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Thread: Dimmer Switches - What's a good choice?

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    Default Dimmer Switches - What's a good choice?

    I'm going to be putting in quite a few recessed lights in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I would like to use a dimmer at least in the dining and living rooms, partly because there will be a light fixture over the dining table and would want to dim for tv watching in the living room.

    I need to stay with something that will fit in the small, traditional style cover plate, and I really do not care for the rotary dimmers. So that leaves me with something like the following:

    http://www.lutron.com/Products/Stand...es/Models.aspx

    http://www.cooperindustries.com/cont...61_ti061l.html

    http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/Secti...minisite=10251

    At first I really liked the Lutron but then read a review online that said the little plastic slider broke easily, and I can see me with my clumsy hands doing so if that is the case. The Cooper looks simple but does not have the preset. And the Leviton has the digital preset which would be ok but I'm not a big fan of the LED (but it would be ok).

    The only other thing that caught my attention is that Lutron makes a CL line that supposedly works with dimmable CFL's and LED's. I still haven't made up my mind if I am going to use incandescent or CFL's at this point. I would probably go with incandescent but the heat is a major factor, but maybe dimming would negate some of that. Still, I hate to put in dimmers that would not work with the new CFL and LED technology.

    So, thoughts???
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; I still haven't made up my mind if I am going to use incandescent or CFL's at this point.

    You may not have a choice. California is banning incandescent bulbs, and the manufacturers are also phasing them out. The last incandescent manufacturer in the USA stopped making 100 watt bulbs a few months ago, and eventually the rest will be gone also.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Here's a link to an older dimmer discussion

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...mer-burned-out

    I've been buying more CFL's, so it made sense to buy a dimmer that works both ways.

    I like not having to change bulbs so often for some locations in the home, and I can choose between soft light and also the ones for reading. As I get older, I like the florescent for reading.
    Last edited by Terry; 02-06-2012 at 05:28 PM.

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    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    Terry, that is the same Lutron dimmer I was looking at, just in the smaller traditional style. Have you used it with dimmable CFL's? If so, what kind of CFL's and how do you like it?

    I was reading that there is some difference in dimming quality between different bulbs. I guess I would ideally like to use flourescent R30 bulbs so they look good in the cans.
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I installed that switch mainly for the future.
    Right now I'm using the old bulbs on it. I noticed the other day that 3 of the 5 were burned out. It looks like it's time to switch the bulbs to florescent and see how it works.
    It seems like I just installed incandescents the other day. That is the downside alright. My hall and garage lights are all florescent. They last incredibly long.
    Last edited by Terry; 02-06-2012 at 07:51 PM.

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    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    It would probably be worth it in my case as well to go with something that will work in the future, i.e. dimmable CFL's. If so, that pretty much narrows my options.

    Much appreciated Terry.
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Self-ballasted dimmable CFLs in screw-type edison base are pretty crummy, in that they don't dim very far before they blink out. To get good dimming with fluorescent technology takes a ballasted fixture and special dimmers designed to work with the dimming ballast.

    For the recessed cans the CREE LR6, MR6, and LR4 LEDs all work pretty well with the typical $15-20 Lutron dimmers. Box-store pricing on the 10.5W MR6 has been hitting $25/per at times in my neighborhood, which may sound pretty steep until you compare it to ballasted fixture CFL technology, or do the math on replacing 65W halogen R30s 5-8 times over 10 years, completely ignoring the power and air-conditioning savings. An LED downlight should last at least a couple decades unless you abuse it, and replacing ten 65-75W R30s with 10 watt LEDs is more than half a kilowatt less power being dumped into the room, which is a measurable difference in the air conditioning load (and comfort) in that room. The color rendering of the MR6 is pretty good too- better than any dimmable CFL I'm aware of, better than many non-halogen incandescents too.

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    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    Very interesting Dana.

    I have not really looked into LED's due to price and color. From what you are saying the color is good. $25/bulb is steep but I may be able to justify them in the kitchen and living area where they are on for a substantial amount of time.

    Well I'll be. If my math is right the LED bulbs at 12 hours per day (reasonable in the kitchen with a stay at home wife) should pay for themselves in one year in electricity savings alone over the 65w halogen.

    That bulb you linked to, it looks like they work in a 6" can, they just have their own trim built in? Also, can you explain to me the CREE, LR6, MR6 and LR4 designations? A quick internet search for MR6 led doesn't help me much.
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Sorry- thats CR6, not MR6 (oops!)

    The LR6 and CR6 are both for 6" cans (R30, PAR38), and come with integrated trim, which is also a critical part of the heat-sinking required to keep the electronics cool for long life & efficiency. The LR6 comes in 12w & higher versions- they put out a bit more light (more like a 75W halogen than a 65W like the MR6), but tend to be more expensive. The LR4 is for 4" cans (PAR20 & R20 bulbs), and is also a bit more expensive than the CR6.

    In your power use analysis, don't for get to add 20-25% to the savings numbers for the reduction in cooling load. Heat you don't put into the house doesn't need to be pumped out. Going from 65W to 10.5W is literally like running that light for free (or even getting paid for it bit in lowered AC bills) in a So.TX climate, if that's the comparison.

