What To Do if a Light Dimmer Is Overheating

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The electricity moving through light dimmers causes them to sometimes heat up. A small amount of warmth is normal and does not mean the light dimmer is overheating. If the light dimmer becomes very hot, though, it could overheat and damage the dimmer or surrounding electronics. You can reduce the heat trapped in a dimmer by changing the bulbs you use in your light fixture and adjusting the dimmer's electrical box.

Light Bulbs

  • The easiest way to stop your light dimmer from routinely overheating is to use lower-wattage bulbs in your light fixture. Bulbs with higher wattages require more electricity to pass through the dimmer switch than bulbs with lower wattages. You can also reduce the amount of electricity running through the dimmer by not increasing the dimmer to full power. Since electricity is the cause of heat in light dimmers, lowering the electricity will also reduce the amount of heat. Using low-wattage bulbs will decrease the maximum brightness of the dimmer, so if your room is poorly lit, this may not be the best solution.

Electrical Boxes

  • Often light dimmers overheat because their electrical box is arranged in a way that prevents heat from escaping. Adjusting an electrical box is more difficult and time consuming than changing light bulbs, and it can be dangerous if you do not have experience with electrical wiring.

    Before accessing the electrical box, use your circuit breaker to disable all electricity running to the box. Then unscrew the dimmer switch from the wall to expose the box.

    If your electrical box is made of plastic, you can replace it with a metal box to help heat escape more easily. The heat will pass through the metal more quickly than plastic. You can purchase metal electrical boxes at hardware stores. Switching to a larger box will also help by increasing the air surrounding the wiring, and allowing the heat to spread out.

    You can also reduce the heat by ensuring that no unnecessary wires are running through the box. Your light dimmer should be installed to its own box and not sharing the electrical box with any other switches. The wires inside the box should have enough room that they do not all press against one another. If you can't get the wires to fit comfortably in the box, upgrade to a larger box instead of trying to force them in.

    If none of these steps sufficiently reduce the heating in your light dimmer, you may need to replace the dimmer itself. You can find new light dimmers at hardware stores. Look for light dimmers certified as efficient by the government. These will be the least likely to overheat.

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