How To Decide If My Lights Should Be On A Dimmer?

How To Decide If My Lights Should Be On A Dimmer?

There are several types of dimmers, all designed to be compatible with certain light sources and luminaires. Here are the important factors you need to remember when selecting a dimmer for your fixtures.

Dimmer Type

How many switches control your light fixture? That is the first question you’re going to have to ask yourself while choosing a dimmer. Here are the four essential luminaires you can choose from:

  • Single-Pole Dimmer – The single-pole dimmer is designed for light fixtures in your home which are controlled by only one dimmer. In other words, this dimmer is the only switch used to turn on and off your lights and to dim.
  • Three-way or Four-way Dimmer – These dimmers are for light fixtures that are operated by just one dimmer plus one or more switches on and off in other locations in your house.
  • Multi-location Dimmer – If you use multiple companion dimmers in your light fixture you will need a multi-location dimmer. The use of multiple dimmers allows full control of dimming from more than one venue.
  • Plug-In Dimmer – Plug-in dimmers in your table and floor lamps are used to dim the light. Many of these lamp dimmers endorse incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs.

Bulb Type

  • Incandescent/Halogen – If you’re using traditional incandescent or halogen lighting in your home, you’ll need standard incandescent dimmers to reduce the brightness. These dimmers work quite interestingly. Most people might think that dimming means reducing electrical current, but in reality, dimmers turn the circuit of the bulb on and off at speeds much faster than we can see (usually more than 100 times per second).
  • Compact Fluorescent and LED – In order to dim energy-efficient lights, you should first make sure that the lights themselves are capable of dimming. Because technology is advancing, dimmable LED and CFL technology is becoming much more reliable. Once you’ve got your dimmable bulbs, then you can focus on making sure your dimmer is compatible. If you were to try to use an incandescent dimmer with an LED or CFL, it would only cause your lights to not dim correctly or malfunction completely.
  • Magnetic Low-Voltage (MLV) – Low-voltage lighting systems require a transformer to control the tension of the line. If a transformer used inside a lighting system is magnetic, a magnetic dimmer will be needed. The magnetic dimmers are inductive and use phase-control symmetric forward to dim.
  • Electronic Low-voltage (ELV) – Electronic transformers require an electronic dimmer compatible with low-voltage lighting systems. Electronic dimmers are capacitive and use reverse dimming phase control.


Once you are aware of what kind of light source you are using, you must be confident that your bulbs’ wattage is compatible with your dimmer. That said, you should also bear in mind how many bulbs you use on one dimmer. Some people assume that the same incandescent dimmer can be operated with more LED bulb which consumes a fraction of the wattage of an incandescent just because LEDs consume less wattage. Because of something called inrush current, or the average instantaneous input current produced by an electrical device when it first turns on, using more LEDs than you would on a dimmer will only make the dimmer ineffective.

For example, if dimmer can handle 300 Watts of electricity and five 60 Watt bulbs, that doesn’t mean it can handle 30 or more 8.5 Watts LEDs. When a dimmer can accommodate only five incandescent bulbs, use only five LEDs.

Control Style

Once you’ve gone past all the technological aspects and narrowed down your options, you can start focusing on the shallower stuff–like how the dimmer looks. Dimmers come in many different colors and styles, and it’s all a personal matter of preference. The dimmer switch models are numerous and come in such various choices as toggles, rotaries and even touch-sensitive dimmers.

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