Lighting Control Systems – Dimmers

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There are a few options out there to control outdoor lighting systems. Control sytems vary from a very basic manual timers to full home automation systems. Here we are going to cover dimmers – what are they, how they work, and which is the best for your application.

What is a Dimmer?

Per the dictionary a Dimmer is a device for varying the brightness of an electric light. Very simply put a dimmer dims your lights. There are different versions of dimmers on the market from plug ins, hard wired, WiFi, and Bluetooth. Depending on your preference, the application, and the distance from the control point any of these would work for your outdoor lighting.

How Dimmers Work

When you think of how an electrical current moves through a system and light bulb it is in a wave pattern and bulbs turn on and off to reduce the amount of energy going through the circuit. Power in the US (AC current) has varying current polarity – 1 cycle of current changes directions 60 times every second! What a dimmer does is chop the cycle up, it automatically shuts the light bulb circuit off every time the current direction changes. The dimmer comes it to play with the bulb is turned back on, also known as the “Turn-On Value”. The level at which the bulb comes back on is determined by the level set by the dimmer.

To learn more about how the US electrical current works with dimmers see How Dimmer Switches Work.

Dimmer Options

There are a lot of dimmers on the market, it can be overwhelming when researching what may be best for your landscape lighting. If you are installing a new system as your landscape lighting professional if they have dimmer options for their systems, most of the seasoned installers do have options and are quite versed in the options on the market and which would work best for you.

Dimmers will typically cost more than the standard timing option included with your system, however you if you want to have more control they are the most cost effective and best way to go.

Plug In Dimmer

Plug In dimmer is the simplest dimmer option

lutron-pro-residential-house2 – it plugs right into the transformer in the same place a basic timer would plug in. The option Light It Right uses is by Lutron and can be controlled by an app on your smartphone. The installation is fairly simple however you do need to ensure you have a port on you router or have a switch so the Pro Hub can be hooked up. This system is also expandable to in wall dimmers that can control you other outdoor lights if you would like to have that ability. With the Lutron system you have the freedom to control the timing and lighting program however you see fit and can make adjustments easily from the app

Low Voltage Dimmer

A Low Voltage Dimmer is the next option for dimmers. These need to be installed by a landscape lighting professional as they need to be mounted outside the transformer, in a junction box connected to the correct 

bril dimmer

side of the step down transformer. There are also setting adjustments that need to be made at the time of installation to ensure proper functionality. Unlike the Lutron Plug In module, a low voltage dimmer is designed to control low voltage lighting so there is an amperage max. Depending on the dimmer used that max will vary. The range of this dimmer will also vary depending on the load that is be carried.



Low Voltage Zone Control

Low Voltage Zone Control dimmer is going to get you as close to home automation without having home automation. Again, unlike Lutron, low voltage zone control is designed specifically for low voltage landscape lighting. This dimmer also needs to be installed only by a landscape lighting professional as there are settings and wire connections that need to be adjusted at the time of installation to ensure the dimmer


 is working correctly. Unlike the low voltage dimmer, the zone control can be mounted by the transformer or anywhere in the field. These types of dimmers are bluetooth and can be controlled by an app downloaded to your smartphone. Similar to the low voltage dimmer there is a load max and the capability may very based on the load, however there is no minimum load. There is a little more customization available with a zone control – you are able to have more than one zone control on a system and you can decide which lights you want on which controller and control different lighting groups how you would like to. For example, you want your back yard lights to stay on all night, but you want the lights nearest your bedroom to go off at 10PM. You also have a fire pit and string lights that you want to be on only when you want them on – that would be 3 zones, if set up with 3 controls you are able to control those zones however you see fit. You are also able to change the program with in the app, much like the Lutron Plug In.

There are many options on the market today for landscape lighting dimmers, it can be overwhelming. If you decide what you want to achieve with a dimmer before your lighting professional comes out then they will better be able to assist you in selecting the best dimmer for your goals.


Lighting Control Systems – Dimmers