Dimmers are an integral part of residential and commercial lighting controls. Dimmer switches enable controlling lights to operate at the desired light level to match the activities, mood or ambience of the room. Dimmer light switches work with multiple load types or light bulb types so it is important to check the compatibility of the dimmer with the type of bulb. Dimmers also have flexible wiring capabilities that include single pole wiring, 3-way wiring, 4-way wiring and multi-location dimming. Dimmer switches have various uses and advantages for indoor lighting in bedrooms, living rooms, entertainment rooms and dining rooms.
Dimmer Light Switches
Dimmer switches are lighting controls used to control the intensity of light output from the bulb or fixture. Dimmers modify the light level by reducing or increasing the power delivered to the fixture. Using dimmers will also increase the rate life of the fixture since it is operating at a reduced power. Dimming controls are classified according to load types, which are the compatible fixtures that the dimmer can control. Each load type has different characteristics that require its own dedicated dimmer. It is important to choose the correct switch type for a dimmer based on what it controls, how it is used and where it will be installed. Dimmer switches also have various operation types to turn the light on or off or to dim the lights up or down. Because certain dimmers work only with specific bulb types, it is important to check if the bulb is dimmable with a dimming compatibility list.
Using Dimmer Switches
Dimmers can be operated in a variety of ways and combinations. One of the more common operation types is the preset dimmer that has an on/off button with a slider. Preset dimmers have a paddle button or tap switch for on/off operation to turn on the light to the previous light level set by the dimmer. These dimmer types also come with a slider or rocker to adjust the light level up or down. Aside from preset dimmers, there is also the slide dimmer that has a slider that controls the light output up or down and slides to the lowest level to turn off. Other dimmer operation types other than paddle, tap switch, slider and rocker dimmers are rotary dimmers, toggle dimmers and push on/off dimmers.
Single Pole vs 3-Way Dimmers
Single pole dimmers are controlled by only one switch from a single location. This is normally used for rooms with just one point of entry and exit. 3-way dimmers have the main dimmer control turning on or off and adjusting the light level from one location, but can have multiple switches from other locations turn the light on and off as well. The other switches would not be able to adjust the light level. This can be used for rooms with multiple entrances and exits, so the light can be turned on and off from whichever side is used.
Multi-location dimmer switches have a master dimmer switch that can turn the light on or off and adjust the light level, plus companion dimmers in different locations that can also do the same. Multi-location dimming usually allows up to ten locations, so it would consist of one master multi-location dimmer and up to nine remote dimmers. This setup is more flexible and convenient than 3-way dimmers because the light can be dimmed from any location.