05 March 2009


A lightswitch dimmer that fits in the old slot

Inspired by the halogen lights in the hotel rooms we visited last week, my wife and I bought some inexpensive new light fixtures for our kitchen yesterday. Even after swapping the bulbs for lower-wattage versions, we discovered that they can be pretty bright. So today I tracked down a clever dimmer switch, the first of its kind I've seen:

Clever dimmer switch

The switch fits in a regular old-style wall plate, the kind we've had throughout our house since it was built in the 1960s. The main toggle is slightly narrower than usual, and operates the regular way. Next to it is a tiny, thin, fingernail-operated slider that operates the dimmer. Neat.

Whenever we repair or repaint something in the house, it becomes suddenly obvious how old and dirty some of the unchanged stuff is. In this case, the beige old wall plate and switch make it clear not only how not white they are, but how grimy the switch itself is after over 40 years of use. Ew.

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We put a couple of these switches in when we fixed up our kitchen. We really like them. We first tried a digital switch (recommended by the people who sold us some halogen under-cabinet lights). It was supposed to provide some fancy effects -- dim the lights to off slowly when you turn them off, etc. It didn't work very well, and we weren't interested in the features anyway. So we returned the fancy switch and used one of the kind you show instead. All happy in the end.
I'm not sure if I like our new lighting or not. The halogen bulbs are less generous, more focused, with their light. I'm considering having a cocktail party soon to see what my friends think about the kitchen lighting.
Please tell me that those dimmers are rated for your halogen lights and/or the transformers for the halogens are the kind that are happy working with a dimmer.

Those can sometimes be problems.

And if those AREN'T problems, can you tell me what kind of dimmers you have, because I'd like some too!
Of course I ditched the packaging already so I don't know the specific brand, but most of the dimmers I saw at Home Depot said that incandescents and halogens were okay -- they just warned against using fluorescent or LED bulbs. Plus the halogen lamps at the hotels we were at last week had what looked like pretty standard dimmers on theirs.
netdud asked about dimmers. Have a look here:
Lutron is the brand I have, and browsing through the site confirms that the halogens we have seem to be fine -- the particular GU10-mount fixtures we're using are 120V without a transformer, and act like regular incandescent bulbs as far as the dimmer is concerned. Things may be different if you're using magnetic track lights or other fixtures that change the voltage for the bulbs.