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Dimmer Switches: 3-Way vs. Multi-Location

Dimmer Switches: 3-Way vs. Multi-Location

If your lights are controlled from more than one switch, a single pole dimmer switch just won’t do. Whether you need a 3-way dimmer switch or one compatible with multiple locations depends on how much control you want over light levels and from how many locations.

3-Way Dimmer Switches

3-way switch diagram.png

If you’re replacing two 3-way light switches at the top and bottom of a stairwell or at either end of a hallway, you might think you need two 3-way dimmer switches, but you actually only need one. When using a 3-way dimmer switch, you should only have one dimmer on the circuit. The other switches (you can have more than one) must be on-off switches only. In this setup, the light level is controlled from a single location, whichever light switch you replace with the dimmer switch. The other light switches turn the lights off and on to the level set by the dimmer. For this reason, you don’t want to dim the lights to off. Use the on-off toggle switch or push button that is part of the dimmer switch instead so that you don’t render the other switches useless.

Types of 3-Way Dimmer Switches

Leviton IllumaTech IPI10-1LZ  - 1000W Max. - Incandescent Dimmer

Leviton IllumaTech IPI10-1LZ - 1000W Max. - Incandescent Dimmer

Different technology is needed to dim LED light bulbs than fluorescent or incandescent and halogen lights. If you already have your lights on a circuit with a dimmer, new LED lights may not be compatible with an older dimmer. When switching to LED, if buying from 1000Bulbs.com, you can check the dimmer compatibility PDF on each LED light bulb product page to make sure you won’t run into any problems. Using LED lights with an incompatible incandescent/halogen or fluorescent dimmer may cause humming, incomplete dimming, a shortened lifespan, or other performance problems. Other types of 3-way dimmer switches include:

  • Electronic Low Voltage: Used for 12V and 24V light bulbs using an electronic low-voltage transformer to step down the voltage. Commonly used in residential settings.

  • Magnetic Low Voltage: Used for 12V and 24V light bulbs using a magnetic low-voltage transformer to step down the voltage. Commonly used in commercial settings.

  • Multiple Load: Rated for use with more than one type of technology. For example, this type of dimmer switch may support CFL, halogen, incandescent, and LED or a combination of those.

Multi-Location Dimmer Switches

multi location switch diagram.png

Unlike 3-way dimmer switches, which cannot support multiple dimmers on the circuit, multi-location dimmer switches allow for dimming controls in more than one location. These can be paired with a compatible dimmer switch, non-dimming 3-way switches, or smart-home systems and remotes. Any device on the circuit can control the dimming, such as a Pico remote paired with a Smart Bridge or your smart phone, depending on your setup. Like 3-way switches, these have on/off and dimming controls at the switch. They are also available in the same types of switches: incandescent, fluorescent, LED, low voltage, and multiple load.

Need help figuring out which dimmer switches are right for your installation? Give us a call at 1-800-624-4488 to speak with a lighting expert about dimmer controls for your home or business

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