sources. With incandescent, there's certain thermal inertia smoothing emissions out. With fluorescent, its so ubiquitous that people either get used to it, or shun the source altogether. LEDs are very fast-responding so "noise" from the driver (ballast) is quite noticeable. High frequency AC drive current is quite common, cheap to implement, and problem plagued. The better drivers will make an attempt to filter distortion, but none of the consumer models are immune. The far more expensive DC drivers are easier to "clean" but have limited dimming capabilities and are only used in specialty lighting.

External dimmers cause another set of challenges, and even the "top quality" brands cause issues.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by sbrownian »

And realize that most "white" LEDs 'make' their light in much the same method as the fluorescent tubes..
They have a single frequency LED that is used to 'drive' a literal chip of chemicals that fluoresce at different wavelengths.

(Try this at night.. Close your eyes and let them get a bit dark adapted. Shut off the lights and take a look at the LED. Most of them have a pretty good 'glow' for a short time afterwards.)
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by Sglanger »

Its been 3 years now since we put in the solar, but if I recall correctly (and I think my wife would back me on this) our LED can lights in the kitchen did not flicker pre-solar when the oven kicked in. Now they do. The oven is on the GT panel, the house lights are on the backed up panel

PS: no dimmer involved
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by jnh »

I've had mostly good results with Philiips, Cree, and GE brand LED bulbs, along with some various inexpensive multi-packs from cheap Amazon brands like "Sunco" and "TOBUSA".

However, in the kitchen we have five ~11W LED can lights of unknown make, originally wired with the center can on a separate Leviton dimmer switch (triac-type, but labeled as LED/CFL compatible) from the outer four, and found that center light would often flicker badly when set for the lower ~40% of its dimming range, and the inverter was operating in grid-tie mode. Turning off the inverter or incoming PV stopped the flickering, but strangely, so would DROP'ing the grid to operate in standalone battery-based mode - only grid-tie would cause flickering. I figured it must have something to do with the inverter's anti-islanding detection, which might add extra noise or phase distortion around the AC waveform zero-crossing.

I mostly solved this by wiring all 5 cans to a single dimmer, but with a separate switch in series to each set, so either the center or surrounding cans can be separately turned off, but the dimmer is usually driving more than a single can's load. Now flickering only happens if we try to run the center one by itself, at a low dimmer setting, during the day, so we just avoid that particular combination.

At some point I still want to try substituting a different brand of dimmer, perhaps substituting a Lutron from the Levitons, to see if that makes any difference.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by JRHill »

Not long ago I posted a website that sells DC powered LED lights of various styles in the popular voltages. I was intrigued but ultimately dismissed the idea. To pull separate runs of DC conductors could've been done at the design stage but not now.

But regarding the 'flickering' of LEDs from an inverter system, would not the DC LEDs be more tolerant (consistent) at the nominal voltage? I profess my ignorance of semiconductors in this subject which is probably obvious.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

Hopefully we are in the "cheap" phase of home LED lighting, and will eventually transition into the "good" phase.

No matter the excitation source, ultimately the issue comes down to how the LED driver responds. Voltage fluctuations are often the culprit on the incoming AC, and the drivers act a bit like voltage "followers" rather than voltage "correctors".

Triac style dimmers are problematic as well. The magnetic style dimmers have a better chance of producing a clean (enough) waveform for compatible LED drivers.

When I lived on the mainland, I kept fancy saltwater reef aquariums. When LED lighting came on the scene, I switched out all the fluorescents for (very spendy) LEDs. Initially, the delicate corals, other invertebrates, and fish had very poor response to them. I thought the issue was spectrum, but couldn't see gross errors in that, or color rendering. Lots of back-and-forth with manufacturers, trying various drivers, even different lights didn't bring the type of relief needed. I was ready to scrap the whole project (and $$$$ of investment) and return to fluorescent when, on a whim, I plugged the lights into a big Furman power conditioner I had recently removed from my home theater during an upgrade.

