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Lights Down Low: What to Know When You Consider a Dimmer

By now, most of us are comfortable with the idea that our lightbulbs have changed. The old fashioned incandescent light bulb has been replaced by CFL, Halogen, and LED bulbs. Unless you stockpiled incandescents, chances are you only have a few left still operating in your home.

The newer bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and last significantly longer. However, their rise has brought about a strange consequence – now we have to be much more conscious of exactly what kind of light bulb we want to use in each of our light fixtures.

This is especially true for bulbs in fixtures controlled by dimmer switches. For example, most CFL bulbs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) don’t work with dimmers unless they are specifically labelled as “dimmable.” Most halogen bulbs work with dimmers, but LED lights can be so low voltage to begin with, they too don’t work with many dimmers models.

Dimmer switches have been popular for decades to create a nice ambience in spaces like dining rooms and dens. Most people wisely left the installation of dimmer switches to professionals such as Eric Krise Electrical Contractors and never gave them much thought again.

But the new bulbs require a little more planning to use dimmers, which can still reduce electric usage even with the newer bulbs.

Older dimmer switches – called legacy dimmers – were designed for incandescent bulbs which operated very simply – a current was run through the wire filament in the bulb creating light and heat. Lower the current, and the light dimmed.

CFL and LED bulbs operate in a much more complicated way and won’t work with legacy dimmers. Actually, other than the fact that they both give off light, they have nothing in common with to old-style bulbs. This means that your old dimmer switches or any new installations will require dimmers designed to work with the newer bulbs. This can include the blubs themselves and their fixtures.

Before you shop for a dimmer switch, you’ll have to decide which type of bulb you want to use in the room or space.

As we said, halogen bulbs work well with standard dimmer systems, but don’t carry the same energy savings that CFLs and LED light systems have.

CFL lights are now available in dimmable models as our LED lights. However, lights not marked as dimmable will not work with a dimmer switch.

Once you’ve decided on your lighting you can then look for the appropriate dimmer switch. Make sure that the dimmer switch is also rated for use with CFL or LED lighting if you choose that lighting.

There are several types of dimmers available.

Single-pole dimmers are designed for lights controlled from a single dimmer in one location.

Three-way or four-way dimmers are designed for lights controlled by a single dimmer and one or more switches in other locations.

Multi-location dimmers are designed for lights controlled by multiple companion dimmers allowing for full dimming control from four or more locations.

Plug-in dimmers are designed to dim bulbs in table and floor lamp.

Using dimmer switches is still an option in home décor, but keep in mind that there are other strategies to create ambience using lower voltage lights like LED lights. They include recessed fixtures and LED string lights.

We can help you make design the perfect lighting system for your home and help you make the decision if dimmer switches are still the best option for you. Give Eric Krise Electric a call at 856.769.3932 or contact us online.

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