Cree CR6 flicker-NOT on a dimmer

suburbanjulsJanuary 24, 2014

Hi all,
I am hoping to find out why I have had so much trouble with my Cree CR6 LED's. Way back in in the beginning of my kitchen remodel I lurked a lot on this forum to figure out what I wanted in lighting. I knew that I didn't want a yellowish light on my bright white cabinets, so I orders a few different temps from Polar Ray, 3000K, 3500K, and 4000K. This are the actual Cree product that is 625l, GU24 base as I'm in CA. I decided on the middle one as fitting my needs. So my contractor ordered the rest of what I needed from my local electrical distributor for the entire ground floor as well as stairway and upstairs hallway. I did actually see the boxes of lights when they came in and they were the right thing.
I repositioned the ones I had bought from Polar Ray in other areas such as laundry that weren't getting remodeled.
Well, before the big order came in I was experiencing substantial flicker on all three of my Cree lights. I sent them back to Polar Ray and they assured me that this was highly unusual for actual Cree lights, especially as they were not on dimmers! They were kind enough to exchange them for all 3500K since that was the color I had chosen.
Well I thought that resolved it but now I have had several more start to flicker and my contractor seems unwilling to get to the root of the problem. Some of them are in areas that have a dimmer and some are not. We talked extensively about the dimmers and he knows the difference between the ones for incandescent and LED. However, I did not see the boxes for these. He is of the mindset that these lights are not what they are cracked up to be and wants to put in Ecosmarts from HD at 2700K so he can be done with it. I am heartbroken because I feel that I researched so much about all the little aspects of the remodel and these were supposed to be the best money can buy.
The other problem is since this is the third time I have had him come out for flickering and as a result the lights have been rearranged and I no longer know which ones were the ones from Polar Ray and quick ones were from the local shop. He temporarily put in Ecosmarts so I wouldn't have to deal with the flickering or a empty hole and he repositioned them to be al in one room.
He is coming out to trouble shoot next week but I am not too confident in a resolution that does not involve a trip to big orange.
What could the possible reasons be, and what should I do? Also, assuming the problem is something he can fix and the lights are not bad, is there any reduction in lifespan or quality of the light that has been subjected to a lot of flickering? Or should I insist they all be replaced to new anyway?
Thanks so much!

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I thought the Ecosmarts fixtures were CREE CR6s...

Anyway, do they flicker in unison? I had a problem with the Ecosmart BR40s (Lighting Science 15watt) flickering in unison. When I say in unison, our family room has two circuits, and only the bulbs on the same circuit would flicker in unison.

I replaced the Lutron Skylark dimmer switch with one of the new Lutrons designed to work the LEDs and the flicker went away.

Although you mentioned that you do not have a dimmer on all of your bulbs, if they do flicker in unison, it might be worth experimenting with a LED dimmer.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 2:23PM
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The flicker could be caused by fluctuations (noise) in the AC input voltage. This needs to be checked by your electrician.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 9:53PM
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Thanks mattpete and davidtay,

The lights definitely do not flicker in unison, and some of the worst offenders are not on a dimmer. Where I do have dimmers, I have the Lutron diva dimmers, which are compatible.

Mattpete, the ecosmart brand belongs to HD, and is made using some Cree brand parts, but is not an entire Cree product. They are only offered in a select range, which is what led me to look at other manufacturers for the color light that I wanted.(35k)

Davidtay, I'm not sure what the AC voltage input is. We put in all new wiring with new dedicated circuits. Do you mean our power source from the city? Would that affect other areas of the house if that is the problem? We've lived here for 10 yrs and had no issues with builder grade everything.

The main thing I am struggling with is that I really wanted a specific temp for the house and if these won't work for whatever reason, I am back to square one. Should I persevere and push on, or is there a better option for me?


    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 2:25PM
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AC input - 120V AC +/- 5V.
It depends on how things were wired up. For example when several circuits share the same ground wire, there may be variations in the ground potential (i.e. sporadically non zero) seen on other circuits due to the current draw on one circuit.

