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Dimmer switches are an excellent option for occasionally varying light intensity needs. Almost all the dimmer switches that you will buy today are the more-efficient solid state designs. The less expensive older rheostat designs were inefficient, so avoid them.
As convenient as dimmer switches are, they are not efficient for continuous dimming. If you use the dimmer lighting conditions often, it is much more efficient to install a three-way bulb than to use a dimmer switch. A three-way bulb is basically two lighting filaments inside one bulb. It either lights the small element, the large element or both together. When dimming a light with a dimmer switch, the amount of light given produced drops off quicker than the electricity usage. Therefore, the lighting efficiency (lumens of light output per watt of electricity used) decreases the dimmer you adjust lighting.