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What’s the Deal with Dimmers?

Written by The SOE Team

Last updated 06/16/2022

andresr/E+/Getty images

With the flick of a dimmer switch, you can control the electric current in your home and lower the brightness of your lights, but does dimming lights save energy? While dimmers are best known for their ability to improve a room’s aesthetic appeal, these devices also reduce energy consumption and cut costs on your power bill. Turn down for savings, that’s what.

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Blast from the past

Light dimmers have been around for quite a while, and over the last five decades, their energy efficiency has improved drastically. The earliest dimmers decreased a light’s brightness by feeding less electricity into the bulb and converting the remaining energy into heat. It got the job done, but this was a risky and inefficient method that didn’t actually save energy. Now, thanks to engineering advancements and technological improvements, modern dimmers have the ability to reduce your bulb’s energy use, without waste.

Does dimming the lights save energy?

Light dimmers save energy by reducing the flow of electricity to the bulb and allowing lights to operate with lower power outputs. Since lights under less stress shine longer, dimmers are known to extend the life span of your bulbs, too.

Bulb breakdown

Most modern dimmers work the same way, but each dimmable light source offers different advantages.

Halogen bulbs use about 20% percent less energy when dimmed. However, the more you dim these incandescent lights, the less efficient they will be.

CFLs consume much less energy than halogen bulbs and retain their reputation for efficiency when used with dimmers. But, before investing in a dimmer switch, it’s critical to ensure that your CFL bulbs are compatible. Using non-dimmable CFLs with a light dimmer can be a serious fire hazard.

LEDs are already extremely efficient, so investing in a dimmer can maximize your energy savings. Dimmed LEDs produce much less heat than incandescent lights and will retain their color regardless of how low their light output is. As with CFLs, it’s important to use LED bulbs that are specially designed to work with dimmers.

Internet enabled dimmers

If you’re hesitant to install a manual dimmer switch in your home, don’t worry – there’s an app for that. Innovative light bulb manufacturers such as Insteon and iLumi offer Bluetooth enabled “smart bulbs” with remote control capabilities. Adjust energy output, change the color of your lights, program power-saving options and more … all from your smartphone.

To dim or not to dim?

Dimmers can enhance your home décor, decrease energy use, extend light bulb longevity and even improve your quality of life. But, if you’re planning to keep the lights down low 24/7, simple math suggests that you should opt for low wattage lights instead. Low wattage light bulbs use less energy at full power than dimmed high wattage lights.

Light dimmers offer significant advantages for your wallet and the environment, but the savings don’t stop there. Read up on ways to reduce your energy consumption at home.

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