Other noise sources include motors, ...

In the end, it would be advisable to have your electrician go through the wiring and confirm whether it is due to electrical noise on the wiring or not.

LEDs and CFLs are more visibly affected by electrical noise than incandescent lighting.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:22PM
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I have had three CR6s that have started flickering after a few months. Interestingly the three bad ones were the 5000K version - of eight purchased. Since I bought them at Home Depot, I just exchanged them for new ones - no questions asked. The 22 or so 2700K CR6s have all been fine.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:58AM
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Not sure if this will help you specifically, but it might put things in perspective.

When I put in 5 dimmable LEDs (Satco S8947) in my kitchen to replace builder's incandescents, I decided I wanted 2 more drops created and I wanted to put them on a dimmer. So I had the electrician create two more drops and install a dimmer. I had purchased a Lutron LED-compatible dimmer in advance of electrician coming out. But as soon as he connected the dimmer, the lights went haywire. He had a standard dimmer in his truck and that worked fine, so he left it connected. But then I had to go buy 2 more LED's for the 2 new drops. When I installed them, I got flickering (several bulbs randomly). I tried just putting 1 LED in and that was OK. I thought one LED might be bad so I brought it back and exchanged it. Put it in and got flicker again. Took one out and still got flicker. Swapped where the 7th non-LED was and flicker stopped. So, bottom line my dimmer is right on the cusp of being able to handle 5 bulbs, sometimes 6 depending on location. Crazy!!!

The lighting supply house said this is not uncommon and directed me to the SATCO website where there is a list of several compatible dimmers. He also recommended a dimmer that they sell. But the logistics of hit or miss ordering and returning dimmers to find a compatible one and hiring the electrician for one or multiple visits, was not appealing to me. So I put an incandescent in the 7th hole that made the dimmer happy with the 6 LEDs. Luckily the colors are pretty close. And no one but me should know that one is not an LED. Who looks up at LED lights?

Oh, another thing I learned was that if the switch for the LEDs is sharing a box with another switch (mine is) that will negatively affect the situation too.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 8:20PM
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Hi folks,

A month has passed since my last post and I now fear that my contractor has dumped me with this problem still unsolved, as he is not responding to me. Aside from trying to avoid legal fees that would exceed the repair, I am trying to get to the bottom of this myself. Ugh

Here is what I know...

All new wiring(120) in the entire kitchen and adjoining family room.

A dedicated circuit just for kitchen lights.

All other lights in family room, etc are on circuits with plenty of capacity.

No more than 5 recessed LED's per dimmer-most with less

Dimmers show compatibility(Lutron diva)

UCL (philips)lights not flickering on same circuit and using same dimmer type

The lights start flickering only after a few weeks, starting out only barely noticeably then increasing over time-NOT in unison with each other with some only just last week beginning to flicker(installed in November).

Several lights are flickering with NO dimmer installed at all, such as over stairway-this is causing me to think something is wrong with ALL 17 of the lights themselves.

All inspections with city passed with flying colors and compliments from the inspector who is known for being quite strict.

I have emailed customer support today for Cree since these are their own lights, NOT the ones from Home Depot, but I am not sure if I will get a response since I am an personal consumer.

I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to electrical things. I really am a suburban mom. Everything I know is from reading online, and I have to read things multiple times to let it soak in. I'm not dense, I am just more adept at wrapping my head around other things like replicating Michelin star menus that I've never tasted to pair with some favorite wines. If only the lights in my new kitchen wouldn't give me the shakes while I'm prepping.....

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:18PM
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Electrical noise can cause the lights to flicker. For instance, if 2 circuits share the same ground, there could be momentary spikes.

The proper way to diagnose this is to see what the waveform looks like on a oscilloscope.

