When You Should Use a Switch
Switches are used when you want the controlled device to be either fully on or completely off. In homes without home automation, switches are often the most common type of light control used.
In a home automation system they are typically used to control fans, appliances, and florescent lights. Additional uses may include lighting for closets, laundry rooms, and the front porch.
When You Should Use a Dimmer
Dimmers are used when you want to change the intensity of an incandescent light. They can also be used to: program lower turn-on intensity, use a different intensity for different times of the day (brighter at night), or set special lighting for different applications (lower intensity while watching TV). Because of the dimmer’s versatility and ease of use, they are usually the most common devices found in home automation systems.
How To Use Switches And Dimmers
The popularity of these devices is largely because, in addition to their home automation capability, they can also be used as conventional switches and dimmers. This makes them ideal for homes with automation-challenged family members. Most switches and dimmers are available in a rocker arm style and a few manufacturers also provide a toggle model. Turning them on and off at the device is done by tapping the top or bottom paddle. Dimming requires pushing the top or bottom paddle until the desired intensity is achieved.
Because they are home automation devices they can also be controlled via computer, with touch panels, by remote control, or through scene programming.
Most Powerline Switches And Dimmers Require a Neutral Wire
The vast majority of switches and dimmers that communicate via powerline require a neutral wire to work. Although all homes have neutral wiring installed in them, some older switchboxes don't have that wire present in the switchbox.
Neutral wires are usually white, and are sometimes tucked into the back of the switchbox out of the way. The only way to be absolutely certain you have a neutral wire is to check the voltage between the neutral (usually white) wire and the hot (usually black) wire. When working with electricity, always take proper safety precautions such as removing power at the breaker box prior to handling any wires.
If you don't have a neutral wire present, you can have a qualified electrician run one to your switchbox. Alternatively, you can use
- one of the specialized 2-wire switches or dimmers available from a few manufacturers.
- a plug-in device for lighting control.
- a wireless technology like Z-Wave that doesn't rely on powerline wiring.