Need recommendations for dimmers - low voltage/magnetic

cal_dreamerNovember 15, 2006

Hi - Anyone know what type of dimmer I can use for low-voltage halogen recessed lights? I have 9 Juno IC44N 4" lights in a very small kitchen (8' ceilings), and I'm afraid it will be blinding when we can finally turn them on.

Juno says that you can use dimmers specifically designed for low-voltage magnetic transformers, but I'm having trouble finding them.

One needs to be a 3-way that controls 7 cans, and one an independent control for 2 cans. I prefer the "toggler" type, that looks like regular switches and fit in standard almond switchplates.

Thanks in advance for any help!


PS. Bulb recommendations would be welcome, too. 50W seems like it would be really strong.

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I'm pretty sure Lutron makes something like what you're looking for. The ones I am thinking of are preset dimmers; the toggle lever just turns the lights on and off, but that lever is narrower than a standard light switch's so there's room for a tiny vertical dimmer slider next to the lever. I've seen some dimmers that use the toggle lever itself as the dimming mechanism, but not for low voltage.

You'll find that with your three-way switch arrangement, only one of the switches can be a dimmer; the other will have to be a simple on/off switch unless you get into much fancier lighting control systems.

So, what constitutes a "very small kitchen?" Mine is about 8.5' x 9.5' and has seven 4" line-voltage cans with 50w PAR bulbs. It's not too much; in fact, I'd like a bit more light than I have. I'm curious: why did you choose low-voltage cans?

Here is a link that might be useful: Lutron Adriani

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 6:23AM
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I'm pretty sure Lutron makes something like what you're looking for. The ones I am thinking of are preset dimmers; the toggle lever just turns the lights on and off, but that lever is narrower than a standard light switch's so there's room for a tiny vertical dimmer slider next to the lever

This is what we're using with two Nora brand 4" recessed halogen lights. Is there any danger in using a particular kind of dimmer - what's the downside of using the wrong kind? This one works fine -- no buzzing, etc. And being able to dim even two halogen bulbs is great (Jon, these are the lights I was referring to when I asked about footcandles a couple of weeks ago -- well, brigtness is not an issue!!)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 12:09PM
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Lutron does indeed make a dimmer that allows switching AND dimming from up to nine locations. It's called the Maestro and is available for both regular and low-voltage lights. the regular one is around $25 and the low-voltage one is $100. So, if your low-voltage lights can be switched with a regular dimmer, that's much more economical.

I used these in my kitchen remodel, which was just completed (yea!) and they're wonderful. One thing I really like is that when they are switched off, they fade out instead of just abruptly going off. Nice touch.

We did use the regular dimmers with our low-votage lights because the lights were able to accommodate that per their tech specs. However, with the low-voltage pendants in particular, we are experiencing some pretty obnoxious humming. The saleswoman at the lighting store tells me that this is common with low-votage lights and that the use of a low-voltage dimmer may be helpful, but won't necessarily guarantee that you won't have any electrical noise. Supposedly, a magnetic dimmer is more likely to hum or buzz than an electronic one, but I think all of ours are electronic. So, go figure.

I hope this helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: Lutron Maestro

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 12:37PM
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Thanks for the replies~

LOL - Jon, I've been lurking in the kitchen forum for too long where many people have giant (to me) kitchens. Mine is 10 x 11, but not really because a large chunk is cut off by the back of the fireplace so it's really triangular. That part has 7 cans. I had sent my dad the plans - thinking he was just going to bring down the outlets and switches, and he surprised me with all the recessed lighting, the panel, breakers, miles of wire, etc. Don't know why he bought the low voltage cans, but for free I wasn't going to complain! (Dad is a retired mechanical/electrical engineer and his brother is an electrician.) Thanks for the link - Dad brought me some of the toggler incandescent dimmers, I'll have to look for the LV ones.

But I have one left - good question - what would be the worst thing that would happen if I tried it on the LV lights?

And thanks for the Maestro link - it looks awesome, but pretty fancy for our weekend cabin. Definitely something I'll look into when we remodel at home!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 10:43PM
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I read so many contradictory statements about the need for special low-voltage dimmers that I've given up pursuing the issue. It seems that using the wrong sort of dimmer can cause problems; humming, flicker and decreased bulb life spring are frequently mentioned. However, they don't always happen, and I've never gotten an explanation of why. My guess is that we won't get anywhere with figuring this out unless we consult with an electrical engineer.

One thing I can say is that, if you think you might need a lv dimmer, make sure you rough-in the circuit so there's a neutral wire available at the switchbox that will contain the dimmer. Standard switches and dimmers only require line, load and ground connections but lv dimmers require a neutral connection too.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 7:04AM
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The link is a dimming tutorial. You must use the proper dimmer for the load type and it is straightforward till one starts working wth an electronic transformer rather than the more common magnetic.

Some low voltage recessed fixture companies (not Juno) offer fixtures with either electronic or magnetic transformers. Dimming electronic transformer type fixtures can be very interesting and it is best if you can ask the manufacturer which dimmer brand/model is compatible.

I've seen magnetic transformers fail after a few years of being on a standard dimmer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lutron dimming basics

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 9:55AM
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dim4fun~ thank you very much for that link. Now I can really narrow down what I need to look for. I'm not sure if Lowe's has the MLV dimmers in the style I want, so I'll go back to the Lutron site for the model # and order them on-line from someone.

Thanks again to everyone who replied - great answers from a brand-new forum!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 6:56PM
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I know this thread is a bit old, but I came across it while searching google. The link posted by dim4fun isn't very informative. Here's an application note from Lutron that really explains why to use a different type of dimmer.

The main problem with normal dimmers is that there may be a little bit of DC voltage on the dimmed line; not a problem for regular bulbs, but magnetic transformers don't like DC voltages. On dim4fun's link, if you look at the incandescent "forward phase control" illustration, notice how the dimmer doesn't get the negative part of the wave right at the lowest part. This would result in a little bit more positive waveform than negative and hence a DC voltage. Compare that with the MLV "symmetric" wave where the dimmed line is right at the center of the negative wave.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 12:09PM
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