Understanding Light Dimmability Options


Understanding Light Dimmability Options

Imagine having complete control over the lighting in your space. With dimmer switches, it is possible to get more out of the lighting you've got! Dimmer switches are used in modern lighting to give users control over the brightness of their lights. This is different from ordinary light switches, which cut the power to a light fixture and leave it at a single brightness level, either on or off.

Advantages of Light Dimming

Dimmer switches offer a variety of advantages, which include the following:

·        Control Over Lighting Levels

Dimmer switches are better than ordinary light switches since they allow users to control how bright their lights are. This can be beneficial if you need to shift from brighter lighting to lower lighting for different tasks.

Light and Intimacy, Casacor, via Pinterest.


Additionally, they are highly applicable in art lighting if you want your artwork to stand out and instantly draw attention to itself. Dimmer switches allow you to regulate the brightness of your art lights to about three times the ambient lighting throughout the day.

Read Also: Importance of Light in Art

·        Visual Comfort

The ability to set your dimming lights to the recommended level for the activity you’re carrying out will ensure your visual comfort. You can minimize the glare of an art light fixture by reducing the brightness of a bulb, or reduce straining in dim lighting by increasing the brightness of the light. In fact, many people with visual sensitivities prefer using dimmer switches since they can create a level of comfort that allows them to read easily without straining their eyes.

·        Set the Desired Mood

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If you want to create a cozy, relaxing ambiance in your living spaces, try using dimmer switches to decrease the amount of light in your rooms. On the contrary, if you need to create an invigorating, energizing, and productive atmosphere for work, you can increase the lighting levels in the space.

·        Increase the Life Span of Bulbs

When you dim a light bulb, it lowers its power consumption and reduces heat generation. This lengthens the bulb's life and reduces its energy use. Hence, using dimmer switches can help you save money on bulb replacement and extend the life of your bulbs by up to 15 times. This can mean huge savings on your maintenance costs, particularly in art lighting where you might require your lights to be on for most of the hours.

·        Minimize Energy Costs

Utilizing dimmer switches is one of many ways you can make your home's lighting system more energy efficient. By using dimmers in place of full-on or full-off options, you will be able to customize the lighting levels based on your needs hence saving on energy costs.

How Do Dimmers Work?

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Dimmer switches work by adjusting the voltage in the circuit that goes through a lamp, which changes how bright the lamp is. By reducing the voltage, you can change how much energy it uses and how hot it gets. That way, you can make any lamp brighter or darker, depending on your needs and preferences.

However, since different light bulbs function differently, different dimmers also work differently. For instance, incandescent bulbs work by heating a filament to generate a warm glow. Hence, to dim an incandescent bulb, you simply need to reduce the voltage supply to reduce the heat.

On the contrary, LED lights produce light by switching a diode on and off. Since there is no in-between for the on and off states, the dimmer can vary the period between the on and off states, switching off the LED dimming light at intervals faster than the eye can tell. Alternatively, you can also use a dimmer that reduces the current to the circuit, although this may affect the light’s color temperature and quality.

4 Main Factors to Consider When Selecting a Dimmer Switch

It is important to find a dimmer that is compatible with your lighting system. The following are the four main factors that you need to consider when selecting your dimmer switch:

1.      Dimmer Types

Dimmers come in different types according to the placement location and technology. Therefore, you need to consider all of the different types of dimmers available, making sure that your selected type will work with your lighting source.

2.      Lighting Source: Bulb type

Every type of bulb is designed to function differently and will hence work with only a specific type of dimmer. It is, therefore, crucial to understand which dimmer type will work with the light bulbs in your spaces.

Not all bulbs are dimmable. Ensure that your lights have a dimming option before investing in a dimmer switch. Perfect Picture Lights supplies a variety of high-performing dimmable track lighting and monolight LED fixture options for your art lighting needs. From spotlights to wall washers and frame projectors, the dimmable LED products will leave you spoilt for choice.