    The mental concept of "light bulb" has to change to view LED lighting correctly. Rather than being a short to mid term consumable like lightbulbs (including CFLs) , LED lighting falls under "durable goods", since it'll outlast your car, your dishwasher, your air conditioning compressor and a lot of other items. So the real issues are more surrounding the efficiency and efficacy specs, and how much it's worth to you. The color temperature and color rendering of the CREE lineup is a bit better than most, and at 55 lumens/watt it's as efficient as the CFL equivalents with crummier CRI specs that you would replace 4-5 times in the anticipated lifecycle of the LED unit.

    For non-dimming sockets CFLs are still going to make more sense in the short & intermediate terms, and the efficiency-improvement ramp as well as the cost-decline ramp for LED lighting still have legs- by the time your CFLs are starting to fail there may be better/cheaper/more-efficient LEDs showing up on the market. There haven't been many entries to the L-Prize yet, but Phillips took the 90lumen/watt 60W bulb-replacement cash. (That's nearly 2x the efficiency of the CR6!) The opening street price on that bulb is $50 in onesie-twosies, but by the time your $2 twistys burn out it'll probably be $10-15, and other vendors will be competing head-to-head.

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    you can use LED PAR20 lamps as they are powerful energy efficient,Fully dimmable,Easy installation - Just install into existing E27 base,have a 50,000 hour average lifespan.

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    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    Dana,

    Can you or anyone else recommend a specific CFL in the "30" size for 6" cans? I will probably swing for some LED's where I will be dimming but CFL's for now elsewhere. I don't have a good grasp of what R30, BR30, PAR38, etc. really mean (need to read). What I would want is a CFL that looks like a flood bulb (no twisty showing) and gives off good color. I would say soft white like an incandescent, as opposed to cool white like some flourescents.

    And how do you even decide on a brand? Seems like Bob or someone was saying they were burning up prematurely in a can where the heat is rising and concentrated on the ballast.

    Thanks
    Last edited by TJanak; 02-20-2012 at 02:07 PM.
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    Sorry- thats CR6, not MR6 (oops!)

    In your power use analysis, don't for get to add 20-25% to the savings numbers for the reduction in cooling load. Heat you don't put into the house doesn't need to be pumped out. Going from 65W to 10.5W is literally like running that light for free (or even getting paid for it bit in lowered AC bills) in a So.TX climate, if that's the comparison.

    .
    But in a different climate, or in the winter, that heat you USED to get from your bulbs has to be replaced! No free lunch anywhere!

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    DIY Senior Member TJanak's Avatar
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    Yes, but hopefully my heat pump is more efficient than a 65w incandescent at heating.
    Travis

    When I need a precise measurement of something I often use the highly technical method of eyeballing it.

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    DIY Junior Member MrBillyd's Avatar
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    Hello, I am entering into the LED arena with my Kitchen remodel. The CR 6 is made by Cree. You can find this at home depot under the http://www.*********.com/Electrical-...&storeId=10051

    If you pull it out of the box you find that it is a CR6. In AZ it runs 39$ for 1 light. Because I am installing a whole new set up (not one can in my house yet) I will not have to spurge $13 on the Trim for the can. So now I am down to 26 which is still alot as I need to by many of them.
    The other selling point on these beside lasting the rest of my life, is the Cree CR 6 runs at 2700k. Most other LED's run at 3000K. You will be hard pressed to find 2700k LED lights.

    The other thing in this thread that is on my wave length is Dimmers. I just bought on Lutron CL Diva dimmer today that set me back $27. It is single or 3 way. I need 7 of them so I need to think a bit more - Ouchhhhhhhhhhhh. For this price the http://www.smarthome.com/2477D/Switc...d-White/p.aspx
    Do I spend 20 more ($59 dollars ) and have the ability to control all of my lighting, (at 2 am if you sense me go to the jacks turn on the light, or if a photo beam on ths side of my house activates, turn on my night stand so I can load my gun) the 4 million different ways to automation is probably the way to go. The phone apps are awesome as well.

    With the Lutron Cl dimmers, can you put 2 or 3 of them in a 4 gang box??

    Bill

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    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJanak View Post
    Dana,

    Can you or anyone else recommend a specific CFL in the "30" size for 6" cans? I will probably swing for some LED's where I will be dimming but CFL's for now elsewhere. I don't have a good grasp of what R30, BR30, PAR38, etc. really mean (need to read). What I would want is a CFL that looks like a flood bulb (no twisty showing) and gives off good color. I would say soft white like an incandescent, as opposed to cool white like some flourescents.

    And how do you even decide on a brand? Seems like Bob or someone was saying they were burning up prematurely in a can where the heat is rising and concentrated on the ballast.

    Thanks
    For longevity, go with something in the 15W range- at 19W+ the heat related failure rates are much higher.

    Look at the fine print on the specs- for that "warm incandescent glow" you need something with a color temperature between 2700-3000K.

    Paying attention to color-rendering is also important- an absolute minimum would be a CRI of 80, but 85 is noticeably better.

    Also look at the initial lumens and lumens per watt. You can get them in the 50 lumens per watt (~750lm for a 15 watt R30) range, but 45lm/W is still OK. 700-750 lumens is fairly equivalent to a 65W incandescent R30, but 500 lumens is not.

    I've had pretty good luck with both GE and TCP R30 in the 15-16W range for longevity. The color rendering & phosphors used by TCP works better for me than the GEs (which seem slightly green to me). I've had lousy luck with Phillips (that looked even worse.) Sylvania's ~3000K phosphors are a bit easier on the eyes for reading, but may feel a little "cool" to some. I have some of their twistys, but haven't used their R30s.

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