Adding Dimmers to Antique Lamps

Although traditional light switches take care of off and on, there are devices you can buy to adjust the illumination of a table or floor lamp. Many people use dimmers, so they can lower the brightness of a lamp or light fixture. Light output and luminous intensity can be lowered by adjusting the voltage waveform applied to the lamp. Dimmers are sold both online and in-store. There are a wide variety of dimmers to choose from, but you will need to find one that is designed to control your type of lamp (CFL, LED, etc.). Plug-in light dimmers are suitable for table and floor lamps and are easy to use. Simply plug the lamp into the device, plug the device into the outlet, and dim the lamp from the device. In-line cord dimmers are affordable and attach directly to the lamp cord. Lamp-base dimmers screw directly into a lamp's socket, and some can be controlled just by touching them. Lamp cord dimmers are most effective when used to dim halogen or incandescent light bulbs. The common dimmer wattage ratings include 150, 300, 600, and 1,000 watts.

How to Choose the Right Lamp Dimmer

Adding a dimmer to an old, unused lamp is one creative way to create mood lighting in any room and save on energy. However, you have to choose the right kind of dimmer before you can benefit from retrofitting your lamp. By choosing the wrong kind of dimmer or installing it incorrectly, you can shorten the lifespan of your lightbulbs or the dimmer won't work at all. You can find the right dimmer for your type of lamp or lightbulb by following these simple parameters:

Dimmer Type: Single-Pole, Three-Way, Four-Way, Multi-Location, or Plug-In

Lightbulb Type: Incandescent/Halogen, Compact Fluorescent/LED, Magnetic Low-Voltage, or Electronic Low-Voltage

Wattage: Confirm that the wattage of your lightbulbs is compatible with the dimmer you've chosen.

How to Install a Plug-In Lamp Dimmer

Adding a dimmer to an antique lamp is easier than you might have thought, but your antique lamp must be electrified in order to do so. You can make any old-fashioned oil lamp new again by installing solar lights, electric candles that flicker, or sensors so it turns on as someone approaches. Once your lamp is electrified, you can add a plug-in dimmer to your old-fashioned lamp in less than a minute without needing any tools or wire skills. Simply unplug your light fixture's power cord from the wall outlet. Plug the dimmer into the outlet. Plug the lamp cord into the receptacle on the dimmer. Turn on the lamp using the lamp switch itself. Slide the dimmer on the device up and down to test.

How to Install an In-Line Cord Dimmer

Plug-in dimmers are easy and convenient to use with a variety of bulb types, but they can be awkward to reach when the lampshade is very large. You can find several sizes of in-line cord switches at your local hardware store or home center, but we offer a wide selection of cord switches to choose from. Inspect your cord for an inscription that will tell you what size switch is required: SPT-1 or SPT-2. You should only connect an in-line switch to a cord that has a polarized plug, or a plug with one prong that is wider than the other.

  1. Make sure that your lamp is unplugged. Electricity poses a fire hazard or serious risk to your health. Before you begin your dimming project, it is important to inspect the condition of the lamp's socket, plug, and cord.
  2. Use a utility knife to split the two existing wires in your lamp's cord. Find out which wire is neutral, and which one is hot. Wires are not always easy to identify. In most cases, neutral wires will be ribbed, and hot wires have smooth insulation. Slice through the hot wire wherever you wish to install the dimmer device.
  3. Use wire strippers to remove approximately one inch of insulation from both ends of the sliced hot wire.
  4. Unscrew and remove the cover of your dimmer switch. Place the neutral wire along the inside of the switch box and follow all manufacturer specifications or instructions. Place the cut and exposed ends of hot wire under the two terminal clamps and fasten the screws to hold them in place.
  5. Screw the cover of the dimmer switch back into place. Plug the antique lamp in and test to ensure the switch works.

By adding a dimmer to your antique lamp, you can reduce your home's energy consumption and extend the life of any incandescent light bulbs you wish to dim or brighten. If you have any questions about this article or lamp dimmers in general, please contact Antique Lamp Supply for additional information or further assistance.