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Create the perfect ambience in your home with dimmers

(Lutron Photo)

Looking to brighten things up or take it down a few notches? Replacing a traditional light switch with a lighting dimmer switch can set the ambience for a romantic dinner, a meditation space, TV watching, a party or whatever activity you want to set the mood for.

There are many benefits to converting from the basic on/off switches to dimmers.

Instant ambience – Looking for a little romance? Turn the lights down low. Want to see what the kids are doing? Turn them way up. Create a variety of atmospheres with a simple adjustment of the lights.

Save energy and increase light bulb efficiency – Some older dimmer switches are not as technologically advanced. Therefore, you’re paying for the electricity even though there is less light. Switch to newer dimmer switches that conserve energy when you’re not lighting the bulb at full capacity. Dimming the lights by at least 25% saves approximately one-fifth of the electricity required.

Light bulbs last longer when used with a dimmer. A light bulb without a dimmer lasts roughly five to six months, whereas a light bulb with a dimmer can last up to four years.

Increased safety – A home that looks occupied is less-likely to be targeted by thieves than one that looks empty. Connect lights to timers so they will turn on and off when you are not home.

By setting the lights on a timer or controlling them through a phone app while you’re away, your home can appear occupied even if you’re hundreds of miles away. Also, setting the dimmers low at bedtime will increase visibility and prevent falls during the middle of the night bathroom or kitchen expeditions.

Sleep aid – Lowering the lights one hour before you go to sleep may help you fall asleep sooner. Lower the lights manually or program them at a specific time each night. This may help you set a regular sleep schedule and train your body to fall asleep at the same time every night. Conversely, set a time for the lights to turn on in the morning if your bedroom doesn’t get enough natural light or you wake before sunrise.

Different types of dimmers

There is a variety of dimmer switches from which to choose. Before making the “switch,” you need to determine the type of dimmer you need; a single-pole (one-switch) or three-way (can be turned on/off from multiple locations).

Rotary – A round knob that you press to turn the light on or off and rotate to adjust its intensity.

Toggle – Looks like a standard switch and has a small slider on the plate that dims the light.

Rocker – This wide, flat switch looks modern and has a small slider to control the intensity of the light.

Tap – Tap your finger on this small, flat panel to turn the light on or off. Adjust the lights with the small rocker switch located at the side of the panel.

Scene selector – This dimmer controls all the lighting in one room from a single switch. For example, one person can nap while another does a cross-stitch in the same room with different lighting.

Tabletop – Equipped with a cord, plug and socket.

Wireless – No need to get up from the recliner. Control two or more different sets of lights by remote control. They can be installed anywhere and sometimes without the need for wiring. Some feature wireless controls via computer or cellphone and some use voice-activated assistants such as Alexa and Google Home.

Bruce Stumbo, project manager and sales consultant, Rosie Right Design Build Remodel, a Rosie-Certified Partner, notes they typically use dimmers from Lutron for their projects.

“They’re a big switch manufacturer. If one fails, they’re easy to get a replacement for. Just about all of the dimmers they’ve made within that last few years are compatible with LED, halogen, and incandescent bulbs which is a benefit to the homeowner in case they have some old incandescent bulbs and are slowly changing them out with LEDs.”

In his experience, specific models are picked due to visual styling and budget. Traditional dimmers run about $24 to $29 per switch. Lutron’s line offers some programming functions starting at $33 per switch. Different colors and finishes are also available for the wallplates.

Bulbs and wattage

Before buying dimmers and bulbs, do your research. While dimmers will work with incandescent, halogen, LED, and CFL bulbs, not all dimmer switches are compatible with energy-saving light bulbs. Look for LED bulbs that are dimmable and offer two or three fixed levels of brightness. There are several types and color quality available.

Each dimmer switch comes with a wattage rating stating the maximum watts of bulbs it can withstand. Follow the instructions, otherwise serious damage or injury can occur. Manufacturers publish lists of bulbs that are compatible with dimmer products.

Take the list of dimmers and compatible bulbs with you when you go to the store or buy online. If you don’t use a compatible bulb, flickering or buzzing will likely occur. Also, an incompatible bulb may damage the dimmer.

“Dimmers are becoming more popular because LED lights are so bright,” said Ashley Childers, owner and showroom manager, Statewide Lighting, a Rosie-Certified Partner. “We are selling a lot of Lutron DVCL Universal Dimmers because of its compatibility.”

Step by step installation

Disclaimer: Rosie does NOT do any of the electrical work or modifications at his own home. He hires an ROC-licensed electrician to do electrical repairs.

Electrical work is not the place to save money by tackling DIY projects that you are not trained to do, even if you look up the instructions or watch a video on the internet. Unless you are an experienced electrician, hire a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician. Electricity is a safety issue. One improper switch installation could cause a fire or electrical shock.

Dimmer switches are an inexpensive, simple update that can increase your home’s market appeal while saving you money, providing extra security, and creating layers of lighting comfort to your lifestyle.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM in Phoenix, 9 to 11 a.m. on KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff, and 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.

Rosie on the House

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