Read Also: Track Lighting Ideas

3.      Wattage

Additionally, the wattage of the light bulbs will determine the power rating of your dimming switch. The power rating of your dimmer should equal or exceed the total wattage of all the bulbs installed in that circuit.

However, when determining the maximum rating of each bulb in this circuit, divide the power rating of the dimmer, say 500W, by 10. In such a case, therefore, a 500W dimmer should carry no dimmable LED lights over 50W.

4.      Control Styles

Dimmer switches come in different aesthetics, styles, and functionality from which you can select. The design of the lighting control comes in a wide variety depending on your preferred style.

Types of Dimmer Control Styles

There are various styles of dimmer switch controls, which include:

·        Rotary Dimmer Control:

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A rotary dimmer control is designed as a rotary knob, similar to that of an oven. This dimmer style allows you to adjust the intensity of your lights with a simple turn of the dial.

·        Slide Dimmer Control

Slide dimmer controls are designed with a slider that you can move to adjust brightness. Slide dimmers can come with or without a preset switch. For slide dimmers with a preset switch, there is a separate button at the top, which you can press to turn the lights off and on without changing their brightness.

Slider dimmer controls, IFLScience, via Pinterest.


On the other hand, for slide dimmers without the preset switch, you will need to slide the control through all the steps of adjusting brightness each time you want to turn your lights on or off.

·        Toggle Dimmer Control

This looks like a standard light switch, except that instead of just being able to turn the lights on or off, toggle dimmers have a small slider next to the switch from where you can choose between different levels of brightness.

·        Rocker Dimmer Control 


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For rocker-style dimmers, you can flip the switch up to turn on the light and down to turn it off. However, this dimmer control style usually has controls on either side that allow you to adjust the brightness.

·        Tap and Scene Selector Dimmer Controls

Scene Selector LED Light Switch, Home Depot, via Pinterest.


The tap dimmer control style has a tap function that allows you to turn lights on or off with the touch of the pad, and a scene selector gives you several options for controlling multiple dimming LEDs at once with a single touch. You can select any of the scenes, each with different combinations of lights and brightness, or touch the buttons to change LED brightness in individual increments.

·        Smart Dimmers

Smart lighting switches such as the Philips Hue kits generally allow you to switch on your lights remotely through an app on your phone. Add a dimmer to that and you can now manage your lighting levels from your devices too!

Philips Hue Dimmer Switch, Nebraska Furniture Mart, via Pinterest.


Some smart dimmers also have in-built motion sensors that dim or switch off your lights when there is nobody in the room. This can be particularly efficient for art lighting applications. Others smart bulbs dimmers come with light sensors that switch off during the day and switch on at night.

Understanding Dimmer Switch Location Options

When choosing which dimmer switch is right for your home, consider the number of control points and use the following information on dimmer switch location options to ensure you get the right type.

·        Single-Pole Dimmers

Single-pole dimmers are operated from a single switch and are most commonly used in residential units. Easy to install and use, these dimmers can be installed in any room where you want to control the light from only one location. This means that no other switches should be controlling that lighting circuit.

·        Three-Way Dimmers

Three-way dimmers replace existing three-way switches, controlling one dimming fixture from two locations. These dimmers are generally used in large rooms, hallways, and staircases with a dimmer switch on each end, to change the brightness of lights without having to walk all the way to the switch.

·        Four-Way Dimmers

Four-way dimmers replace existing four-way switches which often serve as an intermediate between two three-way switches. These switches allow you to control the light from three or more locations, such as a large room with more than one entrance.

·        Multi-Location Dimmers

You can choose this option if you want the ability to control multiple lights from different locations throughout your home. For instance, you can use multi-location dimmers to control every room in your home or your commercial office interior design and lighting.

·        Plug-in light Dimmers

Dimmer, Jula AB, via Pinterest.


