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How Do I Add a Dimmer Switch?

DIY Questions and Answer January 20, 2009 Chad

Q:  Is there any special wiring required to replace a regular electrical switch with a dimmer switch?


A:  Typical residential dimmer switch needs no special wiring to install, and will easily replace a standard toggle switch. Plus, a bulb dimmed to half brightness saves energy by using roughly half the power. When choosing a dimmer switch, the main thing to keep in mind is the wattage limit of the dimmer switch. Dimmers are usually rated for 600 to 1,000 watts of lighting, which is indicated on the packaging. Calculate the total wattage of the bulbs to be controlled by the dimmer and choose the wattage rating accordingly. The wattage rating should be at least 10 percent higher than the load it carries (20 percent if used in 2-gang or larger electrical box). Never use a dimmer switch on fluorescent fixtures or ceiling fan motors. Although, some models of the new Energy Star-qualified Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) can be connected to a dimmer. Make sure the CFLs specify use with dimmers or three-way fixtures on the package.