Possible solutions, assuming that electrical noise is the cause

You'd have to engage with Cree support and your electrician.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:36PM
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"Dimmers show compatibility(Lutron diva)"

Compatibility with what? Have you consulted the bulb list for Lutron Diva switches? Are the flickering bulbs on the list?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:30PM
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Thanks davidtay,

Wow that's really technical so I may have to read it a few times.(lol). Of course it could be just the thing so I won't dismiss it.

Thanks rococogurl,

The original lights in question are all true Cree cr6 625lumens gu24 base 35k color. I have verified with Lutron and Cree that the products I have are compatible with each other.

It still does not explain the flicker in the lights at the top of my stairs which is on NO dimmer and a completely different circuit than the dimmed ones in the kitchen. Those were, in fact, the first ones to start. Thank goodness I don't use the steps much at night so I just leave them off all the time.

I have made contact with a rep from Cree and will work through their troubleshooting guide and update. Sounds like a fun(sarcasm) project for the hubs and I this weekend since my contractor is still unresponsive.

Until then....

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

I have two Cree A19, daylight, 40 watt bulbs that black out from time to time. No dimmer switch. I replaced the switch with a new 20 amp switch. Same results as old switch.

Nobody has an answer.

So, I returned them for an identical exchange.

Results are the same. Black outs and now flickering has been introduced to the scenario.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 6:14AM
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What did you use before the Cree bulb and did you observe issues like shortened life span, ... Before?

I would expect that there is something amiss with your electrical wiring.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 10:06AM
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Thanks davidtay,

Before the remodel, I had standard can lights with CFL bulbs, the kind that screw into the can as well as a flourescent light box. No dimmers at all. And no issues with longevity of lights prior to remodel.

Existing wiring was all up to code and we could have left it but I specifically opted to run all new so we could separate out the circuits how we wanted(kitchen lights, family room lights, kitchen GFCI, standard plugs, each major appliance, etc)

All these things were standard for my contractor. The only deviation from what he has done in all his other jobs is my specification for all Cree products rather than the Ecosmart from HD.

I am going to get some Ecosmarts this weekend and work through the troubleshooting guide from the Cree tech. My plan is to replace a couple each dimmed/not dimmed. We'll see if that does anything or if they flicker as well. I will also see if I can deal with the 27k color.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:33AM
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First, I would return the bulb and get a sub. I had 3 of my "20 year" LED Par 30 floods just go dead after a few months. I think this technology is only 3/4 baked.

Then, in the flickering continues I'd ask Lutron to replace that particular switch (may possibly be a wrong switch). To support that I'd make a video of what's happening and send it to their tech support people.

If that doesn't do it, then either the bulb or switch needs to change to a different model. Cheaper to get a different compatible bulb, seems to me.

IME so far -- I'm a designer who has a whole house of ceiling lights and dimmers, not a lighting engineer -- the bulbs are not reliable no matter what anyone says. I know everyone is high on the Cree (including my contractor). I've had fairly decent luck, on average, with most of the Utilitech bulbs (made by Feit) from Lowe's. Their house brand. Can't seem to find the Cree around here.

Most contractors will be useless as they don't understand any of this. Our insulation contractor is green-certified and encouraged me to change out the bulbs. After I did that I discovered the old switch issue which he wasn't aware of. He is now.

I'm thinking of changing out just a few key switches. I put an LED bulb in the single can above my sink and it works and it dims as it's a 1-way old switch but it also flickers.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

My house is one year old.

There's nothing wrong with the wiring.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Age of the house has no bearing on whether you'd get electrical noise.

There are situations where a common ground wire is shared between different circuits. Or there could be electrical noise generated by attached appliances propagating to other circuits.

You can try changing the bulbs to cfls or incandescent or some other led vendor. If the underlying cause is electrical noise, the replacements would not last very long.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 4:22PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

The original bulbs were halogen and were original, so about a year old. I replaced them on purpose to reduce heat in the enclosed fixture and conserve energy.

