AEC Design/Build

Phone: 212-434-0096

Contact us on email!

Published on
March 4th, 2021

Light Switch Dimmers: Are All Dimmers Equal?

If you’re choosing dimmer switches for your property, you might be surprised to learn you have many more options than you imagined. Here’s a look at the different types of light switch dimmers. With this information, you can select the model that best serves your needs for a particular location. Whether you’re a landlord or property manager for a large building or a single-family homeowner, these tips from the pros at Bolt Electric will come in handy.

How Dimmer Switches Work

Reducing electrical flow

Sometimes referred to as a rheostat, although there are slight technical differences between the two, a dimmer switch operates on a simple premise. In the circuit to which it is applied, it reduces the amount of electrical flow and therefore affects the brightness of light fixtures supplied by the circuit.

Property owners like dimmer switches for a variety of reasons. By reducing electrical flow, they can save money on utility bills over time. People also like light switch dimmers because they make the same light fixtures more versatile as it’s possible to achieve different levels of illumination. Users can have bright light when they need it to see and lower lighting for activities like dining and watching movies.

Types of Light Switch Dimmers

Models for different control points

While there are many different types of dimmer switch controls available (see below), there are essentially four types of switches to choose from:

  1. Single-pole dimmer – for use with a single light switch
  2. Three-way or four-way dimmer – for use in a room with more than one light switch (one dimmer and multiple toggle switches)
  3. Multiple-location dimmer – for use with many dimmers from four or more locations
  4. Plug-in dimmer – for use with plug-in table and floor lamps, no wiring work necessary

It’s important that you check your wiring and the number of switches before installing light switch dimmers to ensure they will work properly. Also, consider the size of the room in which you’ll be using the dimmer switch. You probably don’t need multiple location dimmers in a small bedroom or study, but they’re a nice addition to large living spaces, open loft-style homes, and public areas, such as lobbies and meeting rooms.

Dimmer Switch Power Options and Features

Power ratings

There are a couple of other factors you should consider when selecting light switch dimmers. First, you need to make sure the voltage rating of the dimmer switch matches that of the circuit. You don’t want to max out the circuit, so you should choose a dimmer that doesn’t require all the power in any given circuit. Make sure it is rated slightly lower than the circuit total.

You also need to make sure the wattage rating on the dimmer switch exceeds the total number of watts of the light bulbs used on the circuit. Using a single dimmer with one wall box can reduce the effective wattage rating, so you may wish to consult with a licensed electrician in this instance.


You may find that extra features make your light switch dimmers more user friendly. For example, some dimmers employ a fade-to-off switch that slowly fades down the lights when you turn them off, so there is still some light available for safety as you exit the room. Also, there are dimmers with LED indicators to see light levels and models with memory settings that are retained even in the event of a power outage.

Controls for Light Switch Dimmers

Many choices to match use and decor

Nowadays, property owners have many options when selecting controls for their light switch dimmers. You’ll find hundreds of models that offer what you need in terms of both function and aesthetics.

Slide switches

These dimmer switches use a horizontal or vertical slider to change light levels. Look for slide switches with multiple stops that let you find your desired level of dimness easily.

Rotary dimmers

You’re probably familiar with these dimmers, as they’ve been around for many decades. The rotating knob adjusts the light, and turning all the way to one side shuts the light off with a click. They’re not ideal if you want presets, but they’re terrific if your lighting needs vary constantly.

Toggle switches

This type of light switch dimmer has both an on/off switch and a lighting level control. It’s the one to choose if you like the same level of lighting every time you use the fixture, as you can set the dimness once and then simply turn the light on and off as needed.

Rocker dimmers

Rocker dimmer switches come in a couple of different versions. Some work like toggle switches, only with a paddle-style switch that some folks find more attractive. Others require you to press and hold the rocker switch to achieve the level of light you want.

Tap Controls

By tapping this type of switch, you control the level of lighting in the room. For increased functionality with tap controls, look for models that have presets, either built into one switch or with a separate on/off switch like toggle switches.

Scene Selectors

These are very sophisticated dimmer switches that are ideal for rooms used for various functions, like conference rooms, restaurant dining rooms, and residential great rooms. They allow you to preset different lighting levels based on the mood or the amount of natural light.

Touch screen dimmers

Touch screen light dimmer switches are a type of tap control that uses a surface similar to a smartphone or tablet. Touch screen dimmers are often integrated with scene selectors. These are becoming increasingly popular in smart homes as they offer digitized lighting adjustment capabilities that can be controlled via smartphone or remote.

Upgrading Your Property’s Lighting

Tips for improved function

Upgrading your property’s lighting is a great way to improve its value. If it is a rental property, it makes it more attractive to tenants. Here are a few final tips to make the job go more smoothly:

  • While installing dimmer switches is often an easy DIY job, you still need to observe proper safety protocols. Always turn off power to circuits you’re working on via the electrical panel. When in doubt, have a licensed electrician do the work for you.
  • Adding dimmer switches is the perfect time to swap out your light bulbs for more energy-efficient models. Look for LED bulbs that last longer and cost less to run.
  • Always make sure your bulbs are compatible with the dimmer switch you plan on using.
  • Likewise, make sure your lighting fixtures can accommodate dimmers. For instance, track and recessed lighting usually require a specific type of dimmer. If you’re not sure, we’re happy to check your fixtures out for you.

Need assistance installing dimmers or with other electrical work? Reach out to Bolt Electric today. Call us at 212-434-0098, or use our easy online form to schedule an appointment when it’s convenient for you.

Article from