Did you know that when you swap your old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs for more efficient CFL or LED lamps, you’ll also need to change out your dimmer switches (if you bought CFLs and LEDs that can dim)? It makes sense; they are completely different technologies, after all.
But it’s something I never really stopped to think about, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one. Those dimmers that are already in the walls of my house simply aren’t going to work those LED fixtures I intend to eventually install.
Darn. That means all new dimmers. Just another remodeling expense that’ll join my already over-budget improvements which includes new windows and new kitchen flooring.
There’s no way around not having to buy new dimmers. Still, manufacturers are helping homeowners transition from incandescents to more efficient light sources, so that when you do have the funds or feel the need you can ease into it. Several lighting control introduced their solutions at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo held recently in Atlanta.
Lutron’s solution is probably the most flexible of them all. If you’re not ready to invest in CFLs or LEDs, the company’s phase-adaptive dimmer ($199, due out in December) works fine with incandescents. When you’re ready to make the switch, the dimmer detects the type of load that’s on its circuit and adjusts accordingly. “Futureproofing at its best,” says a Lutron executive. Lutron recently released two dimmers that are compatible with incandescents, halogens, CFLs and LEDs—the Diva wall-mounted version, with a large paddle switch and small slider ($39) and Credenza plug-in lamp dimmer ($15), so be on the lookout for those.
Vantage, meanwhile, has developed a helpful resource online that can pinpoint the right dimmers for your fixtures. It’s intended mostly for use by mainly custom electronics pros, but it can give homeowners who are investing in a whole-house lighting system the flexibility to pick and choose a variety of different types of lights.
One of the first places you’ll probably want to incorporate a CFL or LED light is in a closet or some other area where your family tends to leave the lights on. Leviton has a quick and easy replacement fixture ($30) that incorporates technology to make the light even more efficient. Built directly into the fixture is a small occupancy sensor that turns the lights on and off automatically in response to movement in the space, precluding the need for a wall switch.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.