Lo and behold! The coral started responding almost immediately. It turns out, our city grid power induced an essentially invisible flicker in the LEDs.

To date, LED flicker is somewhat of an intractable problem. Well conditioned power seems to remove the symptoms, but the disability lies within the fixture design itself.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by sbrownian »

I would be willing to bet that if the LEDs >themselves< (not the 'drivers',) were powered from your basic current limited bench top power supply that produced DC with ripple in the sub millivolt range, they would produce absolutely -zero- flicker and be fully brightness adjustable across their whole range.

The problem is the cheap @ssed manufacturers not putting proper filtering bits in the 'drivers' because, well, you know.. That costs money!
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

sbrownian wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 12:16 pm I would be willing to bet that if the LEDs >themselves< (not the 'drivers',) were powered from your basic current limited bench top power supply that produced DC with ripple in the sub millivolt range, they would produce absolutely -zero- flicker and be fully brightness adjustable across their whole range.

The problem is the cheap @ssed manufacturers not putting proper filtering bits in the 'drivers' because, well, you know.. That costs money!
Yep. The power supply would be the "driver", and that design, or at least those performance specs, are what's needed.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by RealityRipple »

Doing a test today. Went out and bought some new California Title 24, JA8 rated 800 lumen LED bulbs. Replaced my older 800 lumen LED bulbs that have been flickering horribly for years about 20 minutes ago. The flicker is gone. The socket for these bulbs, I'm pretty sure, is on the same circuit as the refrigerator and washing machine and all the other really high draws in this house, and has been singularly "complainy" about signal quality for its entire existence (~20 years now) and so far the new standard bulbs are killing it. It's almost uncanny how solid they are right now. Of course, I can't do a lot of the change-in-wattage tests I'd normally do because my desktop computer literally died on me yesterday (bad motherboard on an old AMD FX/DDR3 system so I'll need to buy a new CPU and RAM to upgrade to today's standards), but I'll try doing other daily tasks and report back.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

RealityRipple wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 12:52 pm Went out and bought some new California Title 24, JA8 rated 800 lumen LED bulbs
Do you have a URL for this new amazing LED bulb? What does Title 24 refer to?
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

Doing a test today. Went out and bought some new California Title 24, JA8 rated 800 lumen LED bulbs.
That's great news! California leads the way again. I guess the vendor decided, if they had to go to the expense of meeting the JA8 standards, they might as well make a driver that's not a PoS.

I'll be buying my LED upgrades from California compliant sources from now on.

An explainer:
https://blog.1000bulbs.com/home/ja8-lig ... enefit-you
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

I would never want to live in draconian California. Their regulations are over the top. Here is one example from the URL posted above:

"Wall mounted outdoor lights must be controlled by one of the following combinations: photocell and motion sensor, astronomical time clock, Energy Management Control System (EMCS) with the features of an astronomical time clock, or a photocell and time switch"

If the prophecies are true, California may not be around much longer, as the west coast eventually descends into the ocean never to be seen again.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by raysun »

No soup for you!!

*PRO TIP* You don't need to live in California to take advantage of California mandated energy efficient LED bulbs (that early reports extol as flicker-free). You can order them and have them shipped to pretty much any locale.

Just don't use Pony Express, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by RealityRipple »

pioneerMan wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 12:56 pm
RealityRipple wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 12:52 pm Went out and bought some new California Title 24, JA8 rated 800 lumen LED bulbs
Do you have a URL for this new amazing LED bulb? What does Title 24 refer to?
The ones I grabbed were this brand, but a 2-pack instead of 4. The shiny gold square next to the Energy⭐ logo indicates Title 24 compliance. Here's a little PDF on Title 20 and Title 24 which focuses on the JA8 section.
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Re: Why do LED lights sometimes flicker?

Post by pioneerMan »

RealityRipple wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:45 pm [The ones I grabbed were this brand.
I wonder if they make an amber version? I find the soft amber glow type LED lights to be easier on my eyes at night.
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