Shedding More Light On Dimming

Vintage light bulb backgroundYou don’t just dim the lights to set the mood for romance; it’s also a great way to save on electricity. But first, you need to know what kind of light bulb you’re using, to be sure you can dim it and that you’re doing it the right way to save money.

A dimmer switch will work with any incandescent bulb or halogen bulb. The dimmer can be an inexpensive type, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Old-style rotary switch dimmers will lower the light in a room but won’t save on energy costs.

The modern slider-style dimmer can drop your electric bill as fast as the lights fade, and the savings can be impressive. Turn down the brightness by 20-percent and you save 20-percent on electricity, or cut the lights by 50-percent and save 40-percent on the cost of powering that bulb.

The majority of CFL bulbs sold today cannot be dimmed. These are the bulbs with a curly shape, although some may also look like the traditional incandescent bulb. A CFL bulb that cannot be used on a dimmer will have the statement “not for use with dimmers” or “do not use with dimmers” marked directly on the bulb.

What about LED bulbs – can the stingiest users of power be dimmed to save even more? Again, you need to check for labeling. Many (but not all) LED bulbs are dimmable, but not all of them dim in the same way. Many dimmer switches won’t work with LEDs because they already use such a small amount of energy. Some LEDs need a magnetic low voltage dimmer, while others need an electronic low voltage dimmer. Once again, check the packaging to see what will work with your LED bulb.