How We Decided
After we received the different dimmer switches, we got right to work installing them in our living spaces to measure how easy the entire installation process was. The difficulty of installation can vary depending on what type of switch you buy and the existing wiring in your home, but we specifically looked for clear instructions and universal compatibility when it came to face and wall plates. The best dimmer switches are easy to install and don’t need a neutral wire, and shouldn’t require you to hire an electrician unless you feel super uncomfortable doing the job yourself.
After installation, we measured the dimmer switches on their ease of use. If installed correctly, the best dimmer switch will easily dim or brighten the lights in your room and provide a good range of brightness. If the dimmer doesn’t offer much range, it’s not very useful, so we didn’t include those kinds of switches on our list.
Finally, we also measured overall smart functionality on each of the switches we tested, but we didn’t penalize non-smart dimmer switches for a lack of smart features. Smart switches should provide more convenience than frustration, so we only included options with apps that were easy to use and didn’t require connection to a smart home hub.
Dimmer Switch Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
Before you even start researching different dimmer switches, you need to know the wattage of your bulbs to ensure they will be compatible with the dimmer switches you purchase. You’ll also want to know how many light bulbs in total you’re going to be dimming with a single switch so you can avoid overloading the switch. Each dimmer has a total allowed wattage that you don’t want to exceed.
- Dimmer Type
As you’re figuring out wattage numbers, you’ll also need to figure out how many switches are going to control the lights and what type of dimmer you need to enable the proper installation and setup:
- Single-pole: If you’re controlling your lights from a single dimmer, purchase a single-pole switch.
- Three- or Four-way: If you’re controlling your lights with single dimmer and at least one other switch in a different location, purchase a three- or four-way dimmer.
- Multi-location: If you’re controlling your lights with four or more dimmer locations, purchase a multi-location dimmer.
- Plug-in: If you’re controlling table or floor lamps, purchase a plug-in dimmer.
- Bulb Types
There are a ton of different bulb types available today, and most of them require a specific kind of dimmer switch in order to work properly. Let’s take a look at light bulb types and compatibility below:
- Compact Fluorescent (CFL): Only work with dimmer switches if they are labelled specifically as dimmable. CFL bulbs that are dimmable can work with some halogen and incandescent dimmer switches, but not all models.
- Halogen: Compatible with most dimmer switches.
- Incandescent: Compatible with most dimmer switches.
- Magnetic Low Frequency: Compatible with most dimmer switches.
- Electronic Low Frequency (ELV): Compatible with most dimmer switches.
- LED: Some are dimmable, but most LEDs don’t work with dimmer switches due to their low wattage.
- Control Style
Dimmer switches can be controlled in a number of different ways, and the type of control style you choose is entirely personal preference. Take a look at the list of different styles below:
- Slide: The most common form of dimmer. Slide the knob up or down to adjust brightness.
- Rotary: Turn the knob left and right to adjust brightness.
- Rocker: Rocker switches that dim look just like traditional rocker switches, but include dimmer slider to the side or below the switch. When you flip the switch on, the lights will return to brightness as defined on the dimmer slide.
- Toggle: The same as rocker switches, but the on/off switch resembles the classic toggle switch.
- Scene Selector: Multiple buttons with different, pre-set brightness levels.
- Tap: Touchpad or button control.
- Smart Home Functionality
With the ever-growing popularity of smart homes, it’s also important to consider how your dimmer switches will function with smart home systems like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and other options. If you’d like to control your lighting and dimming functionality using your smartphone, look into switches that support that feature.
Dimmer Switch FAQs
Are dimmer switches safe?
All in all, dimmer switches are completely safe for use within your home. They don’t require any special wiring or extra precaution. However, it’s important that you install them correctly and safely, and that you don’t overload them with too much wattage. Otherwise, they can become a safety hazard.
Are dimmer switches easy to install?
Dimmer switches are so common today that most are designed to fit the standard light switch box openings. A quick search on Google will pull up a million different tutorials for how to install these switches and those tutorials are easy to follow. Just remember to cut power to the switch you’re replacing so you don’t shock yourself in the process!
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