Lighting questions - what did you dim and is it worth it?

williamsemOctober 23, 2012

I'm at the point where I need to think about basic lighting stuff. I spent some time in Lighting here and figure I need about 8,000 lumens, and I want LED recessed cans and LED under cabinet lights. Also will have a fan/light combo in the space. I can work with the GC on specifics.

I need to figure out what I want to dim, if anything. Especially since these will be LED.

Did you dim cans? Under cabinet? Over sink? If so, was it worth doing and do you use the dimmer? Are all the same type of lights on one dimmer?

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I initially requested a dimmer on my recessed cans and electrician put the 4 lights in my work triangle area on one switch with dimmer. I quickly realized that I would prefer the island pendants on a dimmer and added that. I also have my UCL lights and table chandelier on dimmers and I like them.

I think it's just personal preference, but I feel I have too many switches, 6. I think one set of 4 would have been better, but I didn't specify this so it is what it is. I have 2 switch plates with 3 switches on each. Above that, I have a control for my heat with a separate control next to it for CAC. In my opinion, it should have been spaced better and ill probably get this arranged better when the dust settles. Not pleased with electrician on this project, so I'm holding off on changes.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:11PM
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Also, I think you should plan out or better yet mark where you want each switch and outlet. My electrician also put my outlets for washer and dryer high above the machines. It looks ridiculous.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:15PM
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I have dimmer all over the house and I rarely use any of them. I use the one in the media room the most so when we turn the lights after a movie, it comes on slowly. Sometimes we watch the movie with the lights dimmed.

Then, we use the DR lights on dimmer for mood eating. That's about it.

I do not use the kitchen lights on dimmer. Kitchen is not a mood place. If you 'eat' in the kitchen, I suppose the dimmer would be worth it.

If you plan to leave the lights on for 'mood' then dimmers would be nice. Again, we just don't do that. We are the type of people that turn off everything for energy conservation sake. The reality of the world is that we need to conserve energy whether you can afford to pay the bill or not.

I do not have LEDs if that makes a difference.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:22PM
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Dimmers are a hedge against fear of bad lighting decisions. Rarely used, expensive to install and of all rooms, the kitchen is the worst place to have dimmers. Go with a variety of fixtures: 4" diameter down lights, led under cabinets, a light over your table or island, a general room light. Put them all on separate switches. Light the room evenly. All under cab lights on one switch, all down lights on one switch, etc.

Yes it seems like a lot. Nothing is worse than inadequate lighting in a kitchen.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Oh the lighting...
We have the electrician finishing up the house this week. It is really difficult to decide about the cans and UCL. I spent about three hours trying to explain just the kitchen lighting I'd like. I finally decided against dimmers on the UCL and ACL. I cheaped out and am doing LED strip lights in kits(Quiozel) run on a regular switch.
No dimmer. I have 32 feet of Cab lighting and just couldnt justify the 1600$ price tag for the dimming ability.
I only have my dining room light on a dimmer now and HATE it when Its dimmed.
If I want dimmed lights I'll just use candles! ;)
It was one of the most frustrating aspects of this kitchen, the electrician only uses seagull Xenon and that was even more expensive.
Good luck with your project and Yes mark all outlets,switches etc.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:36PM
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I have dimmers on my can lighting, ceiling fan lights, and dining room chandy. The only lighting in my living area without dimmers are my pendants and foyer light. I use all the dimmers.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:37PM
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most lights in the kitchen and dining area are dimmed.
I hate dim lightin when working so I ensured there was a lot of light available when needed but did not want to dine/entertain in an area lit like a football
two sets of 6 small pot lights - dimmed
two antique chandeliers - dimmed
strip LED UCL and in cabinet - dimmed
peninsula lights dimmed.
the over the sink light is not dimmed.
All the lights are on separate switches/ and/or three way.
If you find you would like to dial back the intensity of the lighting later, it is no big thing to switch out a normal switch for a dimmer...
the cost for the dimmers are much more than a normal light switch ($2 vs $16 at local HD) but in the overall cost of a kitchen reno, it's small change.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:01PM
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I used dimmers - but when working - they are on full blast - just when I want "atmosphere", I dim the lights. The cans, UCL, decorative, and glass all are on dimmers. I think the dimmer on the incandescent are not worth it - but the others are nice to have. I did not put a dimmer on the pantry - but used a motion sensor.