If you need a dimmer connected directly to your plug-in lamp, then you can opt for plug-in dimmers. Plug-in dimmers act like adapters that allow you to regulate the current reaching your LED lamp from your power outlets, therefore adjusting the lighting levels.

Dimming Technologies

Leading Edge Dimmer versus Trailing Edge Dimmer

For all dimmers, there are two basic types: leading edge, and trailing edge. The difference between them is in which side of the AC cycle they begin. A leading edge dimmer starts at the beginning of the cycle (the ascending segment), while a trailing edge dimmer starts at the end of the cycle (the descending segment).

Leading Edge Dimmers, commonly referred to as incandescent or TRIAC dimming, are often compatible with halogen and incandescent bulbs. They control power using a TRIAC switch (Triode for Alternating Current) and have a higher wattage. They work by switching off half of the current running through the lamp, offering up to 40% dimmability.

Trailing Edge Dimmers work well with dimmable LED bulbs, LED strip lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and other low-wattage bulbs, hence they are more preferred. They offer up to 100% dimmability to LED bulbs, LED strips, and halogens.

Types of Dimmers

For a dimmer to work properly, you have to have a specific type of dimmer for each type of bulb. The most common dimmers can be categorized as:

·        Incandescent/Halogen Dimmers: These dimmers work by reducing the amount of electricity reaching the light fixtures. It works best with incandescent and halogen bulbs, as well as other line voltage tungsten filament bulbs.

·        Magnetic Low-Voltage Dimmers: These dimmers operate with magnetic transformer-supplied low voltage bulbs with 6, 12, or 24 Volt ratings. This system controls the amount of electricity reaching the bulbs from an inverter.

·        Fluorescent Dimming Ballast: Fluorescent bulbs have a different functionality compared to LED light bulbs and halogen bulbs, and hence require a fluorescent dimming ballast. Fluorescents work by heating the electrodes which excite the gas within the fluorescent tube.

·        Electronic Low-Voltage Dimmers (ELV Dimmers): These dimmers are compatible with electronic low-voltage bulbs. They are capacitive and therefore offer a smooth turn on.

·        0-10V Dimmers: Compatible with dimmable LED lighting and fluorescent bulb applications, this dimmer uses a dedicated DC voltage signal ranging from 0V to 10V. It controls the voltage reaching the bulb to adjust the light output.

·        Neon/Cold Cathode (Magnetic Ballast) Dimmers: These dimmers work with Cathode dimmable lights and other transformer-supplied magnetic toroidal or core and coil bulbs.

·        Electronic Fluorescent Ballast Dimmers: These are uniquely designed for controlling signals and sending power to different types of Electronic Fluorescent Dimming Ballast bulbs

·        LED Driver Dimmers: These dimmers are used in conjunction with Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs. The LED driver specifications must be compatible with the dimmable LED bulb as well as its control type specifications.

·        Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI): DALI can be used for direct controlling of single or multiple devices from a dedicated control signal, as well as for grouping of devices. The maximum number of devices supported by one DALI line is 64, while DALI 2 allows for individual control of up to 128 light fixtures.

·        Digital Multiplexing (DMX): Digital Multiplexing (DMX) is a lighting protocol used in large-scale applications mostly by the entertainment industry to control dimmable lighting fixtures. DMX can have up to 512 fixtures on one DMX line, with each fixture having its individual digital communication from a low-voltage control signal created by a lighting control system.

Control Your Comfort

Dimmers let you control the level of illumination in a room, from bright to dim, at the flick of a switch. Depending on the light bulbs installed in your home, you can benefit from the most advanced dimmer technology available. If you are looking for dimmable art lighting fixtures and do not know where to start, you can select from our wide range of dimmable LED track lights. Our team of experts will be available to advise you on the best dimmability options to suit your art lighting needs.


Winny Okoth is a practicing Construction Project Manager and Interior Designer. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Construction Project Management. Winny Okoth has a great passion for every form of design as well as 3D visualization skills for architectural and interior design.