Dim and Dimmer
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

Q: Randall, can you dim low voltage and line voltage together?

A: Yes.
As long as it is a low voltage dimmer, there should be no problem. Don’t use a line voltage dimmer on a low voltage fixture, though.

Q: Why does a three-way switch or dimmer have only two locations?

It relates to the number of “poles” in the dimmer. If a light is controlled from one location, it uses a switch or dimmer with a single pole. Once that same light gets controlled from two locations, the control devices have three poles.
Choose switch locations during the construction phase.
The best time to nail down the switch locations is when the walls are open.

Q: Our living room only has room for two switches; we need four. Is there a magical work-around?

If you only need switches, not dimmers, you can use stacked switches (two on top of each other in a single gang box). If you would like these to be dimmed, you can use a dual slide dimmer, such as the Lutron Skylark S2-L. These each control up to 300W.

Q: What is the solution for controlling a ceiling fan and light independently utilizing two existing three-way switches?

You will need to install two pairs of three-way controls. One of each set will be a dimmer for the light, and the other will be a fan-speed control. If you are willing to give up one of the locations, you can use a dual slide dimmer/fan-speed control, such as the Lutron Skylark S2-LF.

Q: What are the basics for selecting switching groups?

Keep it simple. One controls the accent lights, another controls ambient lighting and a third controls decorative fixtures. The fourth could control the receptacles into which the table, reading and lava lamps are plugged. You can divide these up further, but it means more dimmers banked together or moving into a preset dimming/switching system.

Q: My dimmer makes noise. What’s going on?

You could have more wattage on the load than the dimmer is rated for. Or if it’s a low voltage dimmer, the dimmer could be rated for a magnetic transformer, while the one in the fixture is electronic. The transformer needs to match the dimmer for which it’s rated. If your dimmer is talking to you, well, that’s out of my area of expertise.


Got a Question for Randall?

He’s no dimbulb.

Send questions to: Residential Lighting magazine attn: Last Word in Lighting 400 Knightsbridge Pkwy. Lincolnshire, IL 60069 Fax: (847) 634-7885 E-mail: [email protected]
Move It or Lose It

Consider using motion sensors in the laundry room, closets, garage and pantry. California’s Title 24 code requires non-high-efficacy lighting in bathrooms to be controlled by a manual-on/auto-off motion sensor.

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