Standard dimmers - not a big difference but the LED light bars needed a transformer - and these are expensive!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:06PM
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Wow, great feedback so far. Thank you!

Just for reference, our current kitchen has a ceiling fan/light, a can over the sink, and a light in the adjacent hall. There was also an OTR MW with a light, but that hasn't worked in a while. So the thought of actual adequate lighting is a little hard to get used to, I'm excited but also afraid the LEDs will make me feel like I'm on a tv set! Irrational, I know.

Dilly_NY, great point about switches. Especially since we are taking out a partial wall with some switches on it. Luckily we are replacing the ceiling so I'm hoping that gives us a lot of flexibility with where the wires can go.

Kaismom, good point about the mood lighting. We will have our only dedicated eating space in the kitchen. I'll have to ask the GC about how the general lighting would be for that. We would probably leave the UC lights on in the evening. The LEDs will save energy, but we also have to pass through there for the restroom, and often get drinks with just the sink light on currently. So we would use it, and it would save the overhead lights from being turned on/off all night.

Felixnot, we will have the recessed cans, an over sink can, and fan light, so hopefully a good enough mix. I'm mostly concerned about the brightness of the LEDs and maybe needing to dim them. Maybe I'm confusing concentrated source and output in lumens?

Ppbenn, I'd love to hear your thoughts on those lights when it is finished, especially what you thought of the UC lights without a dimmer. I'm probably way over thinking things, but I'm so afraid I'll have way to much and feel like I'm looking into the sun or not enough and have odd pockets of light scattered around.

Remodelfla, hadn't considered dimming the fan light. Is that something you do regularly because they provide a lot of general lighting? I'm thinking probably no dimmer there as I can retrofit one easier than for the cans or UC, which will have to be purchased specifically with dimming in mind (it is really easy to find a fan that can be dimmed without having to limit choices much).

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:09PM
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I would put on dimmers every light you are able to. Here's what I've got on dimmers (all LEDs): 4" can task lighting over counters, 3" can perimeter lighting, UCLs, pinhole light array over dining table. And I wish I'd put the island lights (incandescent) on a dimmer! I like the lights on pretty much all the time, but like to adjust the levels depending on time of day, weather, and the task at hand.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:01PM
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We have our in cabinet and under cabinet lights controlled on timers. Like you plan to, we leave them on when it is dark out at night time b/c they are low energy and because it is convenient to see in the kitchen for night time snacks, drinks, etc. Because they are controlled on timers, all of the control units are in a closet on the first floor- which also allows us to avoid having switches in the kitchen . There are dimmers in there for the under cabinet lighting but not the in-cabinet lighting. We keep the under cabinet lighting on a slightly dimmed level at all time. They are just for decoration/aesthetics, not really function b/c we don't cook.

I also put dimmers on a whole bunch of other lights in our house. The only one that we use regularly is the master bath b/c it is nice not to have to turn the light on full blast when you get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. The other dimmers, including the one in the dining room, don't really get used.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I asked the same question when I was setting up my lighting and the responses I received heavily leaned towards dim everything. I'm glad I followed that advice.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:46PM
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I put dimmers in my kitchen recessed lights that are halogen but I find I really wish I had more light so there is no reason for me to dim the lights. I dislike eating or cooking in the dark. I really wish that the kitchen was too bright so I could use the dimmers but that is not the case for me.

Now for my home office, I am still trying to decide as if I had dimmers, I would use them before bed to darken the room when I am on the PC relaxing to get me tired. I still have not put int he recessed lights in my office as I want LED and the electrician I like felt fluorescents that don't dim will be most cost effective. I like the type of light that LED's give and if I sell my house, someone may not like the room so bright as I am using the living room as an office. I have a family room and being single I did not need two of these type of rooms and clients walk directly into the living room set up as a home office. So I am also going through the dimmer dilemma.

