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Dimmers for Home Lighting

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 12, 2010

I used to question the efficacy of lighting dimmers in reducing energy costs. I knew, from my own experience, that keeping all your bulbs at full power can add to the air conditioning costs in your home. So I checked it out this week with Popular Mechanics and found that the semiconductors in dimmers keep the alternating current in the off position longer than when the light is at full volume. For the best result, you need to match the dimmer wattage rating with the load of the light fixture and bulb.

There are more options in dimmers and features than ever before. Switches come in rotating knobs, rockers that remember pre-set levels, touch pads, and slides. According to Carolina Country, you can reduce your energy use in quarter increments with a dimmer, leading to a 20 percent reduction at a quarter turn, and up to 40 percent at half-dimmed lighting. It can also extend bulb life.

How Lighting Dimmers Work

Dimmers turn your light on and off 120 times a second using a triac switch, which cuts the amount of power you use. If you feel any heat from the dimmer switch, it's probably the result of a heat sink that directs heat to the cover plate rather than back into your electrical system. There are even dimmers that are activated by a hand-held remote, just like powering your on and off switch on the TV.

Since I blogged last year about the inevitability of the use of compact fluorescent bulbs, I wondered if they, too, worked with dimmers. The compact fluorescent lights already help you save the cost of energy and have a longer operational life than their incandescent counterparts.

However, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, the compact fluorescent bulbs must specifically be designed for use with a dimmer. If you already have a dimmer installed, be sure to check the packaging on compact fluorescent bulbs before buying them for use in your home. The wrong bulbs may get damaged or, at a minimum, experience shorter lifetimes.

You may find it advantageous to install dimmers in the bathroom to control your vanity lighting. That way you can keep your ambient or overall bathroom lighting on and dim your vanity lights when you're showering or otherwise not standing in front of the mirror to shave or adjust your cosmetics.

Dim on!

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