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Old 06-02-2010, 10:55 PM   #1
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Dimmer Dangers?


Hi. I'm new here and I would love a little advice on dimmers and lighting from someone who knows a lot about dimmers and lightbulbs.

My home is a sanctuary for animals. Since animals can be far more sensitive to light than people, I've installed dimmers on all indoor lights. Now I can increase the intensity gradually and not hurt the critters' eyes. This is so much nicer than a room full of temporarily blinded critters who sometimes panicked because they couldn't tell who was entering the room.

My concerns are 1) not having enough light and 2)safety. The amount of light coming through when the dimmer is on on "full blast" is slightly less. I need a little more light but the fixture rating say 60W max for each socket and I dare not exceed that. I would like to use CFLs but not sure the dimmable ones are truly safe or if they will produce enough light. Also do I have to wait for the dimmable CFLs to warm up? Right now I'm trying a "100w equivalent" standard CFL in an outdoor socket and after 10minutes, it's throwing less light than the 60W incancescent was (what is up with that? does it just need more time?) AND the light is a really ugly yellow. I'm going to need a light I can do my makeup by and if this is what I can expect from CFLs I'd better forget it. If CFLs will be an issue, maybe I can find affordable fixtures that can hande a 75-100W bulb or maybe some that hold an additional bulb. Any advice on affordable fixtures is appreciated too I found this one that takes 3 60-watt bulbs and I Assume this will triple the light in my bedroomsince I only have one 60W bulb now. Am I wrong? http://www.build.com/maxim-mx-5832-t...ixture/p351760

I'm also a bit concerned about what I've read on dimmers getting hot. I'm not sure if my dimmers are the kind that get hot or the kind that turn the bulb on and off repeatedly, does anyone know how I would determine this? The dimmers I have are not the rotary type. I have 3 different versions of sliding dimmer switches which are all relatively new (they were used but not very old). I want to be smart about fire-prevention and want to know if I should be turning all the dimmers off when I leave the home.

Unforturnately adding table or floor lamps is not an option when you have this many animals running about. All of our lights are ceiling mounted. Any suggestions, safety remarks, or creative ideas?

I appreciate your help =)

Nikki


Last edited by Pet Sanctuary; 06-02-2010 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:05 AM   #2
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Dimmer Dangers?


Not sure where to start here. Animals eyes are very well adapteable to changing light levels, not to worry about them.

Dimmers do reduce the full on voltage slightly, to around 110V, due to loses in the circuitry. And they do get warm, the volatge is dissipaited in the form of heat, but also, not to worry, that is how they work.

Dimming CFL's is not recommended. Some say they can be dimmed, and some dimmers claim they work on CFL's. Dimming will probably reduce the life of the CFL's and that is expensive. Why would you buy them, otherwise. Personally, I think they are way overrated. CFL's work best when they are left on. Switching them on/off reduces the life. And the take too long to come up to full brightness.

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Old 06-03-2010, 06:17 AM   #3
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Dimmer Dangers?


If you are going to install more ceiling light fixtures, can you install separate switches also? Then you can use regular lamps and regular (non-dimmer) switches and turn on one bank of lights at a time for gradually increasing light levels.

Even just two banks of lights can suffice. If one bank of lights has higher wattage lamps then you can actually get three levels of lighting, small bank, large bank, and both banks.

The 60 watt maximum for a fixture means that the fixture can dissipate that much heat. An incandescent lamp puts out roughly 10% of its output (in watts) as visible light and the rest is heat. While a fluorescent lamp puts out a much greater percentage in light, if for some reason the fixture got covered up or were fitted with a colored cellophane, much of the light will be converted to heat as it is absorbed instead of shining out of the fixture.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 06-03-2010 at 06:25 AM.
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Old 06-03-2010, 09:55 AM   #4
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Dimmer Dangers?