Let us know what you decide and which LED bulbs you end up using.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:46PM
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The lighting placement, switch placement and the "what to dim" question was one of those tasks that we never thought about until we had to make all those decisions!
We have everything dim- the can lights, pendants, undercabinet lights, and the 4 glass door cabinets. We do use the dimmers very often, and I would say yes it's worth it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:55PM
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We dim our under-cabinet lighting often. If it's very early in the morning, late at night, etc., we don't necessarily want bright overhead lighting on.... but need some light. It's nice.

Nothing else in the kitchen is on a dimmer. We have the cans on two sets of switches, but often put them all on at once to maximize the light. So, I can't imagine I'd ever want to be able to dim the overhead lights. (Unless I didn't have the UCL, I guess.)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:10PM
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We only put in one dimmer, on the dining room chandelier. I have yet to use it. I think I'd like it, but I just don't remember - too many years without it I think.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:17PM
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The first thing we did when we moved into our house is add dimmers to every light we could. Almost every lamp also has a dimmer. We use them all. I like a wide variety of lighting and hate it when the light is too bright.

Lighting and color, THE two most important things in a house.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:25PM
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We dim our under counter lights every day. Kind of putting the kitchen to bed. The above the uppers led lighting is on the lowest setting 24/7 as a night light. Very low power draw. Island pendants were a fight since GC announced "Nobody really dims their pendants", which I found astounding since I hired him based on friend's house where I have never seen the island lights other then dimmed. We use the island at all light levels. Wish the main cans were dimable, again ,stupid GC said we wouldn't ever use it.
Best new dimable light is the foyer chandelier. So nice to have some light but not blazing 16 light bulbs.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:45PM
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I like light. In fact, I love light. The more the better in my book. Nothing in the house is on dimmers, and we had all the new switches put in the entire house. We used to have dimmers pre-reno on DS's overhead bedroom and in the DR. Rarely ever used the DR dimmer, but did use the one in DS's bedroom before bedtime and nap to keep light levels a little lower when entering the room.

During our reno, we lived in a house where every single switch was on a dimmer. I hated it, except in the kids' rooms. The fact that I never used the dimmers in the public rooms there confirmed for me that it wasn't worth the extra expense to put them in our house despite my original intention to do so based on reading here.

When I'm in a room, I want to see what I'm doing. ESPECIALLY in the kitchen!! It's a working room for me (and I work in there a lot), not a place for mood lighting. I turn off a set of cans if I want to lower the light level. I understand why some people like them, but dimmers are certainly not necessary.

Also, I thought I would use the low setting on my one UCL for a kind of nightlight in the evenings before bed, but the darn thing puts out so much heat that I turn it off when I am done working in that specific area to keep from boiling my vanilla extract in the cab above. :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 1:57AM
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After learning from my mistakes in having dimmers on everything in my previous kitchen, I only put dimmers on two fixtures in my new kitchen:

1) The light over the table and
2) On the LED lighting inside my glass-faced cabinets.

We use the dimmer for the table light often, the cabinet LEDs, not very much.

My under cab lighting, ceiling cans, above cab lighting and additional receptacles over my upper cabs are just straight on/off switches.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 7:38AM
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I opted to not have dimmers in the kitchen because I like lots of light. If I want to dim, I turn off the cans and just leave on the undercounter lights or the island pendants. Dimmed can lights hurt my eyes for some reason.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:29AM
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I'm addicted to dimmers. Dimmer-aholic.

I'm even asking for some in my stocking from Santa. I love lots of light when I want it, but I really don't need it blasting all the time.

Trying to figure out how we would dim the foyer light right has 4 (yes-go figure) light switches that control it. My dh is stumped on that one. Not sure if you can find a dimmer for it. But, if it's out there, I WILL FIND IT!

Anyway, in the kitchen, I have the lights over the island dimming, the perimter recessed lights, and the under cab lights. The one in the breakfast nook has recently been done. The new one over the sink is not on a dimmer, yet. But we just installed it 3 days ago. So, it's a "baby".


