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  #1  
Old 07-02-2003, 01:57 PM
Sunshine Sunshine is offline
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How do I fix my dimmer switch?

We have a dimmer switch in our dining room, which I love! But the other day, I turned on the light in there to "full blast" and it made a popping sound and the light went out. I figured the bulb just burnt out but then discovered that the fuse had blown when I tried to turn on another light.

So I went and re-set the switch in the fuse box and the dimmer light still didn't work, so we put in a new bulb. Now the dimmer part doesn't work--it's just on or off! I thought maybe you need a special lightbulb so I looked at the store but the only thing I saw was a three way bulb, so I got that and put it in but still no dimming.

Am I missing something here? Do you need a special bulb? Or is there something else that is wrong? Any ideas on how to fix my dimmer would be greatly appreciated!
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  #2  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:00 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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"No consumer replaceable parts inside" Well it doesn't say that but unless you just want some exercise don't bother. The Triac is probably shorted, and these are not made to have parts replaced. Spend the $10 and buy a new one.
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Old 07-02-2003, 02:01 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
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You don't need a special bulb as long as it's incandescent (fluorescents can't be dimmed). The dimmer switch itself may be shot. The can't be fixed, only replaced, but they don't cost that much, around US$10 or less. Just remember to shut off the breaker to that circuit before replacing the switch.
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  #4  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:07 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ElvisL1ves
...fluorescents can't be dimmed...
Not quite true. You do need a special dimming ballast, though. A standard dimmer will not work:
Quote:
A dimming ballast must be installed to dim fluorescent lamps. A fluorescent lamp dimmer works in tandem with the dimming ballast to lower the light level. The wiring diagrams provided by manufacturers are important because fluorescent lamp dimmers require more wiring than incandescent lamp dimmers.
From here.
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  #5  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:12 PM
UnwrittenNocturne UnwrittenNocturne is offline
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Don't they use a simple potentiometer? if so that ought not be too tough to fix..will take one apart and check later
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  #6  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:29 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by UnwrittenNocturne
Don't they use a simple potentiometer? if so that ought not be too tough to fix..will take one apart and check later
Older dimmers did just that. The new ones are usually electronic, employing an SCR called a triac. The circuitry controls where in the AC cycle the triac is turned on, and thereby the total power delivered to the bulb.
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  #7  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:47 PM
Sunshine Sunshine is offline
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Ok, you guys have used a bunch of words I don't understand in relation to light switches, (Triac? ballast? potentionomosaxophonometer?!) so what I'm getting from this is I should just truck my butt down to Home Depot and get a new one for around 10 bucks. That should work.

But, to quote Hubby, "I am not an electrician." which means I'll prolly end up doing this myself. How hard will it be? Please note that I am an instruction fanatic and will definitely read all instructions that come with the thing but would like some idea of what I'm getting in to. Hubby and I were able to tag-team replace our garbage disposal with no apparent trouble, so how does this compare (aside from the obvious bonus of not weighing 80 million pounds)?

Oh, and uh, any special tools that don't come in the standard Do It Herself took kit that I'll need to pick up whilst at Home Depot?

Muchas Gracias for the help!
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  #8  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:47 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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As Q.E.D. said, they don't do that anymore. A variable resistor to handle 150 watts is not a small item either. See here for a ful explaination http://home.howstuffworks.com/dimmer-switch.htm
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  #9  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:51 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Installation is fairly straightforward, Sunshine. You'll wire it exactly the same way the one in there now is. Just remember to SHUT OFF THE CIRCUIT BREAKER FIRST.
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  #10  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:52 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Please make sure you've got the correct circuit breaker flipped!
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  #11  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:57 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Yes, while you're at Home Depot, pick up a non-contact voltage sensor. This will tell you if the circuit is energized or not. Other than that, you'll need no special tools. A standard slotted screwdriver, wirecutters and possibly wire strippers is all you'll need.
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  #12  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:58 PM
Philster Philster is offline
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I did this twice now in my lifetime (blow a dimmer switch), and I can tell you it tastes funny.

Seriously, I just did it again - kill a dimmer switch - when I crossed some wires. Dimmer part is busted, but the light works.

Don't play with electricity - buy a new switch.

One question....Does another switch also work the light you are dimming? If so, the dimmer switch will need to be a 3-way dimmer -yes 3-way dimmer- and will be a few bucks closer to 20 bucks.
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  #13  
Old 07-02-2003, 02:59 PM
justwannano justwannano is offline
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Make sure the total wattage of your light bulb(s) do not exceed the rate of the dimmer.

Back in the olden days a friend ,another electronics tech, and I tended bar. The lights above the bar were on a dimmer switch. One week I replaced the switch 2 times. Some yokel had replaced the 40 watt light bulbs with 60's. The lights did quite well until closing time when they were turned up to clean.
It took two replacements to figure that one out.
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  #14  
Old 07-02-2003, 04:09 PM
Sunshine Sunshine is offline
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All good tips. Thanks everyone.

Philster, to answer your question, nope, there's only one switch. But thanks for the mention.

And justwannano, thanks for the mention on watts also. Never crossed my mind that there was an upper limit. Luckily the bulb we put in is only 40 watts so I know that's not causing the problem.

Can't wait to try this! Maybe I can even go to Home Depot tonight.
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  #15  
Old 07-02-2003, 04:17 PM
Early Out Early Out is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sunshine
Hubby and I were able to tag-team replace our garbage disposal with no apparent trouble, so how does this compare (aside from the obvious bonus of not weighing 80 million pounds)?
This will be WAY easier, unless that dimmer switch is also located underneath a sink, where you have to work on your back, or on your hands and knees, and where you can't see what you're doing! Shouldn't take more than about two minutes.
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