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Set a Lighter Mood with Dimmers

What's the fuss? You walk into a room; flip a switch. Light. You walk out; flip. Dark. Sure, it works, but you are missing the big picture. Lighting isn't just there to make sure you don't trip over the rollerblades in the middle of the floor. With a few easy changes it can enhance the decor of any room and set a mood unique to any situation. And, it can save money in the process.

"Dimmers give us complete and intimate control over our lighting systems," says Dan Blitzer, the American Lighting Association's consulting director of continuing education. "I say 'complete' because it allows us to adjust the intensity of the light to meet the needs of different individuals and different tasks, to warm the color, and to extend the life of incandescent lamps."

Such control allows the homeowner to set a mood in any room, not just the dining room. Adjusted lighting is ideal in a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and breakfast nook - nearly anywhere. The only rooms that may not benefit from dimmers are laundry rooms, storage areas, and pantries. Basic dimmer controls are simple to install in any existing or new setting, but there is more to the dimmer than the common knob-style.

LIGHTING CONTROLS COME IN FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES

Integrated dimming systems allow the most variety. Homeowners can create several preset lighting settings in a single room. With the touch of a single button from a wall box or a wireless remote control, they can recall the pre-selected scenes.

Touch dimmers create a lighting change with the press of a single button. One-touch recall allows the homeowner to return to the previous lighting level without resetting the light. Some dimmers also have a lighted indicator to show the intensity of the current setting.

Slide dimmers offer manual control of the lighting in a room. Some also include a button on the plate so it is easy to return to the previous setting.

Rotary dimmers are the ones most likely to conjure images of your Mom's dining room. The manual dial allows a homeowner to alter the lighting level by turning the dial. Some have push-button control to switch the light off while keeping the current setting in place.

It is also possible to control the lighting in your entire home by building in a custom system. This is the most cost-effective route, but it is possible to add a whole-house lighting system to an existing home.
Wireless, infrared systems, and radio wave dimmers are available, and can go with you when you move. Another easy way to add the control of dimmers is an extension cord dimmer, which is a quick way to alter the light level of individual lamps.

Prices for lighting control systems vary based on their technology and the extent of their control. A single dimmer will cost a few dollars, but an automated system for the entire home will run in the $1,000s.

A dimmer's operation is fairly simple. It essentially limits the amount of electricity that goes to the light. Less electricity means less electricity costs. Using a lower wattage bulb can do the same thing but will not allow any lighting flexibility.

Dimming a light 10 percent cuts electricity usage by 10 percent and [that] generally has a direct correlation to cost. What's more, the human eye adapts to light so easily that you probably wouldn't even notice a 10 percent decrease.

Dimming controls will also extend the lamp's life, which will save you cash over time. It can also save you the hassle of replacing bulbs in hard-to-reach places. Light can dictate the activity in the room it is illuminating. Bright light creates motion and a lot of activity. It's ideal for getting everyone going in the morning, but not for relaxing. For that, or if an intimate party is what you have in mind, keep the perimeter of the room a bit darker. The "campfire effect" will draw people to the brighter area at the center of the room. Trying to get folks to mingle at a large gathering? Brighten the accent lighting around the perimeter. It will encourage people to move around.

Experiencing the environments varied lighting can create is really the key to understanding its importance in a room's decor.


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