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:40AM
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I dimmed everything except one under cab LED light, which is a desk area. I was so unsure about how many cans to put in and whether the hanging fixtures would be enough. I changed the bulbs quite a few times til I got it right.

I have 7 cans switched together (LED bulbs). The mudroom flush mount fixture is switched with 2 cans that lead to the kitchen. I have a sloped ceiling which has 4 cans - another switch. The chandelier over the table is switched with the 2 island pendants. The under cab LEDs on the long perimeter run are switched together. The in cab Xenon lights switch on with puck lights over the sink. All of the above dim. Love it.

I find that I dim the LEDs all the time one notch to tone them down.

The only thing I don't dim are the kids' baths!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:34PM
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We us use the dimmers on the under-cabinet task lights all the time.

They are almost annoyingly bright if you eat in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:40PM
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I did my kitchen a year ago and put dimmers on my can lights and on a pendant I had over a little breakfast bar. In a whole year, I never dimmed them.

I just moved into my new house which also has a new kitchen. My young electrician buddy said, "where do you want dimmers?" I said no where, I never dimmed the ones you put in for me last year!

I turn on my cans and UCL when I am working in the kitchen and then just leave the UCL on in the evening when I wander in and out of the kitchen. It seems like perfect level of lighting for me. My UCL do have individual dimming switches on them but I doubt I will ever use them.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:15PM
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In our kitchen area, only the chandelier over the breakfast table and the lighting over the island are on dimmers. We are keeping it that way with our remodel, as well.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:21PM
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I'm on my way out to pick up another couple sets of the LED strip kits from Quiozel 59$ for eight feet
These are cuttable but no dimming. they seem bright enough not overly bright or glaring.
The Strip kits I picked up at HD had their own dimmer switch but really bulky cords and plugins. These will hide in a cabinet with the receptical.
The WAC lighting UCL LED strips that I saw in the lighting store seemed dim, and when you went to dim them you had to push the button each time for each level of dimming.
I just couldnt justify the cost for dimming and the transformers needed for something I doubt I'll use. When I want light I want it on and bright. I'm definately a 100 watt girl!
My cans are juno, 6 inch for more light. I will put the HD cree LEDs in them. They are a decent light and come with the "trim " .
However my electrician says juno wont warranty them if you use other trims.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:38PM
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We're pretty much crazy for dimmers and put a lot of lights on dimmers. Our main BR lights, bathroom lights (and I have a lot of lights in there), kitchen (including UCLs), breakfast, DR, LR (cans only), foyer, & hallway cans. Some of these have 2-way switches and we only put the dimmer on one of the switches, but it's the one we use the most. Generally that's by the doorway that's used the most. We have used almost all of them at one time or another, some more than others, and some mostly when we entertain.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:32PM
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I have three dimmers in my house. Two I love and one was the biggest waste of money ever. The first one is in the living room where we have the TV. Great for watching movies and stuff. The second is in the dining room. Bright for homework, dim for dinner and really dim for romantic meals:)
The biggest waste? Dimmer for my LED undercabinet lighting. I never use it. It is just not bright enough when I dim it even a bit.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:41PM
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I have dimmers throughout the house and I love them. I am going to be using five 6" recessed cans with CREE LED 2700K lights and they will be on a dimmer too.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:56PM
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we have dimmers on everything in kitchen, dining room and living room.

DR Cabs

love the versatility and we use them all!!!


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:49PM
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Wow, quite a mixed response now. I might have to find some specific models to look at and hunt a display down! With such a modest space to light I will probably end up with more than enough lumens when all lit up, but probably put them all on dimmers if feasible since it's the only dedicated eating space. Not that we need mood lighting, but I also don't want to feel like I'm in stage either!

Looks like I have some serious research to do this week. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate hearing about everyones experience.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 6:00PM
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Hi there,
I'm another one who has dimmers on every light in the kitchen(eg. glass based cabinets/under cabs/recessed and island pendants); my husband insisted and I'm glad he did because we do vary the brightness and the lights used based on our activities (eg. bright for prepping/clean up and dim for entertaining).

