How A Touch Dimmer Switch Works

Rely on Rely on Electrical Flow

White 1 Gang 1 Way Finger Touch Light Switch WirelessUnder normal, non-dimmed operation, light bulbs illuminate when electricity passes from the home or office electrical wiring though an attached power cord and into a light bulb. As the electricity passes over the sunshine bulb’s filament, the high-resistance filament impedes the flow of electrons across the circuit. As increasingly electricity attempts to flow, but cannot pass due to the resistance, the filament begins to supply large amounts of both heat and light. While this operation is similar in both alternating current (like those found in home or office wiring) and direct current circuits (like those found in common flashlights), touch dimmers generally act on the alternating properties of household wiring to cut back the flow of electricity to the attached light bulb.

Dimmers Cut Electrical Flow

Under normal operation, as described above, electricity flows from a wall outlet through a light bulb’s filament to provide light and heat. In an alternating current circuit, the electrical flow varies, or alternates, from positive to negative voltages. Electricians refer to this back and forth flow, which follows a standard cycle, as the present’s “duty cycle.” When a user activates a dimmer switch, thyristors, electronic versions of electrical resistors, interrupt one portion of the electrical duty cycle. This interruption prevents a portion of the voltage from reaching the light bulb, and the reduced amount of voltage flowing across the filament causes it to glow dimmer than it could if it received the total voltage. Most touch dimmers offer varying degrees of dimming ability, and higher dimmer settings interrupt a broader range of the present’s duty cycle. Although a user activates the thyristors in a mechanical dimmer switch by physically moving a switch, the absence of this switch in touch dimmer equipment requires some special considerations.

Touch Dimmers Use Special Components

Because touch dimmers depend on a series of human touches rather than a physical switch position to dim lighting, the devices must employ special components that replace all functions of the physical switch. In line with ePanorama, an electrical appliance organization, touch dimmers use a special touch-sensitive metal plate to pick up the electricity present in human touches at either 50 or 60 hertz, depending on the dimmer’s application. In addition to the special touch plate, touch dimmers also employ a timing mechanism that measures the time between touches; this mechanism prevents the device from interpreting two very quick touches as two individual commands, and enables special “long touch” functionality. Touch dimmer switches also include special memory circuitry that stores the sunshine’s current dimmer level, because the absence of a physical switch removes the device’s ability to mechanically adjust the sunshine intensity. Finally, touch dimmers must include special circuitry that translates the human touch input into the electrical impulses necessary for triggering the dimmer’s thyristors.

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