We’re all familiar with dimmers.  We know they are used to control the light in a room.  But here are some things you may not know that can be useful when you are deciding whether to add dimmers to your lighting.

Dimmers increase bulb life

One may think that the act of dimming and then increasing the amount of light would shorten the life of the bulb, but the opposite actually is true.  Bulb life is determined by heat.  When you use a dimmer, you reduce heat, thus increasing the life of the bulb.  This is true whether you are using standard incandescent bulbs or halogen lamps.

Dimmers also save energy

In addition to increasing bulb life, using a dimmer reduces light output, resulting in energy savings.  The table below shows estimated energy savings and bulb life increase at various dimming percentages.

Percentage Dimmed Energy Savings Lamp Life Increase
10% 10% 2x
25% 20% 4x
50% 40% 20x
75% 60% >20x


Standard dimmers cannot be used with all types of lighting

Standard dimmers can control incandescent bulbs that use 120 volts.  Other dimmers can control low voltage xenon or halogen lamps that use 12 to 24 volts.  If the wrong type of dimmer is used, low voltage lights may flicker.

Dimming CFL and LED lights

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diode Bulbs (LED) are much more energy efficient than standard incandescent or halogen bulbs, but dimming them can be a challenge.  Problems include:

  • Reduced dimming range.  You may not be able to dim these bulbs as much as standard incandescent or halogen bulbs.
  • Lights dropping out. As CFL and LED lights are dimmed, they will sometimes turn off before the slider reaches the bottom.
  • Lights not turning on.  After being dimmed and then switched off, you may need to move the slider all the way up before turning the lights on again.
  • Lights turn off unexpectedly.  While standard bulbs may flicker when voltage fluctuates, a dimmed CFL or LED lamp can actually turn off

If you are considering dimmers for CFL and LED bulbs, one company that makes these is Lutron.

Remote Access

Much like anything else in your home, you can control your dimmers remotely via a tablet or a smart phone.  Lutron Caseta Wireless dimmers can be used remotely to control all types of dimmers, including LEDs and CFLs.