I researched online for best placement of our recessed ceiling lights and they are on separate switches so I don't have to have all of them on at the same time. For example, I have two recessed lights directly over me when I am standing in front of the sink and I put these on every evening when I'm washing up or when I am cleaning. The rest of the time they are never on.

My only suggestion would be to ensure that you have enough light options.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:26PM
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All Kitchen, Pantry, DR, Powder Room, and Foyer lights are on dimmers - and they are all used...and frequently!

Sometimes we want very bright lights/sometimes dim lights/sometimes in between. E.g.,
When my brother comes over to cut & color my hair - every light is on full-brightness, including the DR lights!
When I'm prepping/cooking, the lights on that side are on - if it's nighttime, they're on full.
When we're eating, they're dimmed for "atmosphere" (and to hide the dirty dishes!)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:57AM
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In our last house, we added dimmers to every light in the house except the fluorescent UC strips and a fan light in the guest room. We used all of the dimmers regularly. I like to have options. Sometimes I want a room very brightly lit, other times I want less light, depending on activity. I especially like bathroom lights on dimmers. It's nice to have softer lighting for taking baths or a middle of the night trip to the loo.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 7:19AM
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I am also a dimmerholic, like Bee! :) Sadly, I didn't realize how much of a dimmerholic I was until after we moved in...luckily, the ones we dimmed during the build were the most important, to me. I put the UCLs on dimmers, they connect to one switch, but I can do them manually if I want just one set or something. I also dimmed the recessed lights on our covered porch...which I am soooo grateful for! We have NEVER sat out there with them full-on, it is so nice with the fireplace out there to have a very soft, low light.

When all of the lighting in my kitchen is on, it does remind me as someone said of a football stadium! Way too bright for me, I practically never turn them all on. I might ask Santa for the gift of an electrician!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 7:28AM
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I love dimmers too! I just realized that when we did our remodel the only room that we did not put dimmers in is the laundry room. I have them in the master bath, powder room, foyer entry, dining room, living room (track lighting) and kitchen. The kitchen has dimmers on the under cabinets, pendants, and cans. I have a lot of natural light in my house so sometimes the lighting is too bright. I love being able to lower the lights as we want it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:20PM
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Hi, I'm Andrea. And I'm a dimmer-a-holic.

I love being able to dim lights. Right now, only our DR light has a dimmer and a light in our bathroom. Both get used all the time.

In the kitchen, I'm putting everything that I can afford to on a dimmer. Because I love dimming the light to get just the right amount of light.

I'm hoping that in our lighting plan we actually wind up OVERLIGHTING to start. Being in our early 40's, luckily our eyesight is still pretty decent...but, time changes things. And we hope to be in this house for a long time. So, what may be overly light to us now, might not be so much in 5 or 10 years. I'd rather have too much light and turn it down than to have it just-light-enough (without dimmers because we have the light levels the way we want) and then in a few years kick ourselves because we didn't have quite as much light as we should have in fear of it being overly bright.

So, my plan for the kitchen is:
1.) Overhead cans - controlled together, dimmer
2.) Island pendants - controlled together, dimmer
3.) UC lights - controlled together, dimmer
4.) Over table - one light fixture, dimmer
5.) Over kitchen sink - one light fixture...possibly not on a dimmer depending on how far over we go in my lighting budget.
6.) Wanted to do low level lighting under the island countertop, dimmable or very low level amount of light given off - lighting for ambiance only, not "functional" lighting) but that might be done at a later time....I think we're going WAY over in our lighting budget.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 12:46AM
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Hi williamsem
Back again.
I looked at your lights and the one that I wouldn't dim is the can over the sink I think you have enough other lights to cover the area and when working in the sink - you will want lots of light.
I might remove the dimmer from our single can. It is the only one that flickers sometimes when dimmed even though the dimmer is rated for the single led. I am going to have the electrician return but like a car needing service it is episodic.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 10:07AM
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