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Replaced dimmer switch on recessed lights in kitchen. Lights work on bright, but won't dim?

The lighting has worked since we moved in (4yrs), but all of a sudden they quit "dimming". They stay on bright, and continue to stay bright as I turn the knob until it turns to "off"...then they turn off. Sometimes the lights flicker when I am twisting the knob. There is also a noticeable hum coming from the receptacle box and from the fuse box (that quit when I shut off the specific breaker). Thinking it was just a bad switch, I replaced it, but same problem continues...lights on bright, but no dimming. Help!!!

By any chance, did you recently replace a bulb with a compact florescent (CFL)? If you did, note that many (but not all) are not dimmable. Look carefully at the markings on the base of the bulb. If it is dimmable, it will say so.

If they are conventional incandescent bulbs, a common characteristic of dimmer switch failure is that they turn into on/off switches—which can be expected after a few years. But if you just replaced it and it still fails, it means there is another problem somewhere.

Common dimmer switches are designed to work with a particular range of loads, for example from 50 watts to 400 watts. Less than that, they do not work correctly—if you replaced the whole lot of them with LED bulbs, a dimmer would probably not work because they draw way less power. More than the high end, and the switch overheats and fails quickly. The load combined with the dimming setting can make the situation worse or better. For example, even a cheap dimmer works pretty well at 80% of full scale, but only the most high quality will work reliably at 5%.

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