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Home, Cheap Home: The Dimmer Switch

Update: Because of a high number of email requests, we are including some Amazon links to the switch we used (which is pictured to the right), and some other common types made by the same company.  We’ve had a great experience with the toggle dimmer, the reviews look pretty good for the other two as well.

What did you do today to save money? We installed a dimmer switch on our dining room chandelier. We had a couple of reasons but the most important were because:

  1. The lights are obnoxiously bright.
  2. The 5 light bulbs got too hot.

With the lights getting as hot as they were, we would turn the air conditioner on if the light was on for too long, and that is an electric double whammy!  Naturally, I knew something needed to be done.  I had two options:

  1. Install a dimmer switch.
  2. Get new, lower wattage light bulbs.

Why The Dimmer?

Dimmer switches increase the life of your light bulbs, and cut the electric usage which makes it a better choice for the long run, but it comes with a higher upfront cost.  Knowing that I’m planning on staying in this house a lot longer than a few years, I knew the dimmer switch was the better choice.

Some Mathematics

Now let’s do some math.  These are the pieces of the equation:

  • 5 – 60 watt candelabra bulbs
  • 12 cents per kilowatt hour
  • Average use of 1 hour per day
  • Dimmer switch cost: $10.69

We are skipping one important piece of this equation which is that I don’t know how much it costs to run the air conditioner for the time that the lights are running, so we will omit this from the equation and consider it an added bonus.  Using the lights comes out to 2.1 kilowatt hours per week or 25.2 cents per week.  With 52 weeks a year, that means it costs us about $13.10 to operate the chandelier each year.

That’s not a pocket busting amount, but remember, we do have the added cost of air conditioning that we aren’t accounting for.  After installing the switch and reading some of the information about it, I’ve been able to estimate that we will be running the lights at about 50% power. At 50% power, we have successfully cut the energy bill down by half or $6.55.

When Will It Pay Off?

At that rate, the dimmer switch will have broken even after 1.65 years or about 1 year 8 months.  After 30 years, the switch will have saved $2,227.00, and that is assuming the price of electricity never increases (possible? Keep dreaming!).  That’s not a bad return at all.  Too bad I don’t have the time to account for the savings in the air conditioning cost, we have a 15 SEER, but I’m willing to bet the numbers would be staggering!

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