What Sort of Dimmer Switch Do I Need?
What Sort of Dimmer Switch Do I Need?
Dimmer switches can make it easy to adapt your lighting to the mood, situation and time of day. As lighting technology advances, with developments in areas such as LED, dimming has become much smoother and more silent, with improvements also made to the longevity of the bulbs.
If you are looking for a dimmer switch, you may be unsure about the type of dimmer that you need. There are so many different ones on offer, but to help you to decide, this guide will ask you the things you need to think about before deciding.
Do you want to dim LED light bulbs?
LED bulbs have become far more affordable in recent years, and many are now suitable for dimming. Some, however are not, so you should make sure that any LED bulbs, strips or downlights that you are using are actually dimmable.
If you are looking to dim classic incandescent bulbs, then you can use a leading edge dimmer, rather than a trailing edge dimmer. You can find out more about the difference between these in our blog post; Leading Edge Vs Trailing Edge Dimmer. The risk however with choosing a leading edge dimmer is that, if you decide to switch over to LED at a later date, you may need to change to a trailing edge dimmer switch.
If you wish to dim LED bulbs, you need to firstly make sure you have dimmable LED bulbs. Not all LED bulbs or downlights are dimmable. Old-style leading edge dimmers are also incompatible with most LEDs, so you’ll ideally need a trailing edge dimmer switch. You can occasionally find LED bulbs that have drivers that allow them to work with both trailing and leading edge, however for the best chance of dimming, stick to trailing edge.
How many lights do you need to control?
Switches come with different numbers of gangs. If you have one light in a room, then you only need a one gang dimmer switch, however if you have lots of lights and wish to control them separately, you should choose more gangs.
What is the total wattage of the lights you wish to dim?
Dimmer switches generally have a minimum electrical load. This load must be met in order for the switch to operate smoothly. If you have one 8w bulb and a dimmer switch with a minimum load of 10w, then it is likely to flicker and stutter when dimming. Trailing edge dimmers tend to have a lower minimum load than leading edge dimmers so, as LED bulbs tend to have lower watts than incandescent bulbs, these are better suited for LED.
Switches also have maximum loads, so in order for your switch to dim correctly, the total amount of watts shouldn’t exceed the maximum load of the dimmer switch.
What sort of interior design style do you have?
Dimmer switches, much like other sockets and switches come in a variety of finishes. Common ones include brushed chrome, polished chrome, antique brass, brushed brass, black nickel, copper, rose gold and white. Much like other electrical fittings, it is important to make sure your dimmer switch fits in with the rest of the room. Read more in our guide to choosing the right sockets and switches.
Intermediate Dimmer Switches
You may have seen some companies offer intermediate dimmer switches. If you are unsure what an intermediate switch is, read our blog ‘What is an intermediate switch?’. Dimmer switches don’t actually work as intermediate switches, so what you are looking at is likely to be a dummy dimmer switch. This is a dimmer switch that doesn’t work as a dimmer switch, but instead just presses on and off. These tend to be sold as modules, so you can have regular 2-way dimmer modules alongside dummy intermediate modules on the same plate.
This is a dimmer that knows whether it is driving an LED or an incandescent bulb, so it can adapt to that light fixture.
A dimmer switch with soft start technology gradually switches on the bulb. This protects the longevity of the LED.