Rectory we removed an old fan that had 4 a19 bulbs in it and replaced it with a new harbor breeze that had 4 cadleabra bulbs, we didn't like the light output or hue so I swapped the cadleabra bases with a19 and place utiltech daylight led bulbs in the fan, which is what we were using before.

Since we're using led, I am not worried about the wattage being prop low.

The problem is when I go to use the dimmer (a lutron led/cfl dimmer), the 4 lights barley dim now. However, if I replace 1 led with a standard incandescent, the dimmer has full range of dimming each bulb from a spotlight too where the bulb is barley glowing (like the rest of the the house).

I tested what would happen with an array of bulb combinations, and if I use 4 incandescent, the bulbs are ver ddim as if the don't have enough power. Additionally, I have adjusted the dimmer dial behind wall, and it has no effect. We also have replaced it with a new switch and that had no effect.

  • What is "prop low"?
    – isherwood
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:16
  • I am confused as to whether the dimming worked before. You say flat out these are new LED bulbs for this fixture, are they new for this dimmer? (I.e. Did you reuse them from the old fan, where they did work)? Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


Dimming LED lamps is not straightforward. LED lamps contain relatively complex control circuitry (here is an example of a "simple" DIY version) to convert mains-voltage AC into low-voltage DC. There are various designs of LED driver circuits, which have different characteristics.

Dimmer switches also come in different designs. The two main types are "leading edge" and "trailing edge" (for more information Google these terms or e.g. see this page). Some more sophisticated models can be programmed to operate in either mode. In addition, dimmer switches are rated with both maximum and minimum power handling and will not function or be damaged outside those limits.

So there are a few possible reasons for your problem:

  • your four LED lamps are below the minimum wattage rating of your dimmer. This seems most likely given that increasing the load by adding one incandescent works.
  • your dimmer type is not compatible with your LED lamps. Adding the incandescent lamp may alter the load characteristics enough that the dimmer switch then works (though with a risk of premature lamp or dimmer failure)

  • your dimmer is a programmable one and is in the wrong mode for your LED lamps (you will need the instruction manual for the dimmer switch for how to change it - e.g. mine are programmed using a complex sequence of quarter and half turns and on-and-off switches that needs safe-breaking skills to get right)

  • when one incandescent fixes it, the more likely explanation is that the dimmer powers itself by leaking current through the bulbs because it doesn't have a neutral. This method is appropriate for incandescents, not for LED/fluorescent. One incandescent gives the dimmer the leakage current path it needs to function. This indicates the other LEDs are dimmble, but the dimmer is junk. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 19:07
  • And by the way, that surprises me, since Utilitech is reknowned for being complete ****, but Lutron is reputed to be alright. I would check with Lutron (they have accessible phone support) and see if the bulb is one they support. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 19:46

They now sell LED dimmer lightbulbs that are rated for fans. Lowes

  • I have a fan that had 4 candelabra-style incandescent bulbs. Bought 4 new LED bulbs to fit. Then the controls wouldn't work. So then I took one out and put an incandescent back in, and it works. Some controls need more of a load, I guess.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 21:32

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