The dimmer switch isn’t a new invention by any means. Did you know that the first dimmer was invented in 1959? That makes it 60 years old this year! A man named Joel Spira invented it in his tiny New York City apartment and patented it two years later. It marked the beginning of Lutron Electronics and, soon, everyone wanted one of those switches so they could create a little ambience in their home. As a matter of fact, ads for that first dimmer said, “Dial romance with a light dimmer!”
It’s unlikely that anyone was thinking about the fact that a dimmer switch would save them money on their electric bills when they saw those ads. Most fans of the dimmer were indeed in search of mood lighting, not lower bills, but dimmers of long ago – as well as those manufactured now – certainly did help consumers save money.
Now, if you’ve shopped for a dimmer lately, you’ve faced a choice as to whether to purchase an LED dimmer or a regular dimmer that works with standard incandescent light bulbs. Perhaps you’ve stood in the middle of the aisle at your favorite home improvement store wondering if one is better than the other.
Well, here are some facts for you to consider.
The regular dimmer
For the purpose of this blog, a “regular” dimmer switch is one that works with standard incandescent light bulbs. Many who are reading this may already have these installed in their homes and perhaps have had them for many years.
Regular dimmers work well, and any incandescent or halogen bulb is compatible with this kind of dimmer as long as:
- The dimmer switch is rated for the same voltage as the lighting application.
- The total wattage of all lamps is less than or equal to the maximum wattage rating on the dimmer switch. This is of special concern when you’re dimming track lighting or something with more than one bulb.
All incandescent bulbs are dimmable and they have the largest controllable dimming range; they can go from 100 percent all the way down to 0 percent. Additionally, incandescent bulbs emit a warmer, soften glow as they dim, which is particularly nice for mood lighting.
How does it work? A standard dimmer simply reduces the current that heats the filament and produces the light. Reducing the current can make your incandescent bulb last longer.
However, that’s not the case with halogen bulbs. When a halogen bulb is dimmed down to about 20 percent, the gases around the filament can cause it to overheat and it can burn out prematurely so care must be taken when using these types of bulbs with a dimmer.
The LED dimmer
With incandescent technologies slowly being phased out, many homeowners and owners of commercial properties are turning to LED light bulbs. However, where dimming is concerned, not all LED light bulbs are dimmable, and to correctly dim the ones that are, you won’t be able to use a “regular” dimmer. (But you can use an incandescent bulb in an LED dimmer.) Some LEDs can work with a standard dimmer, but not as efficiently.
So, it’s really all about compatibility. LEDs are easy to dim and efficient when paired with the correct switch. That means anyone who’s been using a standard dimmer for years – or even decades – but wants to use LED bulbs should seriously consider bringing in an electrical contractor who can recommend and install the correct dimmer switches.
With the right LED dimmer, the bulb will not only dim correctly but the life of the bulb will also be greatly extended. Also, you’re less likely to hear the humming noise you might hear when an LED is used with the wrong dimmer.
In addition, LED dimmers are certainly affordable and the purchaser will recoup the money spent installing them in no time at all by saving money on their electric bill AND eliminating the need to frequently replace bulbs.