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How to replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch? Many architects designing homes and commercial structures now opt to put a dimmer switch to enable controlling the lighting systems. By installing a dimmer switch, you can manage the radiance and ambient light intensity in any room. Not only can you change the mood simply by adjusting the light, but there are several other positives to having this neat gadget in your home. Read ahead for detailed information about how to convert regular switch to dimmer. We’ll also put down responses to some of the most commonly-asked questions users have.

How to Replace a Regular Switch with a Dimmer Switch

Having a dimmer switch has several advantages.

The ability to dim the lights as and when needed has several positives for your psyche. Softer lighting has a calming effect and lifts your mood, which is why it is ideal for your home. Especially in the evenings when you return home after a long day at work. On the flip side, bright lights are suitable for office spaces since they mimic natural light and boost productivity.

Overall, dimming the lights is good for your health and the environment because it conserves power. You’ll not only make the room look more appealing, but also make your bulbs last longer. In short, investing in a dimmer switch will result in a great return on investment (ROI). 

What exactly is a dimmer?

A dimmer switch is essentially a potentiometer device that you connect to the light switch that powers the lights. When you adjust the dimmer, you change the voltage waveform, or current of the power supplied to the lamp or bulb. That’s how you can raise or lower the intensity of the bulb’s output lumens. When learning how to replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch, first identify the type of dimmer you need. Should you start to search around, you’ll come across three types of dimmer switches, such as:

  • Rotary dimmers: You can install these dimmers in cross and two-way switches. Adjusting the light is done by turning the dial to the desired brightness. By pressing it, you can turn the light on or off. 
  • Touch screen dimmers: Architects typically install them as a part of your smart home automation systems. They are installed on a wall and are ideal for adding a contemporary look and feel to any interior design.
  • Universal dimmers: These dimmers are possibly the most common types and are easy to use, similar to a regular light switch. Universal dimmers are compatible with incandescent lamps, LED lights, and halogen lamps with low or high voltage that have magnetic or electronic transformers. Some brands are also available with the memory function, so you can program to light the specifications. 
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Can you change a normal light switch for a dimmer switch?

To answer your question — can you replace any light switch with a dimmer? And, just how difficult is it to get one for your home or workplace? You will be surprised to know that replacing a regular switch and installing a dimmer is exceedingly convenient. As long as you follow the mandatory safety precautions, even a beginner with no experience can replace the switch quickly. Before selecting the suitable dimmer, you’ll figure out three critical criteria.

Type of Light Fixture

You must select the right dimmer according to the light fixture. The wrong dimmers will only result in the lights not working or flickering. For instance, if you have LED lights, you’ll want to get the LED dimmer since LEDs work on DC current. Although CFL dimmers can also run LED lights, the reverse isn’t true. If you have CFL lights, make sure to get only CFL dimmers.

The same rule applies to incandescent and halogen lights also. You’ll select the suitable dimmers compatible with the lights. Keep in mind that dimmers don’t work with fluorescent lights. Changing the light fixture is the only option if you absolutely need a dimmer.

Total Wattage Needed

If your light fixture has multiple bulbs, you’ll choose the right dimmer accordingly. Check the total wattage for all the bulbs and match the figure to the rating on the dimmer switch. Make sure the controller can tolerate the wattage load before purchasing.

Number of Switches Controlling the Light Fixture

While you can replace regular switch with dimmer, identify the number of switches controlling the light fixture. If multiple switches control the light, you may want to get a three-way dimmer and a three-way switch. Installing the two will allow you to turn on or off the lights from one location and dim the lights from the other location. Once you figure out this issue, you can choose from standard single-pole dimmers and three-way dimmers. These are the two wiring configurations used in dimmer switches.

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How to Replace a Regular Switch with a Dimmer Switch – Step-by-Step Guide

dimmer switch wiring

Follow these steps and get the job done in no time.

Step 1 – Safety precautions. 

Check your main circuit box and identify the wires running to the room where you’ll work. Turn off the power and go back to the room. Flip the light on and off a couple of times to make sure the power is really off. That’s how you eliminate the risk of getting electrocuted.  

Step 2 – Remove the Existing Switch

Dimmers are typically designed to fit into the standard wall box plate, so replacing them should not be a problem. Remove the existing plate by undoing the screws, and use a voltage tester to check the board to confirm safety. Now remove the screws on the mounting plate and pull the switch away from the wall to expose the wires. Also, remove the wire nuts on the old switch. 

Step 3 – Prep the Wires for the New Dimmer

Ignore the white wires and any others labeled “Common.” Examine the other colored wires and their ends attached to the old switch. If you notice that they are burnt, charred, or show any signs of damage, trim the ends with the wire cutter. Using the wire stripper, take off about ¾ inch of the casing to expose new wires. When learning how to replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch, carefully pay attention to the wire colors. 

Step 4 – Attach the Dimmer Wires to the Appropriate Wall Wires

If you see a bare copper or green wire in the wall, that attaches with the ground wire on your dimmer. Twist the two together securely and cap the wire with a connector. Make sure that the wire connector covers the exposed copper entirely. If not, remove the connector and trim the ends a bit more. You can now proceed with attaching the remaining wires.

Black dimmer wires must connect with the common wire. You’ll also see that house traveler wires in the wall socket are red or white. Use a pair of pliers to twist the ends of each connecting wire pair securely. And, attach the wire connector caps on each. 

Step 5 – Attach the Switch Mounting Plate and Wall Plate

Replace all the wires in the electrical wall box and attach the screws of the dimmer switch to the plate. Tighten the screws carefully and if your dimmer has a removable knob or any other parts, detach and set aside. Reattach the wall plate around your new dimmer by replacing the screws. You can now put back the knob or attachment. Your dimmer switch is now ready for use. 

Step 6 – Test the Switch

Now that you know how to replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch, it’s time to test your installation. Go back to the main circuit box and turn on the power. Try the dimmer and see if it works as needed.

Can a dimmer switch be installed on any light?

Typically, yes! Aside from fluorescent lights, you can get the dimmer switch for any kind of light fixture.

Do you need special wiring for a dimmer switch?

Dimmer switches require a three-wire cable called Romex. When you check the wires, you’ll note that the dimmer comes with a green wire. You’ll connect this wire to the grounding wire in the wall socket. Most buildings have bare copper ground wires, and you’ll join them to the toggle switch. 

What are the 3 wires on a dimmer switch?

Most dimmer switches have three wires: one black, one white (OR Red), and possibly one green, the ground wire. This 3-wire NM creates a connection between the travelers of the dimmer switch and the travelers of the light fixture enabling the brightness control feature. If your building is older, and you see just two wires after detaching the switch plate, call in an electrician right away. The two wires are likely just a ground wire and a hot wire, and an expert will know what to do next. 

Following the instructions and information in this article, you can learn how to replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch. You are now ready to add a whole new dimension to your interior’s appeal.

References:

  1. https://www.nachi.org/conductor-types.htm#:~:text=Romex%20is%20the%20trade%20name,used%20as%20residential%20branch%20wiring
  2. https://onlinemba.unc.edu/news/how-lighting-affects-productivity/ 

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