Why Does My Home’s Dimmer Switch Get Hot?

Joel S. Spira invented the first version of the dimmer switch in 1959. This energy-saving light switch was based on a diode and tapped autotransformer and could easily be installed on any standard electrical outlet. A dimmer switch can enhance the ambiance of any room by offering an aesthetically soothing lighting option.

Most homes now have dimmer switches installed, either as part of the original construction or as an upgrade. Compared to the standard toggle light switch, dimming your lights on an average of 50% can help your light bulbs last 15-20x longer and cut your electricity usage by as much as 30%. This typically depends on what kind of bulbs you’re using, but you get the point… Dimmer switches save electricity and extend bulb life.

The dimmer switches of today come in a wide variety of styles and functionalities. But no matter what type of dimmer switch you have, it isn’t uncommon for them to become warm to the touch while operational.

That being said, your home dimmer switches should never become hot or show signs of overheating. This signals trouble! An overloaded dimmer switch may become a fire hazard. Here we’ll discuss why dimmer switches overheat, what to look for, and when it is time to call a professional electrician.

If you suspect your home’s dimmer switch is getting a little too hot to handle, here are several reasons why it may be happening and how to remedy it.

Overloaded Dimmer Switch

You should never force your dimmer switch to compensate for too much electricity at once. When installing your dimmer switches, you’ll want to ensure that they are not responsible for handling more wattage than they are capable of handling. For example, if you install a dimmer switch that can only handle a capacity of 600 watts, which is standard, but is being forced to provide power for 800 watts of lighting, that dimmer switch will eventually become overloaded.

This results in the overloaded dimmer switch becoming too hot and ultimately will cause the thermoplastic coating on the wiring to fracture or melt. When the wiring is compromised it could lead to arc faults or short-circuiting which creates a serious electrical fire hazard.

If you think that your dimmer switch was not properly installed or you may have wired it to take on too much, you’ll want to contact a licensed electrician to inspect the issue and reinstall your dimmer switches correctly. 

Dimmer Switch Has Higher Than Recommended Temperature

According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a traditional dimmer switch operates at around 140 ºF. However, they do state that you can safely operate your dimmer switch somewhere below 195 ºF. If you remain within those parameters you should be fine, but attempting to push your dimmer switch beyond the 195 ºF threshold will result in your dimmer switch getting hot.

What to Do If Your Home’s Dimmer Switch is Overheating

If your dimmer switch or switches are getting hot to the touch there are some steps you can take to help bring down the internal and external temperature. As always, if these simple tips don’t fix the problem it is advised that you contact a licensed and local electrician.

  • Upgrade the overheated dimmer switches to be within the appropriate specifications so that they can handle the number of watts assigned to them.
  • Choose energy-efficient, lower-watt light bulbs like LEDs or CFLs over traditional incandescent light bulbs. Before purchasing or switching out your light bulbs, be sure to check that your dimmer switch is up-to-date and compatible. Older dimmers tend to not be compatible with LED or CFL lighting.
  • Outfitting your single dimmer switch with a larger faceplate may help with heat transference and diffuse it more easily. Large metal plates, as opposed to smaller plastic plates, transfers more heat to keep the dimmer cooler.

When in doubt, reach out! The best rule of thumb when dealing with overheating outlets or light switches that are hot to the touch is to contact a professional electrician. They will be able to quickly assess the problem and offer affordable solutions.

Contact a Professional Electrician for Lighting Installation & Inspection

Make your home an energy-efficient green home. Express Electrical are experts at energy-efficient lighting installation and is open for business. We are taking steps to follow CDC guidelines to the letter in regards to COVID-19. We are enacting added safety precautions to ensure our customers and their home environments are left undisturbed.

Express Electrical Services offers superior Los Angeles lighting installation and lighting upgrades. Both will add value to your property and save you money in the long run. To find out more, call us today at 323.727.7799.