How to Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs With a Dimmer Switch

Written by g.k. bayne
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Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are an energy-efficient way to replace normal incandescent light bulbs. These spiral tube bulbs will emit as much light as their incandescent counterparts, but will use at least 70 per cent less energy consumption. While a 100-watt light bulb will use 100 watts of electrical energy, the CFL that is rated for emitting the same amount light will use only 26 to 29 watts of power. The CFL bulb is more expensive, but it will outlast the incandescent bulb by many years if the correct bulb is operated in optimum conditions.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Dimmable compact fluorescent lights
  • Dimmer switch for fluorescent lights (optional)

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  1. 1

    Look at the manufacturers label and use only CFLs that are rated for a dimmer switch. These bulbs can be directly installed into regular light sockets already controlled by a standard dimmer switch.

  2. 2

    Place the CFL into lighting fixtures that will be left on for periods longer than 15 minutes. The compact fluorescent light bulb takes up to 3 minutes to fully warm up. The more often any electrical device is turned off and on, it will decrease that device's lifespan. The same holds true for the CFL. Constant on and off operation can reduce the cost savings of the CFL bulb.

  3. 3

    Install a special dimmer switch made for fluorescent lights. These dimmer switches can cost more than the savings of installing the CFL individually, but using a fluorescent dimmer that controls many CFLs will be cost effective.

  4. 4

    Use CFL bulbs in light fixtures that are turned on most often. It may not be worth the cost of the higher priced CFL bulb in light fixtures that are rarely used. Take that money and use it in other areas of the home where energy savings can be realised, such as caulking and foam sealant tape around doors and windows.

Tips and warnings

  • Placing a non-rated CFL into a dimmer switch circuit is not harmful, but will prematurely shorten the life of the bulb.
  • Dimmer switches made for fluorescent light bulbs can be used to operate the CFL. These types of dimmer switches do tend to be much more expensive than the regular dimmer switches.

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