dimmer-switchLight dimmer switches are now common in most modern homes. Lighting affects the mood and comfort level of any given room. A bright halogen lamp just doesn’t help you wind down after a long day’s work, and a candle doesn’t work when you’re trying to make dinner. Dimmers can solve this problem.

If you use your dimmer often, however, you may notice it getting hot. Understandably, this can be disconcerting to a homeowner. If a dimmer gets too hot, it can actually melt the plastic plate or degrade  the electronic components.

Reasons for a Warm Dimmer

Basically, modern dimmers use a triac—a semiconductor—which works like a transistor. This allows the dimmer to control the amount of electricity going to your lights. This also means, however, that there will be a buildup of heat, which needs to be dissipated. A metal mounting plate is generally where the heat is distributed and then dissipated through the switch plate cover..

If your dimmer is running a single 100-watt bulb, you probably won’t notice any excess heat. However, if the wattage being controlled is in excess of  300 watts or more, you may start having issues. It’s not dangerous to run wattage that high (or higher), but you need to be using a system that is rated for that wattage, which is often not the case.

Dimmer ratings apply if the dimmer is mounted in a single gang box – meaning it is mounted alone.  If a dimmer is mounted in a box with other switches or dimmers, some of the heat fins must be removed resulting in a de- rating of its current carrying capability.

What You Can Do

First, you want to see if your dimmer switch is rated high enough for the amount of lighting it is running. You could also try using lower-wattage bulbs to reduce the overall amount of heat going through the switch.

In some cases, the actual casing and/or trim plate could be the culprit. Today, most electrical boxes are plastic, but metal is a much better conductor of heat. Changing from a plastic to a metal box will help, as well as replacing a plastic trim plate with a slightly larger metal one.

Dimmer Switch Help in Denver

If you need help determining exactly what the problem is with your dimmer switch, give Piper Electric Co., Inc. a call. Our team of licensed residential electricians will diagnose the problem and give you a free electrical estimate based on a fair “time and materials” pricing method. Be assured that we will keep your dimmers working safely so you can enjoy the comfort of adjustable lighting, both inside and outside.