Dimmer Switch Turns On But Doesn’t Dim – What To Do?

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A dimmer switch is a device used to control the light, mostly the brightness of the light. It is one of the modern inventions in current home technology. A dimmer is most useful as lighting changes the mood of a home from bored to lively, and thus it creates a big impact in a very cheap way.

There are times when the dimmer switch can malfunction, and hence action must be taken. In circumstances where the dimmer switch is not operating, a new switch should be replaced, but when the switch is operating but no light comes out, there might be some problems with the connections, and they need to be addressed.

Table of Contents

Types of dimmer switches

There are different kinds of dimmer switches in which they have some differences in their functions. The main examples of dimmer switches are as follows;

  1. Incandescent dimmer switch, which offers very warm lighting. Thus, it produces much heat compared to the other types of dimmer switches.
  2. Fluorescent dimmer switch which its light is not interchangeable and it is also designed for its output
  3. A led dimmer switch. This type of switch increases brightness in a room and is very cheap, thus saving on cost.
  4. A single-pole and a three-way dimmer switch control the light from different positions or different switches.

Main reasons as to why a dimmer switch may fail

A dimmer switch may fail due to various reasons though there are the main reasons. The various main reasons include;

  1. Connecting many lights into one dimmer. A dimmer cannot control very many lights, and when subjected to excess lights, it may fail to work.  For example, if a dimmer is usually equipped to 700 watts and it is subjected to maybe turning ten lights each at 100 watts, it will have to work for more time. The dimmer will be forced to work for more time than it should, and this may make the dimmer fail to work.
  2. Possibilities of led issues. There are seven main led dimming problems, and mostly is a sudden turn on or turn off while trying to adjust the brightness of the light.

dimmer switch turns on

Main led dimming issues

1. A possible dropout

This kind of issue occurs when one tries to reduce the brightness, and the light happens to suddenly cut off before you get to the bottom of your switch or before you slide to the bottom of the switch.

2. A pop on

It is the exact opposite of a dropout since it occurs when one is trying to increase the brightness of the light, and when switching on the switch, the dimmer increases its light level to a higher level than the expected one.

3. A dead travel

Dead travel occurs when the lamps do not obey any changes made on the dimmer switch depending on various dimming scales.

4. Flickering of lamps

Flickering of lamps occurs when the lamps start exhibiting random behaviors when connected to the dimmer switches. The lamps start pulsing differently.

5. Ghosting

 This type of led dimming issue occurs when you have completely switched off the dimmer switch and the lights, but the lamps continue producing dimming lights.

6. Lights start flashing

This type of symptom is known as flashing, where the lights keep turning on and off systematically when they are paired to a dimmer switch.

7. Lights strobing

It is somehow similar to the flickering of lamps. The difference between the two is that with strobing, the lights flicker at a lesser interval, while in flickering, the intervals are rapid.

Ways of avoiding led dimming

Whether the lamps are flickering or dropping out or any of the given issues of led, there are ways to avoid the dimming problems. The main ways of avoiding such problems are;

  1. Always make sure that your lamps are dimmable. There are different lamps, and some are not dimmable, though most of the led lamps are usually dimmable.
  2. Be keen when reading your manufacturer’s instructions. Some controls do not work with dimmable led lamps.
  3. Do not always be enticed with cheap products since most cheap products are usually of bad quality and unproven. Always go for tested products.
  4. Always create a preliminary version of the sample or even a demonstration to ensure that your product is of good quality and is functioning properly.

Steps on fixing a dimmer switch that turns on but does not dim

Step 1: Install your dimmer correctly

When installing your dimmer switch and finding out that it is not working, the first step you should take is to check whether it is well installed. You might find out that your connection between the dimmer switch and the lights is not tight or is wrongly connected.

You will find that the dimmer can be switched on in such circumstances, but the lights are not responding. Since you cannot leave the connection loose, you must reinstall everything in its right position and tighten the cables. After repeating the installation procedure, your light should now start dimming.

Step 2: Check whether your bulb is compatible

The bulb might not dim just because it does not support certain features. To check the compatibility of your bulb, always ensure that the bulb you are using supports the dimming feature. In most cases, the old bulbs do not contain these diming features, while the new smart bulbs support the dimming feature. If your bulb does not contain the dimming feature, you have to buy one that does.

Step 3: Confirm that your dimmer is not faulty

The problem might be your dimmer being faulty. Always make sure your dimmer is working and is in good condition. In circumstances where the dimmer is faulty or not in good condition, you need to replace it with a good one. If you have doubts about your dimmer’s faultiness, you can use it with a different bulb and in a different position.

Step 4: Check whether it’s time to replace your dimmer

Most dimmer users are never aware that the dimmers need to be replaced from time to time since they are subject to tear and wear. Their rheostat wears out after a certain period of use. Certain effects start showing up; most commonly, the lights stop dimming.

Step 5: Ensure the dimmer you are using is correct

The means by which you are controlling your dimmer matters the most. If you use only one switch, always make sure that you are using a single-pole dimmer. When using two or more switches, use the three-way dimmer. Always take care not to overweigh the dimmer switch with more lamps than required.


If the lights do not dim after following all the above steps and checking on the above issues, it could be a more advanced problem, and you need to contact a professional or an expert around you. It would be best if you always observed maximum care when handling any electrical appliance. Do not handle the dimmer switch if you are not aware of what you are doing.

Before addressing any issue concerning the dimmer switch, make sure you have identified the problem, and you are sure of the steps to handle it. If you find the fixing process challenging or lack an idea on how to go about the issue, seek professional help to have the issue fixed. Dimmer switches are cheap to use and also to maintain.

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