Think “on” and “off” are your only choices when using a light switch? With affordable and easy-to-install dimmer switches, you’ll think again!
What if your only options for listening to music were to crank it all the way up to “11” and aggravate your neighbors, or not listen at all? That’s kind of like turning on lights without a dimmer switch.
What are dimmer switches? A dimmer switch is like a “volume” control for your lights. It lets you turn the brightness up or down by adjusting the voltage supplied to light switches or lamps, so you can enjoy more flexible options than simply turning the light on or off.
You may already know that custom lighting can add security, safety, and environmental benefits that boost the value of your home and your own enjoyment of living there.
But what makes dimmer switches such a great investment for your home? Let’s look at some of the advantages.
Advantage #1: Dimmer Switches Improve Energy Efficiency
Without dimmers, your only meaningful option for spending less of your energy budget on lighting is to turn the lights completely off. But who wants to live in the dark all the time?
Dimmers enable you to save by turning the lights down instead of completely off. Depending on your typical energy usage on lighting, dimmer switches could save you as much as 98% on your lighting costs.
You’ll also reduce your home’s environmental impact, regardless of the types of light bulbs you’re using.
Advantage #2: Dimmer Switches Give You Longer Bulb Life
The second way dimmer switches save you money is that you’ll buy light bulbs less often.
Dimming your lights by just 25% can save as much as 20% of the electricity required to light the bulb at “full strength,” and the bulb can last 4 times longer. Turning your lights all the way on burns them out more quickly, and in some cases you can get as much as 3 or 4 extra years out of some bulbs when you pair them with a dimmer switch.
Lamps and lighting fixtures also last longer with dimmers. Reducing the wattage by just 10% can make a lamp last twice as long, and dimming by 50% can help it last as much as 20 times longer. In addition, “fading” the lights up instead of turning them on “full blast” all at once reduces wear and tear on lamps and fixtures, resulting in a longer life.
In the special case of fluorescent lights, dimmers are less effective at extending bulb life, but do give you a similar energy savings benefit.
Advantage #3: Dimmers Improve Lighting Functionality
In your day-to-day life, you probably know that some activities require more lighting than others. For example, you need more light for reading or cooking, but less for watching a movie.
Traditionally, you may have had to spend money on lots of different types of lamps with different wattage levels in order to adjust the lighting you needed for different functional tasks.
Installing dimmer switches throughout the house lets you accomplish this with fewer lamps instead of many. You can turn the brightness up while enjoying your favorite book or working on the computer, and then dial it down when it’s time to catch a flick.
Dimmer switches in your bedroom can also help you get to sleep by gradually darkening your room for about an hour before going to bed.
Advantage #4: Dimmers Let You Customize the Ambience in Your Home
Besides the functional benefits, you can also adjust the look and feel of every room in your home.
Ideal for dining areas, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living rooms, dimmer switches let you turn down the lights to create a softer look and more inviting atmosphere, which is great for entertaining guests or appealing to would-be home buyers.
Some dimmer switches can be programmed to change at certain times of day, or you could manually adjust them using touch screens and wireless remote controls.
How Do You Get Dimmer Switches?
As you can see, dimmer switches are a great investment for saving money on lighting and adding functional and aesthetic benefits to your home. They are also easy to install — most models require no special lighting and they usually can fit into any standard light switch box.
Different types of dimmer switches to choose from:
- A touch light dimmer controlled with a push button
- A dimmer knob that you turn (also called a rotary dimmer switch or dial switch)
- A sliding dimmer switch (also called a slider)
You may also opt for a remote control dimmer switch that lets you adjust lighting levels wirelessly.
Still others types of dimmer switches are programmable. With a programmable dimmer switch, you can preset the desired lighting level in a particular room at a specific time. Programmable dimmers let you create multiple presets for a single room, and adjust lighting levels in multiple rooms throughout the house. Some even have a recall option that lets you switch back to a prior setting at the push of a button.
Increasingly, programmable dimmer switches are being integrated with overall home automation systems that may also let you operate your security system, heating and cooling, and other appliances both at home and away.
Some home automation systems give you up to 10 different programmable lighting “scenes” per room. So-called “scene controls” let you coordinate the brightness of all the lights in a particular room for a preset configuration.
Keep in mind that energy-saving bulbs such as compact fluorescents or LED lights may not be compatible with all models, so be sure to look for dimmer switches that can accommodate all types of bulbs — such as an LED compatible dimmer.
Finally, while dimmer switches are easy to install, you must hire a licensed electrician to make sure the job is done correctly and safely. Then you’ll be able to turn the volume down on your lights and get the most out of this important energy investment for years to come!