There are not any attached appliances to the lighting circuit.

Last evening, the LED bulbs were on for several hours and did not black out. This morning, they blinked twice in 10 minutes. Strange behavior.

Maybe it's my cat?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:35AM
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There is a design flaw in the CR6 that causes the flicker. A component is over stressed and fails. I have repaired several of them over the past year.

If you are running without a dimmer and see flicker/shimmer then the light is defective.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 7:26AM
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I'm using Cree bulbs in two pendant fixtures in the living room, each on separate dimmers. One was flickering, changed the bulb. It flickers occasionally but I can get it to stop by adjusting the dimmer. I may switch them out for incandescent bulbs, even though they are warm white, they still have a hint of fluorescent look to me.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:29AM
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Buchu, how to get them repaired? I have CR6-800 lumen recessed lights. None of them flicker. But 2 of Cr6-625 lumen recessed LED lights flicker.

Thank you very much.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2014 at 11:04AM
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None of my newly installed (in the recessed cans that were in stalled in December 2011) CREE 1500 lumens 3,000K temperature 47 degree radius PAR 38 bulbs flicker at all. They are on a switch with a sliding dimmer piece. I just bought the bulbs 2 weeks ago and I love them. I have 6 in my 10 X 14 kitchen and they put out wonderful light that is not burry. Sometimes at night I dim them if I am just going in to get a drink of water and I do not want too much light.

So sorry about your bad experience.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2014 at 11:14PM
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My CR6s aren't flickering, but some of them have started to hum or buzz. They are not on a dimmer switch.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2014 at 3:09AM
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My kitchen with CREE CR6 - 8 lights on a circuit with a dimmer - one light just started pulsing. It doesn't go off, but while the remaining lights are clear and steady, this one goes high-low intensity with about a 3 second periodicity. I'm guessing its a bad light, and that the contractor should replace it. Your thoughts?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Here's an update for anyone who is having the same problems.

I finally convinced my contractor back in May to assist in switching out all of the flickering Cree's, some of which were on a compatible dimmer, some on no dimmers. Turns out all I had to do was mention lodging a formal complaint. Of course, now that the lights have been replaced for a few months, I now have had two more start to flicker. And I have no idea if these are part of the original batch or first, second, or third replacements because when one flickers in the kitchen, I move it to the family room or elsewhere so I don't get the shakes while handling knives.

This is so maddening! I will not contact my old contractor, and he wouldn't come anyway since the remodel has been done for more than one year. His foreman who did all the electrical has since left him and moved out of state due to the contractor's personality problems affecting the business. While he was still here, we spoke many times of the lights and went through what could be the problems other than the lights themselves. It is just the lights.

I am truly disappointed in the so called longevity of these lights that they only last a few months before flickering. And it starts out so subtly that it is barely noticeable by my family, but of course, I am very sensitive to it and am checking the lights frequently.

Now I am not sure whether to keep replacing one by one, or rip them all out and start fresh with all Ecosmarts or something else. I am having some problems with my new appliances as well, so I feel at times like the entire remodel is falling apart. Ack!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 12:18PM
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As I mentioned on this thread way back in Feb, I have had similar issues with the 5000K CR6. Several more have been replaced since then. I keep returning the failed ones to HD, and buying replacements. Am hoping that I am finally getting to a set of "good" ones.

In contrast, my 2700K CR6 units have been flawless. Most are several years old now and get a lot of use.

It is interesting to note that my failed 5000K units are _not_ on a dimmer. Whereas most of the 2700K _are_ on a dimmer. All wiring is new, so I typically measure a solid 124v.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 4:13PM
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My failing CR6 is 3000K. Electrician doesn't return our calls (and we still owe him money, so something odd is up). I also am concerned that a light fixture that is now on new wires (but pre-existing) seems much less bright. It was on an electronic dimmer previously which the electrician tossed and put a new one in - so annoying.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 2:42PM
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