You've come across pretty much what I have. That is, the "equivalent" rating of a CFL is stretched significantly. I would say a CFL that says it lights as well as a 100W bulb is more like a 60-75W as you state... seems even less. I always go for the CFL's that say it lights at 100W+ equivalent. They keep getting dimmer (judging by my plant aquarium which takes 4 tubes). The instructions state "The output of flourescent lights diminishes with use, and replacement of all tubes is recommended every 6 months to avoid the risk of insufficient light levels and gradual decline of ones plants". It's interesting swapping them out after 6 months is certainly brighter. So if you don't think they're bright now, they're only going to get worse.

As for dimmable CFL's avoid them at all costs. They are EXTREMELY expensive, on low settings they have a very obvious blinking, and wear out extremely fast. My dimmable ones (I had 6), cost me $9 each and 4 of them died within 5 months. The other 2 we mostly use at full strength and they have faired better.. I had to keep the dimmer at 75% or higher else see obvious blinking which drove my wife and I nuts. So, what good is a dimmable CFL that blinks below 75%, very expensive, and lasts only several months when dimmed frequently?

Dimmers are made to get hot as stated, but also they are UL listed and tested and specifically designed for that. As long as you don't exceed the rating of the dimmer you will be fine. The more lights they control the hotter they get (and they often have cooling tabs that can be removed however the more you remove the less # lights they can control without overheating). They are safe, but CAN NOT be used if there's an outlet controlled by the dimmer. Reason being, that is almost always the outlet that tends to be 'free' all the time so people with vacuum cleaners will use them. Motors draw tremendous energy when starting up and not a good scenario for a dimmer. So, as long as only lights are controlled by the switch, a dimmer is fine.

Last edited by Piedmont; 06-03-2010 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:57 AM   #5
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Dimmer Dangers?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Pet Sanctuary View Post
AND the light is a really ugly yellow.
I'm going to need a light I can do my makeup by
You probably need a light whose spectrum approximates that of sunlight. The lights along the edges of makeup mirrors are designed to do this.

Also, look up 'Color Temperature' to pick out some candidate lighting choices.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 06-03-2010 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:28 AM   #6
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Dimmer Dangers?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Pet Sanctuary View Post
AND the light is a really ugly yellow. I'm going to need a light I can do my makeup by and if this is what I can expect from CFLs I'd better forget it.
I appreciate your help =)

Nikki
You need "Daylight" CFL's
Best ones I have found are Bright Effects brand at Lowes - 6500k
Very nice white light
Bathroom used to have (3) 40w bulbs - vanity over the sink
I replaced with (3) 9w CFL's - 40w equiv
After I tested the Daylight version (HD - 6200K, Lowes 6500k) I replaced the (3) beathroom lights with (3) 13w Daylights CFL's = 60w equiv

Most of our overhead lights are now 13w Daylight CFL's
Bathroom overhead has (2) 13w CFL's in the light/fan combo
Most of the ceiling fixtures I buy now take 2 bulbs & I install (2) 13w CFL's

I have one CFL dimmable bulb installed as a Test
Due to their cost I have not bought any more & probably will not

http://www.diychatroom.com/f98/cfl-b...r-light-53115/
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Old 06-03-2010, 01:17 PM   #7
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Dimmer Dangers?


There are 2 types of dimmers, the old style that has a variable resistor, or the new type that pulses off and on.

don't run floresents on either

if you want bright light with a slow startup and efficiency, consider Medal Halide lights, nice light, very bright, low energy, just don't be flicking them off and on.
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Old 06-03-2010, 01:46 PM   #8
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Dimmer Dangers?


I'm just going to stick with incandescent bulbs and try to upgrade the bedroom light to a doulbe or triple bulb fixture.

Piedmont said "Dimmers are made to get hot as stated, but also they are UL listed and tested and specifically designed for that. As long as you don't exceed the rating of the dimmer you will be fine. The more lights they control the hotter they get (and they often have cooling tabs that can be removed however the more you remove the less # lights they can control without overheating). They are safe, but CAN NOT be used if there's an outlet controlled by the dimmer....."

