How to Troubleshoot a Dimmer Switch

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Creating ambiance in the home is a worthy and trendy endeavor most often accomplished with a bit of mood lighting. Dimmer switches are a seemingly easy way to create a bit of appealing or artistic lighting where it can have a big impact in an inexpensive way. If you have a dimmer switch that isn't getting the job done or is creating a flickering scene, a little troubleshooting will shed some light on the problem.


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Dimmer Switch Breakdown

There are many types of dimmer switches available for the do-it-yourself enthusiast. Incandescent, fluorescent, LED, single-pole, and three-way configurations offer individual lighting options for your space. If you're looking for warm lighting, an incandescent bulb gives off the warmest light, while an LED brightens a room without gouging your wallet. Fluorescent lights use a ballast that is designed for its output and isn't interchangeable. If you need to control lights from more than one switch, a single-pole or three-way needs to be installed.


Dimmer Switch Damage Control

Overlamping a dimmer switch is the most common reason a dimmer switch fails and is a potentially dangerous situation. A dimmer can't control too many lights, or it will surpass its maximum wattage. If a dimmer is equipped for 500 watts and is given the task of turning on seven lights at 100 watts each, it will work overtime and reach burnout relatively early in its suggested life span. An even bigger problem can be the risk of wire insulation damage and even fires due to the overheating.


If a fixture requires less than 4 watts or more than 600 watts, you may want to reconsider using a dimmer. When a dimmer switch fails, the lights might not go out but remain on, burning up electricity and requiring a change out of the dimmer switch. A power surge can also take down your dimmer. The actual installation can be problematic or can cause future issues if not done correctly from the first lighting face plate removal. If you're having issues with an older dimmer, you may want to replace it or double-check the wiring.


LED Dimmer Switch Issues

There are many configurations, styles, and colors from which to choose if you decide to buy a new dimmer. You'll want to take home one that works well with your specific fixtures and wiring. If you have LED lights or have switched to LED lights on an old dimmer switch, you could run into issues.


LED dimmers have a smaller range, up to 30 percent less than an incandescent bulb. LEDs consume less wattage than their high-wattage incandescent counterparts. If you don't use the correct dimmer, your lights may not shut off when the dimmer switch is turned all the way down. Also, check the bulbs themselves. Some LED bulbs do not dim, and those that do don't function well with traditional dimmers.


Dimmer Switch Tab

Some dimmers have little switches or reset tabs at the bottom. If the switch gets shut off, the dimmer switch might not work. Check for a switch and maneuver it to see if the switch starts working. Some Lutron dimmers have reset tabs that you pull out for 10 seconds and then push back in.

Switch Wiring Issues

If your dimmer switch suddenly stops working, there could be issues with the electrical wiring. If it's not installed correctly or the wires come loose, the switch might stop working. You might hear a buzzing or crackling sound if wiring is the issue. When you suspect a wiring issue, hire an electrician to inspect it.