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DIMMERS & LIGHTING CONTROLS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What makes a light dim?
How do dimmers save energy?
If the lights are being turned on and off won't the lights seem to be flickering?
Doesn't turning the lights on and off so quickly decrease bulb life?
Can Lutron dimmers be ganged?
Do Lutron dimmers increase halogen lamp life?
What can I do to minimize lamp hum?
Can I use a 3-way dimmer in a single-pole application?
Can I use a 3-way dimmer in the 4-way switch location?
Can I use a standard 3-way switch with a multi-location dimmer?
How do I tell magnetic and electronic low-voltage tranformers apart?

 

 

Q. What makes a light dim?
A.

The triac is the key to dimming. This dimmer component actually turns light on and off very rapidly - 120 times per second. This technology is illustrated below.



The longer the light is ON versus OFF (example A) the bright the light output. By the same logic, the longer the light is OFF versus ON (example B), the lower the light output.

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Q. How do dimmers save energy?
A.

When the light is off, no energy is being used. The longer the triac is off, the lower the light output, and the greater the energy savings.

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Q. If the lights are being turned on and off won't the lights seem to be flickering?
A.

No.

No matter how bright or how dim, the light level is constant and smooth. Compare dimming to movie projection. A movie is actually 35 individual frames per second projected so quickly that you never detect a break in the section.

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Q. Doesn't turning the lights on and off so quickly decrease bulb life?
A.

No.

Switching the bulb does not decrease bulb life; heat decreases bulb life. By reducing heat, bulb life is increased.

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Q. Can Lutron dimmers be ganged?
A.

Yes.

When 2 or more dimmers are in the same wallbox, the are considered "ganged". To install ganged dimmeres, simply remove the dimmer side sections from the heat sink. The maximum wattage capacity for each dimmer is reduced (derated) so that the dimmer does not overheat.

More ganging and derating information.

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Q. Do Lutron dimmers increase halogen lamp life?
A.

Yes.

Dimming increases incandescent lamp life, and haloge lamps are incandescent lamps. Lutron test data suggests that all halogen lamps will have an expected lamp life similar to that of other incandescent (non power factor corrected) lamps when dimmed, i.e. a halogen lamp dimmed 25% has a life extension of about four times that of a non-dimmed lamp.

Lutron is continuing to test its dimmers with various halogen lamps from many lamp manufacturers.

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Q What can I do to minimize lamp hum?
A.

Occasionally, lamps may generate noise when dimmed. This noise is caused by vibration of the lamp filament as the dimmer rapidly switches the lamp on. Lamp buzz, if it occurs,, is generally noisiest at the mid-range (50%) dimming level. We suggest the following solutions:

  • Select another brand of lamp or use lower wattage lamps (100W or less)
  • Use rough service lamps
  • Use a physically smaller lamp
  • Install a lamp debuzzing coil in the lighting circuit
 

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Q. Can I use a 3-way dimmer in a single-pole application?
A.

Yes.

If a product purchased as a 3-way control needs to be used in a single-pole application, cap of one of the traveler wires with a wire connector.

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Q. Can I use a 3-way dimmer in the 4-way switch location?
A.

No.

3-way dimmers may only be located in either of the 3-way switch position.

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Q. Can I use a standard 3-way switch with a multi-location dimmer?
A.

No.

Multi-location dimmers do use standard 3-way wiring, but make use of one wire for communications while the other carries the load current. A 3-way switch is not compatible with this configuration.

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Q. How do I tell magnetic and electronic low-voltage tranformers apart?
A.

Transformers may have magnetic (core and coil, toroidal) or electronic (solid-state) clearly indicated on the product. However, this is not a required marking and will not be found on all products.

The best way to determine transformer type is to contact the manufacturer.

A hint of the transformer construction can often be found in the transformer's weight.
Magnetic (coil and coil, toroidal) transformers are often heavy for their size.
Electronic (solid-state) transformers tend to be smaller and are often light for their size.

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