These dimmers only control my ceiling lights (no outlets at all on same circuits). But Piedmont brought up a very interesting point. If one dimmer is now controlling a fixture with one 60W bulb and I upgrade to a single fixture that is rated for and using 2 or 3 60W bulbs, Is this safe? I don't know what cooling tabs are but maybe I can look up a diagram online and perhaps take a look in the dimmers and see if any have been removed (why would one remove them? perhaps to increase available light?). Is there a label I can look for on the dimmer (I will make sure the circuit breaker is off, don't worry) which tells me how many watts it can handle?

I do have another question that may seem dumb. I just can't figure it out. The kitchen light has two switches (one on either side of the kitchen). Only the one switch is a dimmer. Either switch can turn the light on/off but the level of light is always what the dimmer dictates. I assume the power supply runs to the dimmer then to the other switch, but if this were the case, how can it be turned on when the dimmer switch is off? Is the dimmer safely absorbing the heat properly if this is the setup? I had a licensed and very experience Electrician put in all of the dimmers. I'm sure he did them the right way, but I want to have a better understanding and I don't want to upgrade any fixtures to hold more bulbs until I'm sure it is safe. Sorry so many questions. I just want the pets to be safe.

Thanks so much for the help!
Nikki
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:47 PM   #9
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Dimmer Dangers?


get a pulse width modulation style (PWM) dimmer. They don't heat up because they dont use a resistor, they just flick the lights off and on quickly to get the same result. because thier is no resistor to heat up and dumpinging electricity, they are more efficient. because it is just off and on, the number and sizes of bulbs don't matter (within reason)
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Old 06-03-2010, 03:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pet Sanctuary View Post
The kitchen light has two switches (one on either side of the kitchen). Only the one switch is a dimmer. Either switch can turn the light on/off but the level of light is always what the dimmer dictates. I assume the power supply runs to the dimmer then to the other switch, but if this were the case, how can it be turned on when the dimmer switch is off?
It's a 3-way dimmer, the equivalent of a regular dimmer in series with a 3-way switch.
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Old 06-03-2010, 04:00 PM   #11
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The kitchen light has two switches (one on either side of the kitchen). Only the one switch is a dimmer. Either switch can turn the light on/off but the level of light is always what the dimmer dictates.
This kind of dimmer is wired up like a 3 way switch with an ordinary 3 way switch for the other side of the room.
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Old 06-03-2010, 07:22 PM   #12
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if you want bright light with a slow startup and efficiency, consider Medal Halide lights, nice light, very bright, low energy, just don't be flicking them off and on.
What Metal Halide lights are low energy use ?
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Old 06-03-2010, 09:57 PM   #13
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If one dimmer is now controlling a fixture with one 60W bulb and I upgrade to a single fixture that is rated for and using 2 or 3 60W bulbs, Is this safe?

Most dimmers are rated for 600 watts. A few are rated for 300. There are dimmers you don't need to worry about that go even higher than 600 watts. Yes you will be safe.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:22 PM   #14
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Dimmer Dangers?


One option if you don't want to use dimmers is to just have a series of light switches. They would control a seperate set of lights that are spread out evenly, so one switch on would be low light, another would be more, and so on. I've seen this in public buildings, where at night they might only want a few spread out lights to stay on overnight.
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Old 06-04-2010, 08:07 AM   #15
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As goose134 stated, most dimmers can dim up to 600 watts safely, which is 10 60W incandescent lights. The dimmer itself (the ones I deal with) have tabs that can be removed, removing all of them would lower the watts the dimmer can handle. You can see an image http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41WzcqdK21L.jpg to see the "fins" I'm talking about. Notice there's 3 fins on each side (6 total), they can be removed in situations they won't fit, doing so reduces the load. This dimmer here at 8.3A can handle up to 1000 watts (it can control up to 16 incandescent 60w bulbs). However, I think it's more common dimmers with all fins intact can handle up to 600 watts, with 1 side removed 500 watts, and both sides removed 400 watts.

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