Are dimmers switches safe to use?
Your dimmer switch isn’t evil. But your bulb and switch might not match. To make a good match, it’s helpful to know how dimmer switches work. This will help you use dimmer switches safely.
How Dimmer Switches Work
Leading edge dimmer switches restrict the current to your bulb. This happens when you dim the lights. It sounds like a simple process. But it’s not energy efficient. You may have heard that energy doesn’t vanish. It must go somewhere as it moves: into the ground, through water, into a body, etc. Electricity is the same. The leading edge dimmer switch throttles your current. You get the low-level mood lighting you want. The part of your switch resisting the current gets hot. The excess energy builds up. It creates heat over time.
Trailing edge dimmer switches cut off the current completely. This happens about 120 times per second. This is so fast it just looks like dimming. Trailing edge is more complex. But it saves energy and money. The lack of heat is safer. Hot switches can become fire hazards. You can use higher quality bulbs, such as LEDs, with trailing edge dimmers.
On a bulb’s box, it will tell you if it’s dimmable. Dimmable bulbs can be used with dimmer switches. If the bulb box does not say it’s dimmable, don’t use it with dimmer switches. If you do, your bulb can wear out faster. Your bulb could use too much energy. It may cause a fire hazard as well. For example, if you have a switch with a range of 0 to 10 volts, you’ll need a dimmable bulb that fits in that same 0 – 10-volt range. You’ll likely also need a 0 – 10-volt ballast to avoid damage to LED bulbs and tubes.
Older switches may not have the right tech to be used with new lighting options like LED bulbs. Contact a professional in your area. They can help you get the right switch.