While it is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated products in the home, a dimmer can instantly transform the look of any room. For some homeowners, dimmers came with the house and they’ve yet to give much thought about whether they are maximizing their capabilities. Many others, however, are living in homes without dimmers and have no idea what they are missing. Let’s break down the basics and add some tips.
Who Needs a Dimmer? You Do.
When it comes to enjoyment and practicality for the cost, it’s hard to beat the value of dimmers.
Think about it: without a dimmer, the lighting fixtures and lamps you have in your home have just one brightness level.
Let’s take the common example of entering a bathroom in the middle of the night. With the basic toggle switch, the lights blare on full strength, which is a jarring experience for people of all ages. Statistics show many falls occur when the elderly leave or return to bed during a night-time bathroom visit caused by the visual disorientation of adjusting from darkness to bright light and vice versa. The sudden contrast can also disrupt our natural circadian rhythms, which help promote restorative sleep. While night-lights in the bathroom and hallway are one solution, they might not cast a wide enough amount of light for seniors or those who wear glasses to walk safely while sleepy. Another reason for a dimmer in the bathroom: anyone who enjoys a relaxing soak in the bath will appreciate the calming mood that lower light levels provide.
The second most-important room to have a dimmer is the kitchen. When cooking and cleaning, you want recessed lights or lighting fixtures on at full brightness; however, now that open floor plans – where the kitchen is in view of the main living space – continue to be popular, being able to dim those overhead lights will balance the light levels between the two areas.
With many families eating their daily meals at the kitchen table, lowering the light level from the bright cleaning/cooking mode will make dining more comfortable for everyone and can set a relaxing ambiance similar to candlelight. If there’s a midnight snacker in the family, keeping the kitchen lights dimmed down makes navigating the kitchen safe and comfortable without using much energy.
Nearly every room deserves a dimmer. Dimming the hallway lighting that connects bedrooms and bathrooms is handy for navigation as well as from the master bedroom to the nursery for late-night diaper changes. Many interior designers opt to put the lighting in a baby’s room on a dimmer for just that purpose.
Separate home theaters and media rooms were more common years ago, but with the popularity of open floor plans today, TV watching often occurs in a larger portion of the main living space. Dimming the lights down allows the focus to be on the screen and yet provides enough illumination for a family member to find their way to the kitchen or bathroom without disrupting others.
With the recent emphasis on wellness, keeping circadian rhythms in balance has gained importance for maintaining good health. Dimming lights down in the bedroom prior to bedtime (and limiting the use of electronic, blue-screen devices such as tablets and cell phones) helps promote a restful, calming mindset until you’re ready to turn off the light and fall asleep. Establishing this bedroom routine can train your body to fall asleep at the same time every night.
Smarter Than You Think
Basic dimmers cost anywhere from $10 to $25 each, but some models have evolved with the times to encompass smart technology (i.e. Amazon Alexa and Google-enabled to dim and brighten on voice command) at a higher price. There are also dimmers with expanded capabilities to set “scenes” that can conveniently control multiple lights in the room.
Dimmers and wall-mounted light controls are more décor-friendly as well, moving away from the dated knob style and toward a streamlined look with features such as tap, touch, and even wave-activated. The choice in switchplate styles has grown to include a variety of fashion colors and materials – even slate – to complement any decorating scheme. There are also lamp dimmers on the market specifically designed to turn any table lamp into a dimmable version.
Reap the Cost Savings
Not many people know that dimming your light bulbs saves energy which, in turn, can reduce your electric bill. In fact, dimmer manufacturers estimate that homeowners can save up to 10 percent on their average electric bill with dimmers. In addition, using dimmers regularly can extend the life expectancy of light bulbs by three or four years.
There is one crucial bit of information to remember, however, before you purchase a dimmer or replace an existing light bulb that you have in a dimmable fixture. You must check the packaging to make certain the dimmer will work with that light source.
An incandescent dimmer – the basic model installed in homes pre-1980s – will not work properly with a compact fluorescent or an LED bulb. There are dimmers available that will work with LED and CFL light sources, but you just need to read the label. There are also “universal dimmers” that have been developed to work with incandescent, LED, and CFL light sources. Reading the product descriptions carefully will avoid any mistakes.
When choosing lighting fixtures for your home, look for the word “dimmable” on the product descriptions to be sure they will be compatible with your existing or new dimmer. LightsOnline has all of the lighting fixtures you need for every room in your home — plus dimmers and lamp dimmers, too!