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How to Install a Lamp Dimmer

Would you like to be able to adjust the illumination of a table or floor lamp? This article will help you understand how to install a dimmer switch either in the socket or on the cord of a portable lamp. If you want to install a dimmer on built-in lighting, please see How to Install a Dimmer Switch.

Lamp-cord dimmer simply plugs into the wall outlet and receives the lamp cord. Photo: Lutron

Lamp-cord dimmer simply plugs into the wall outlet and receives the lamp cord. Photo: Lutron

Lamp dimmers, sold online and in hardware stores, come in a few different varieties. They are intended for controlling different types of lamps, from incandescent to compact fluorescent (CFL) to LED, so it’s important to pay attention to the specifications. These are the main types of lamp dimmers:

Screw-in lamp-base dimmer is touch controlled. Photo: Westek

Screw-in lamp-base dimmer is touch controlled. Photo: Westek

• Plug-in table or floor lamp dimmers allow you to simply plug your lamp into the device, plug the device into the wall, and dim the lamp from the device.

• In-line lamp cord dimmers, which can be attached to a lamp cord, are the least expensive type—they mount directly on the cord.

• Lamp-base dimmers screw directly into a lamp’s socket. Some are controlled just by touching them.

Installing a Lamp Cord Dimmer

You can buy a lamp cord dimmer online or at a hardware store or lighting shop. Here are directions for wiring a cord dimmer:

1After making sure your lamp is unplugged, use a utility knife to separate the two wires in your lamp’s cord.

 

2Determine which wire is neutral and which one is hot. This isn’t always easy to discern but, in many cases, the hot wire has smooth insulation, and the neutral wire is ribbed. Slice through the hot wire where you wish to install the dimmer.

Lamp cord dimmer costs less than $4 and is easy to mount on the cord. Photo: Leviton

Lamp cord dimmer costs less than $5 and is easy to mount on the cord. Photo: Leviton

3Use wire strippers to strip about 1 inch of insulation from both ends of the cut hot wire.

4Unscrew and remove the cover of the dimmer switch. Place the neutral wire along the inside of the switch box, as specified by the manufacturer. Put the cut ends of the hot wire under the two terminal clamps, and fasten them in place by turning the screws.

5Screw the dimmer switch’s cover back into place. Plug the lamp in, and check to make sure the new switch works.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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