How Does a Dimmer Switch Work?

A light dimmer is a common switch used to adjust the brightness of lighting. This can open many possibilities for decorating and gives a homeowner the power to adjust lighting around the home, without having to use multiple different bulbs. Most people have heard of a Dimmer Switch, but how does it work?


The most common primary component of a Dimmer Switch is what’s called a TRIAC, which is short for triode for alternating current. This TRIAC essentially limits the amount of power sent to the bulb by rapidly turning on and off the circuit. This is why most dimmer switches work well with iridescent bulbs because their filament will not show the choppiness of the current being sent to it.

Will a TRIAC Dimmer Switch Work for All Lights?

There is a type of dimmer switch for just about any available bulb. Iridescent and halogen light bulbs work best with TRIAC switches; however, LED lights will not work with TRIAC dimmers. LED lights have different requirements of power for operation and will need what’s called a CL dimmer.

CL Dimmer

A CL Dimmer uses resistors to limit the power that is received by the light from the switch. This makes these types of dimmers perfect for both LED and fluorescent lighting.

Benefits of a Dimmer Switch

Using a dimmer switch can increase the lifetime of the bulbs throughout your home. Along with that, it can reduce the cost of your energy bill while giving you control of the lighting throughout your home.

We proudly serve the Tallahassee FL, area as your trusted local electrician. If you are considering adding dimmer switches to your home and don’t know where to start, make sure to give us a call and we’ll take care of the rest.