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Dimmer Switch Installation and DIY Electrical Tip


Everyone is looking for ways to save power. Whether to save money or the planet, one of the best and most popular ways to save power on lighting is by installing dimmer switches to control your lights. Besides saving power, they’re also great for setting the mood in your home. More and more dimmer switches are being installed in American homes every year.

Dimmer switches are easy to install, even for an everyday person. Of course, even an easy installation can be problematic, so you should always contact the best Dallas electrician to ensure that you’re doing things right, or to perform the dimmer switch installation for you if you don’t want to take a chance of making a mistake. Either way, here are some important do-it-yourself electrical tip to keep in mind about dimmer switches:

  • How many lights does the dimmer control? As simple as they may be, dimmer switches are a piece of electrical equipment just like any other, and there are limits to the amount of load they can handle. Depending on which switch you buy, your dimmer can handle up to 600, 1000, 1500, or even 2000 watts of power; you can add up the wattage of all of the lights to make sure you’re not in danger of overloading the dimmer you’ve purchased. It’s not a good idea to have the dimmer running as many lights as it can, either; running a dimmer switch at more than 80% of its load output (480W, 800W, 1200W, and 1600W, respectively) can dramatically shorten the lifespan of your dimmer switch.
  • How do I know if something’s wrong with the switch? Dimmer switches that are overloaded heat up as the excessive current heats the wires. It’s OK for a switch to be warm, but if your dimmer switch is hot to the touch, it’s overloaded and is a potential hazard.
  • What other switches are connected here? If you’re installing a dimmer switch on a circuit that already has dimmers or other kinds of switches installed, the potential load the dimmer can handle will be decreased. It’s easy to overload the switch without realizing you’re doing anything wrong. Always check the documentation included with the dimmer switch for more information before completing the installation.
  • What kinds of lights am I running with the switch? The best Dallas electrician knows that when a call comes in about a dimmer switch not working, I save a lot of time by first asking what kind of bulbs the switch is running. Because of the way they work, fluorescent light bulbs can NOT be run by dimmer switches! (Fluorescent bulbs that work with dimmers do exist, but are generally really expensive.) You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by remembering never to use fluorescent bulbs in any fixture a dimmer switch controls.
  • What other kinds of devices are being run by this switch? A standard dimmer switch should never run any device that has a motor in it. This includes things like ceiling fans that don’t always have obvious motors. Motors can’t run on dimmer switches because all motors are designed to operate at a specific voltage at all times, which your electrical system is normally very good at providing to it. A dimmer, on the other hand, works by slowly progressing through voltages from low to high as you turn the dimmer up. This is fine for lights, but a motor running at an incorrect voltage will have a much shorter lifespan and will make a loud whining noise. If you have a motor-driven device that you want to run with a dimmer, ask your hardware store or part supplier for a specialty dimmer switch, like those designed to run ceiling fans.
  • Do I have sensitive electrical equipment? Dimmer switches, especially older styles, can affect your sensitive audio equipment, even if they’re not on the same circuit. The dimmer will cause the equipment to produce a humming or whining noise. If this is happening to you, you basically have two options: replace the dimmer switch or install a noise filter. If it’s installed correctly at the audio equipment, the filter can eliminate the noise. Try to buy a noise filter that covers as many frequencies as possible. If you try to go the cheap route with noise filters, you may discover that the interference is occurring on frequencies the cheap filter won’t cover, and the sound may suddenly return without warning over time.