Do dimmers wear out?


Old 01-21-09, 07:09 AM
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Do dimmers wear out?

I read in a recent post about a failed dimmer that many people have had dimmer failures. I have 4 track lights in my 1970 built house on dimmers. They are at least 22 years old which is how long we've been in the house.

One track is in the kitchen so the lights are used daily but the dimmer is used rarely either as a dimmer or on/off switch. That dimmer recently stopped working though the lights work fine with the toggle switches. The other 3 are rarely used, probably less than once a month and usually just to turn the lights on and off, rarely is the dimmer function used.

One of the dimmers is in a circuit with another on/off switch. When I replaced the switch recently (without touching the dimmer), the lights are on permanently (I've wired all 3 combinations) and the dimmer doesn't function at all. I posted a question about that situation and got several suggestions, some which I haven't had time to try yet. I wonder if the dimmer could have failed coincidentally which brings to me my question about dimmer life.
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Old 01-21-09, 07:52 AM
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The most common mode of dimmer failure is when the dimmer can still turn the lights on and off, but can no longer dim.

Dimmers have sensitive electronics in them. High current (even a momentary short circuit) almost always fries them. They sometimes even get fried when a light bulb they are controlling burns out (because sometimes a burnout causes momentary high current). The can also be fried by voltage spikes (which cause current spikes) due to a variety of reasons (such as an electrical storm). They also get frequently fried during DIY wiring projects if anything gets even briefly miswired.

Your problem with the light that won't turn off is probably not a dimmer problem. You probably just miswired your new switch. It's a very common mistake, usually when you move the wires from the old switch to the new switch by screw position, rather than by screw function. But you can find out easily enough by temporarily replacing the dimmer with an ordinary switch.
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