Many things play an important role in our lives, yet we rarely ask questions about exactly what they are and how they work. The humble light switch is a perfect example of something crucial to our everyday lives that many of us know surprisingly little about. The humble switch is more than just a button that we press hundreds, if not thousands, of times a year. It’s an essential component in your home’s electrical setup that helps you see during darkness – something we sometimes take for granted.
We’re going to look at the top four most common switches used for turning lights on and off. We’ll also delve into how switches work and if you need an electrician to come into your home to replace a broken switch.
Let’s get started.
The Four Most Common Light Switches – What are they?
When it comes to switches, you’ll find they usually come in the following four forms:
It’s almost certain that you’ll have more than one single-pole switch in your home. This style of switch is used to control the electrical current for lighting in one single location. In most cases, single-pole switches have a toggle for turning the light on and off. If you take apart a single-pole switch, then you’ll find they have two screw terminals inside them, the color of brass. These brass terminals are used to connect the single-pole switch to an electrical power source via wires. As you might guess, one of the wires moves the electrical current to the switch, while the other will take it away. Single-pole switches feature another terminal for the ground wire.
If you have a light in your home controlled by two different switches, then it’s sure to be a three-way switch. Three-way switches earn their name because of the three different terminals inside them. One of the terminals carries the electrical current into the switch. The second takes the current to the light, and the third to the three-way switch. Three-way switches are very common in the home and will be found in large rooms or parts of the house where one lightbulb serves two floors, such as on a staircase or a hallway.
A double-pole switch works in much the same way as a single-pole switch. That means that its job is to deal with one source of lighting. The big difference between a double-pole and a single-pole switch is that it has twice as many terminals inside it. What does this mean? You can connect more electrical current because you’re able to have twice as many hot wires. It’s unlikely you’ll have a double-pole switch in your home, as they tend to be used for operating machinery rather than for lighting.
As with the three-way switch, you’ll use a four-way switch if you want to control lighting from multiple locations. Four-way switches are always used in conjunction with three-way switches. That means your lighting setup will include two three-way switches. Any additional locations will feature four-way switches. As the name suggests, it has four different terminals inside it.
What About Other Switches?
There is a wide range of smart switches, dimmers, and more available. These products have a different form of electrical circuitry to the switches, as mentioned above, but they’re fitted into the same location as the previous switches.
Old dimmers relied upon variable resistors to alter the level of lighting inside a room. In contrast, modern dimmers use a method that breaks up the sine wave in a more effective manner than old dimmer switches. Lights that use dimmers tend to help keep energy bills down. You can reduce the amount of electricity you use by controlling the level of electrical current that’s coming into a dimmer switch – that’s what makes it dim.
Do I Need an Electrician to Replace a Switch?
Working with electricity is always a risk for people who have no experience. However, a switch doesn’t require a significant amount of expertise to fit a replacement. If you’re replacing an old switch in your wall with another of the same type, then the wiring is simple to do. It’s important to ensure the electricity is off before you attempt to remove the old switch from the wall. Once it has been removed, you’ll have to take away some of the old wires before connecting up the new ones. It’s all quite simple as long as you stay careful and ensure that you don’t have the electricity on while you’re doing this work.
What do Light Switches Do?
Switches for lights are commonly located on the wall of the room. The switch turns the electrical lighting inside the room on. A standard switch will feature a button that you press to toggle it on and back off. In many cases, you might not control the switch with a button. Instead, you’ll have a toggle or a pull cable, for example.
When it comes to switches at home, you’ll find that they tend to fall into four different categories. Most of the time, you’ll only have single-pole or two-way switches in your house, as these tend to be the best for operating the simple lighting required for most standard homes. If you live in a large house, however, then there’s the chance that you might have a few four-way switches as well. If three or more switches operate your lighting, there will be four-way switches involved.
The other type of switches you may come across – although it’s unlikely – are double-way. These switches tend to be used for a high amount of electrical current, meaning you’ll probably find them in workplaces or for machinery.
It’s always important to check your switch type before replacing them, as you’ll need to choose the same switches. Replacing them is quite easy and can be done without the help of an electrician.