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The Business Lighting Experts

Selecting the Proper Dimmer
Here's a handy guide to modern dimmers in a world of CFLs and LEDs.
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Lighting Basics

Selecting the Proper Dimmer

Selecting the proper dimmer was once a simple task with a few choices for your home or business lighting systems. With all the changes over recent years, selecting the proper dimmer now has many new considerations such as type of lighting, wattage load, single/multi-location and style. More options now come with energy-saving benefits. According to Lutron, replacing 2 standard light switches with Lutron dimmers in every US home would save $1.5 billion in energy.

Before you start shopping for your new Lighting Controls, you must first identify the type of lighting technology you wish to use. Incandescent or Halogen bulbs used to be the only choice. They work great with dimming systems, but don’t offer the energy savings that many consumers find desirable in a home or business lighting system. With the advent of higher electrical costs, many businesses are looking for ways to save energy with lighting.

In addition to table lamps and wall sconces that provide ambient and accent lighting, one of the most typical light fixture used with a dimming system would be the 6" recessed can light often found in entry ways or any general lighting application. By switching to CFL or LED, you will find a large reduction in your electrical bill while still getting the amount of light that you need. We're also seeing customers using these dimmers for track lighting. Where desirable ambient light levels are needed but where a dimmed light setting is also desirable. In either case, you will save energy which means saving money off your electric bill.

Let’s take a look at some energy-saving options:

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

When people think about dimming, they usually think about traditional incandescent or halogen light bulbs, but did you know that you can now create that same look with added energy savings by using compact fluorescent lights (CFL). If it has been a few years since you’ve tried a CFL, we recommend that you try again. CFL technology has improved dramatically and there are now many dimmable options available. In fact, many dimmable CFL lamps will smoothly dim down to 15% of their light output. When compared to incandescent lighting, these last longer and use much less energy making them a perfect replacement.

As with all fluorescent bulbs, they rely on ballasts inside of the fixtures or units to make them work. With these dimming compact bulbs, it's especially critical that the ballast is one that is rated for dimming on incandescent dimmers. They don't always work with every dimming situation, but in most of them, they work wonderfully.

There are several kinds of compact fluorescent bulb types including: spiral shape, R20, R30 and R40 sizes to replace almost any flood, track, wall sconce or table lamp bulb you may be using now.

For example, the R30 CFL dimmable is a suitable replacement for 65BR30 lamps, which are probably the most common flood light in use today. Whether you need ambiance at home or lowered lighting for a company meeting, dimmable CFLs will give you the look you want with added energy savings.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

Some of the most recent changes to the lighting industry revolve around Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs. With so many improvements to this technology it is becoming easier to find an appropriate energy-efficient LED replacement to work with your dimming system. Most lamps offer a rated life between 25,000-50,000 hours and wattage ranges at a fraction of their incandescent or halogen counterparts.

Dimmable LED lamps offer smooth dimming from 100% to as low as 0.5%. This may vary between dimming systems.

And much like dimmable CFL lamps, LEDs come in a variety of bulbs types including: a-style, decorative, MR16 and reflectors as replacement options for your current lighting.

Maximum Wattage Load

Generally speaking, you will be looking for either 600 watt max load or 1000 watt. When choosing dimmers for dimmable LEDs or CFLs, you should not load a dimmer higher than approximately 25% of the rated load for the dimmer.

Location & Style

The new Lutron C·L line of dimmers offer a wide variety of options from single to multi-location systems and switch options such as slide/rocker, tap, paddle and toggle. All are UL listed for controlling a broad range of dimmable CFLs and LEDs. We carry Lutron’s most popular models:

We described some of the most commonly used applications using dimmers for the home and commercial lighting in this section. Also, we have a large inventory of linear fluorescent bulbs and ballasts for nearly every commercial lighting need. Whatever type you choose, you will be saving energy while getting the most light for your money.

If you are starting your search for the right lighting system, don’t forget to take a look at our full line of Lutron Lighting Controls. Please note: Lighting Controls should only be installed by a licensed electrician.

If you need help identifying a bulb or the proper dimmer, our specially trained Lighting Specialists can help you determine the right choice. Call 888.455.2800 to speak with a Lighting Specialist.