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How do dimmer switches work?

Alex Carter



Time to read 2 min

Have you ever wondered how your devices work? What happens behind the scenes of your electronics? If the answer is yes, then you’ll love this article! We will focus here on dimmer switches and how they work. Intrigued? Then read on!

What are dimmer switches?

Before discussing how dimmer switches work, we need to define what dimmer switches are. These are the electronic devices used to regulate the intensity of light. They are becoming quite popular, especially in smart lighting, since they enable better customization while being energy efficient.

How do dimmer switches work?

Dimmer switches are quite different from their regular counterparts. While in general, they operate on the same principle, there is one crucial difference that determines why the former can modify light intensity and the latter cannot. So, how do dimmer switches work?

Both regular and dimmer switches operate through circulation. The power is transferred in one direction, with the voltage rising until it reaches its maximum value and then dropping to zero. After that, the direction is reversed, and the same process is repeated – the cycle occurs about 60 times per second. However, it is slightly different with dimmer switches.

Instead of completing the full cycle, dimmer switches cut the energy wave at the 0 point (the moment when the direction changes) – it does so for both directions. Thus, the cuts occur about 120 times per second. As a result, although the power is cut, the lightbulb does not turn on – instead we see a smooth dimming effect.

Does the way how dimmer switch work affect their functions?

Cutting the power does indeed have an effect on the dimmer switches’ functions. They have more capabilities than just regulating the light intensity. For example, they use less energy than your standard switches.

Dimmer switches cut the voltage, meaning that for a certain, short periods the energy isn’t drew from the circuit. As a consequence, they can help you save a substantial amount of money on energy bills.

Moreover, since dimmer switches save energy, they also prolong the lifespan of your lightbulbs. As a result, you both save money and help the environment.

Yet, there are also some downsides. Old, incandescent lightbulbs and dimmer switches have a major issue – the energy is still used, no matter the light intensity. In dimmed lights, excess electricity is changed into heat. This results in higher room temperature, quicker exhaustion and no energy saving effect. Thus, it is crucial to pick a modern model.

The takeaway

How do dimmer switches work? By cutting the current at the point when its direction changes. It is done so frequently that the light does not turn off – it becomes dimmer instead. As a result, dimmer switches help you save on energy and extend the lifespan of your light bulbs, making them the perfect choice for any household!

Read “Everything you need to know about smart lighting” to learn more about the capabilities of smart dimmer switches and lightbulbs!