Why Do Dimmer Switches Get Hot? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Dimmer switches can often take people by surprise with the heat they emit, particularly if they aren’t used to using them in the house. It can be shocking, true. However, there is a difference between a warm dimmer switch and one that it hot enough to make you go “OW!” Are you one of the many people curious about the reasons why dimmer switches seem to turn up the heat.

The reason why dimmer switches are warm to the touch is that they have electrical systems that control the light inside of them. Though dimmer switches should be warm, they should not be hot to the touch. If you have a hot dimmer switch, then you probably have an electrical issue. You should address that immediately.

Whether you want to install a dimmer switch or just want to know what’s going on, a little reading will do the trick. Maybe it’s time to shed some light on the topic.

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Why Is My Dimmer Switch Warm?

Dimmer switches are not like a traditional light switch. They contain a full electrical component that works to control the exact level of the light that you have in your home. In many cases, this means that they will generate a little heat while they work. You might even feel the handle of the dimmer get a bit hot to the touch.

If your dimmer switch is warm, that’s fine. It’s actually normal. However, that doesn’t mean that all dimmer switches are supposed to be fiery hot. It’s all about knowing what is normal and what isn’t.

How Hot Is Too Hot For A Dimmer Switch?

Most dimmer switches run at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The upper limit for most of them is 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t worry, you shouldn’t be able to touch it and feel that full span of heat. If you do, you probably have a problem.

What Should I Do If My Dimmer Switch Is Overheating?

Now that you know how hot is too hot, it’s time to figure out how to fix your dimmer switch. This means that you are going to have to figure out why it’s doing that. We’re going to help you figure out the basics through our troubleshooter.

Too Many Lights!

The most common reason why your dimmer switch is running hot is because it’s simply overburdened. Here’s how to troubleshoot this.

  • To figure out if this is the case, you will need to remove the plastic cover and read the wattage rating on your dimmer switch. Then, read the wattage on each of the lightbulbs connected to the switch. For example, if your dimmer powers a single chandelier with eight 40-watt bulbs, your total wattage is 320.
  • Add up the bulb wattage and see if the wattage exceeds the watt rating on your dimmer switch. If it does, then your dimmer switch is overburdened.
  • If your switch is overburdened, then you should try to get a better dimmer switch. A higher wattage will be able to make it possible for your dimmer switch to handle. Getting lower wattage bulbs is also an option that you can consider.

Bad Trim

Sometimes, the reason why your dimmer switch isn’t doing what it’s supposed to doesn’t have to do with the wattage. Rather, it has to do with your faceplate or the actual box on your switch. Your faceplate, if it’s metal, will start to conduct heat a lot more than a plastic or wooden piece will. This will make your gear feel super hot to the touch, even if nothing else is wrong.

The other option is that you might have a bad dimmer box. This could be a sign that the wiring inside is burning out. If you suspect that your dimmer box is going bad, replacing the dimmer box is the best option. This is usually the case if your dimmer is running hot but your faceplate.

Should You Replace Your Dimmer Switch?

It all depends on your personal judgment as well as the other symptoms that you’re seeing with your dimmer switch. In most cases, you can fix this issue by just replacing the lightbulbs with more energy-efficient ones or switching the faceplate.

However, if you notice that your wattage is way too low for what you want to use or if you notice that your dimmer is malfunctioning, it may be time to switch your switch. (See what I did there?)

How Long Do Dimmer Switches Last?

Most dimmer switches made today will last for about 15 years before they need replacement, give or take. However, it’s important to remember that these switches are a bit more sensitive than your typical flip switch. This means that there are several things that can harm your dimmers and cause them to burn out faster. These include the following:

  • Corroded Wiring. If your home is showing signs that your wiring is in need of replacement, you have to replace the dimmer switches too. Bad wiring can lead to surges and other issues that harm the sensitive machinery inside your switches.
  • Power Surges. Power surges have an amazing ability to burn out all sorts of sensitive stuff. This includes your dimmer switch. While a single surge is unlikely to cause a full-blown dimmer switch failure, repeated ones can harm them irreparably.
  • Loose Wires. Loose wires that connect your switches to the rest of your electrical systems can lead to short circuits. They also can lead to serious electrical fires behind your walls. So, you may want to fix that soon.
  • Short Circuits. Much like power surges, short circuits are mishaps in your electrical board that can lead to permanent wire damage. If you know for certain that you’ve had a short circuit, you probably should replace your dimmer switch.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Dimmer Switch?

Replacing a dimmer switch is actually fairly affordable if you do it on your own. If you DIY it, the cost of the dimmer switch will be around $10 to $35. Professional replacement, on the other hand, will cost between $100 to $200 in most cases. Some handyman companies may only charge around $75 since it is a fairly easy procedure to do, but it’s rare these days.

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Related Questions

Are dimmer switches a fire hazard?

Dimmer switches often get a bad rep because of the fact that they tend to run hot. However, they are not usually a fire hazard. The only issue that you may have with them is if they are improperly installed and are actively being exposed to everything.If using a dimmer switch worries you, the best thing you can do is use them exclusively with cool-burning LEDs and to have a professional install them. Or, better yet, you can always forgo the dimming action in exchange for a safer and more traditional option.

Are hot dimmer light switches a danger?

While dimmer switches are going to run warm by nature, there is a point where they could signal something alarming for people nearby. Hot dimmer switches can suggest that your lights are overburdened or that you may be in dire need of wiring replacement. If your light switch continuously runs hot, there is a chance that it could be a fire hazard. Light switches can spark fires if they are neglected.

What does it mean if a traditional light switch gets hot to the touch?

Dimmer switches are notorious for running hot, and that’s normal. However, if you have a traditional “flip switch” light switch that is running hot, you should get concerned. Traditional light switches are not meant to get hot. This suggests that your light switch may have bad wiring underneath, or that you may have a burnt-out wire setup. Both issues need to be addressed, since they are clear and present fire hazards.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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