There is more to these switches than “on” and “off”. Choose the right light switch for your space with our guide to knowing the types.
Light switches, once a simple decision, are now a home improvement category that boasts many designs and functions. With different switch styles, wiring requirements, and programmable capabilities, the wide variety of light switches and dimmers can be difficult to navigate. However, the basic function always remains the same: turn on a switch and it completes the circuit, letting electricity flow through it. Closing it breaks the circuit, as the switch creates a gap that stops the flow. After choosing the perfect chandelier, pendant, or recessed lighting for your home makeover, make sure you choose the right electrical switch for your needs. Take a look at our guide to switches and dimmers to choose the right lighting option for your room.
Types of switches and dimmers
Be sure to choose a switch that is compatible with the circuit where you want to install it and your lighting needs. Switches and dimmers come in several basic types.
Essential light switches
The most common household switch, a single pole, has two terminals and only turns electricity on or off. A three-way switch has three terminals; A four way is four. They control the light from two or three switch locations, such as at the top and bottom of the stairs, at the end of a hallway, or in a large room with multiple entrances.
A dimmer switch controls the intensity of the light.You can usually replace each individual pole switch with a dimmer. However, for a fan or fluorescent light, you must purchase a special switch to control these devices.
Special light switches
In addition to the familiar toggle and rotary switches, specialty switches can do everything from turning on when you walk across the room to varying the speed of fans throughout the house. Other special duty switches can be time programmed or let you know if the remote light is on or off.Decorative switches include styles that rock, rotate or slide rather than toggle.
1 Single pole switch
An ON/OFF toggle switch and two brass terminal screws are all that distinguish single-pole switches. Often there is also a grounding screw that connects to the ground wire of the circuit. This type of light switch controls a light fixture (or electrical outlet) from one location. When installing, always connect the two hot wires to it, not the two neutrals. Incoming power source wires are connected to one terminal, while outgoing hot wires are connected to the other terminal. If you don’t have many light sources in your room, this light switch would be ideal.
2 Three-way switch
Three-way switches have three terminals (in addition to the ground terminal) and can control a fixture from two locations. Because they are always paired with a second switch, their toggle is not marked on or off. Often found in stairwells or long hallways, the three-way switch means you don’t have to walk in the dark to find the switch.
3 Four-way switch
A four-way switch is like a three-way switch, except it has four terminals (plus a ground terminal) and controls a fixture from three locations. This type of switch is required to create a circuit between two three-way switches. While more unusual, this is a good option for large rooms with multiple entrances.
4 Rotary Dimmer
Among dimmer switches, rotary switches are the most common. As you turn the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, the intensity of the light changes.
5 Sliding Dimmer
A sliding dimmer with an on/off toggle returns the light to the light you last turned it on. These switches work well in the bedroom where we want soft light in the morning and at night but turn the lights off during the day.
6 Dimmer switch
If you don’t like the look of big knobs and sliders, a dimmer switch with a small slider next to the knob is almost invisible.You get the convenience of choosing light intensity without visual eye injury.
7 Wall-Control Dimmer
The wall-control dimmer not only controls and dims multiple lights, but it can also be programmed to adjust the brightness of a given light with the touch of a button.
8 Occupancy switch
Saving energy and eliminating fumbling around in the dark can be achieved with occupancy sensor switches. Its built-in motion detector turns on the light when someone enters the room and leaves it for a pre-set time. This light switch option is ideal for reducing costs on the electricity bill.