The Benefits, Types & Installation of Dimmer Switches

Dimmer switches are an easy and affordable way to make an impact on your home's lighting. Find all the great benefits and simple installation instructions here.

Three Different Dimmer Switches Side-by-Side

Dimmer switches are an economical, easy way to make a big difference in your home’s lighting appeal, as well as in your energy use. An often overlooked decorating secret, dimmers can change the mood of a room with just a touch. Installing a dimmer switch or changing one out is a fairly simple DIY task that doesn’t take much time, effort or expense.

Why Should I Consider Dimmer Light Switches in My Home?

There are many good reasons to install dimmer switches around your house. When the lights aren't functioning at full capacity, they use less energy and save bulb life. Dimming lights can make a room more comfortable to be in and can contribute to the desired ambiance for a party, gathering or event.

Locations for Installing a Dimmer Switch

When people think of dimmer switches, they often think of dining rooms or entry halls, which are common areas in which to find them. However, they can be useful in many different rooms and areas around a home:

Bathroom - Being able to dim the lights first thing in the morning will allow you to start your daily routine without bright light assaulting your eyes, and provide an easier transition from sleeping to waking. Also, adding a dimmer can give the effect of candlelight without introducing a fire hazard. For better relaxation at home, lower the lights before taking a luxurious bath.

Bedroom - Rarely do you truly need bright light in the bedroom. In order to keep your bedroom a place for rest, incorporating a dimmer light switch can inform your body that the day is winding down and encourage better sleeping habits. If bright light is needed, result to windows and skylights for a natural source.

Kitchen - While full light may be needed for some tasks in the kitchen, the ability to turn the lights to a lower level can come in handy, especially for early morning coffee-making or for late-night snacking. The dimmer can also set apart the cooking area from the dining area; use overhead lighting above the island or kitchen table to distinguish the areas for bigger gatherings.

Hallways - Dimmers in hallways can be handy at nighttime, especially for households with little ones. Using the dimmer will keep bright lights from shining into bedrooms while ensuring safety in case someone gets up during the night.

Living Room or Den - Lower the lighting to transform your living room into your own movie theater. The dimmer lets you crank the lights up again when reading a book or enjoying a hobby that needs a bit more light.

Porch lights - Controlling the porch light with a dimmer switch gives you better control over energy consumption; turn up the lights when you need to see outside, and dim them overnight for security while conserving power.

What Types of Dimmer Switch Styles Are Available?

Today, there are lots of different types of dimmer switches to choose. For true energy efficiency, be sure to select a model that is rated for use with compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Be sure to select dimmable CFLs whenever using this type of bulb with dimmer switches, or it could pose a fire hazard. Before purchasing a dimmer switch, know what wattage you will need and whether you have a single pole or three-way switch.

Rotary style dimmer switch

You’ll also need to decide which control style you want. The rotary style, with a circular turning knob, is the most common type of dimmer. A toggle style looks like a regular light switch, but has a smaller piece on the side that moves up and down to control the light level. A rocker control works in a similar manner as the toggle, but the small control piece is found on the side of a larger light switch. A slide has a horizontal switch that also moves up and down for light control, and tap switches are usually intended for use with LED bulbs. Scene selector controls have several buttons that let you choose the lighting level. You might want to match the control style with other dimmer light switches in the room, or home, for consistency.

If you notice a dimmer switch buzzing, you may need to simply change out the light bulb(s) in the fixture with new ones or a lower wattage. A humming dimmer switch can also indicate that the switch has insufficient wattage capacity or is of poor quality.

Steps for Installing a Dimmer Switch:

1.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for the dimmer switch that you purchased. Always follow the specific instructions for your purchase. Don't forget the warning information.

(The following are general instructions and may not apply to your particular switch or situation.)

2.  Turn off the electricity to the switch, room or zone at your home’s main fuse box/circuit breaker. Remove the cover, and always test the wires with a voltage detector to verify that the power is off. Turn the switch to the off position.

3.  Disconnect the wires, and reattach them to the dimmer switch following the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the wires back into the electrical box.

4.  Screw the dimmer into place and affix the cover plate.

5.  Turn the breaker and the switch back on.

If you run into any unusual circumstances as you install the dimmer switch, if you’re unsure of how to proceed after you get started or if you can’t get the switch to work, call a qualified professional for help.

Once you get accustomed to dimmer switches and the control and flexibility they provide, you’ll want them in every room. Dimmer switches are a great example of how small changes can make a big difference in a home. It’s surprising how taking adjusting a small component, like lighting, can add a whole new perspective to a room.


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