Without the switch, our homes' electrical is little more than a collection of grounded wires and connections. While you may not often think about it, home lighting is far more complex and personal than just turning a switch on and off. Properly selected lighting can fulfill a vital set of roles in the home that sometimes goes under our radar.
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Lighting sets moods (ambient lighting), provides focal points in rooms (accent lighting), and perhaps most importantly can be configured to provide energy-efficient options resulting in financial rewards and monetary incentives for usage. Those very same points can be made for the switch that controls this lighting. If you were looking to make a light switch swap out or update, it's important to know the types of hardware available to safely determine what can be integrated into your current home lighting setup.
Below are 12 types of wall switches and dimmer switches. All selections listed are classified as wall-mounted switches and are not to be confused with pull string switches.
- Toggle Switch (Single Pole)
- Rocker Switch (Single Pole)
- Double Pole Light Switch (Four-Way Switch)
- Illuminated Switch
- Remote Control Switch
- Motion Detector Switch
- Wall Thermostat & Light Switch Combo (Smart Switch)
- Single Pole Dimmer
- Three-Way & Four Way Dimmer
- Multi-Location Dimmer
- Plug-In Dimmer
- Smart Dimmer
With our switch options listed, let's talk lighting!
A switch regulates the electrical current of a circuit, allowing us to turn our lights and appliances on and off. The switch is really the only feature of our electrical wiring system in which we will regularly interact with or see so its appearance is a matter of some importance.
Switches come in a number of styles that we have listed out below. One important point to keep in our minds as we are looking through these styles is that at this particular point in time, the technology has been around long enough and has been improved upon to such a degree that we have now come to see that many of the styles and designs blended with one another. The result is an even greater variety in the options for replacement.
1. Toggle Switch (Single Pole*)
This classic design has a prominent profile that protrudes outwards from the switch panel. These typically require more force to actuate the lever when turning on and off. These are most commonly found in older homes but are still a popular and cost-effective selection for any home.
*Single-pole indicates that you can control the switch and electrical only from one point.
2. Rocker Switch (Single Pole*)
This switch is the reimagined take on the traditional toggle wall switch. The design has a longer and broader profile than the classic toggle. This switch's profile is also smaller on the panel and requires less force to engage, making it another common selection. It is the most popular selection for new home builds and is also reasonably priced.
*Single-pole indicates you can control the switch and electrical only from one point.
3. Double Pole Light Switch (Four-Way Switch)
The double-pole switch follows the same logic as the single-pole switch system, but instead of one zone of control, two separate circuits are controlled from the same switch panel.
Most homes have an abundance of double pole switch arrangements strategically situated to disperse the electrical burden in one or more zones. Designs available may include either toggles or rockers so that selection is flexible.
4. Illuminated Switch
This switch comes built with a light housed in the paneling that turns on when the switch is set off or the circuit is closed. The purpose of this design is to help guide occupants inside towards the switches in the dark. Some versions do come with backup redundancy batteries built into the paneling in the event power to your home is interrupted completely.
You can of course disable the illumination feature if you choose, but if the light bulb burns out you will have to replace the entire switch and panel. The cost is not high, so it is not much of an obstacle to replace. Many families with young children will install these switches as they can conveniently double up as nightlights.
5. Remote Control Switch
These switches are made possible through the use of a plug-in adaptor. Typically the remote control switch allows you to initiate and adjust the light wirelessly. Wireless control means either via WiFi or RF (radio frequency), likely being the latter, limiting the overall control range. This switch and remote provide convenient, simple light control without a lot of bells and whistles, making it ideal for folks dealing with mobility issues.
6. Motion Detector Switch
This combination switch blends a motion sensor with an added manual switch function. A tiny photodetector lens built into the housing of the light responds to motion, causing the switch to turn on and off. While some residential homes may incorporate this switch style, it is far more common a feature in commercial buildings and in exterior lighting.
Some models and designs can be programmed, but typically switches like this unless smart enabled are triggered more frequently than desired by children, pets, etc. These options are great energy-efficient selections as they are less likely to be left on accidentally.
The range of the lens varies as well so it may not make sense to try and incorporate more than one of these switches in any one room as they could trigger independently.
7. Thermostat Wall/Light Switch
This switch combines the thermostat function with customizable light programming in one sleek and compact switch profile. Integrating switches like these into your home systems make it possible to amplify your home's energy efficiency.
Program when and how your lights turn on based on your daily patterns. This is a common component in the smart home setup and, as a result, is costly. There are many styles and brands, so it is definitely recommended that you check compatibility and wiring requirements to make sure you can use this tech piece.
Dimmer switches are connected to the light switch and adjust the current or voltage running through the electrical circuit to provide control over the brightness of your lights. Light dimming is a very popular feature. In addition to providing ambiance, dimmers can also help reduce the overall electrical expenditures when implemented into a home's electrical system/configuration correctly.
1. Single-Pole Dimmer Switch
This option comes in either the toggle or rocker style with the addition of either a slider or turn dial to adjust the light brightness. Single pole dimmers control one zone or single circuit electrical systems.
2. Three-Way Or Four-Way Dimmer Switch
This unit controls up to three circuits from two separate control panels. You can turn the lights on and off as well as dim from either switch point. These are common in high traffic and large spaces to prevent extra back and forths to control your home lighting. This is not the same as a multi-location dimmer which we will highlight.
3. Multi-Location Dimmer Switch
This switch can support multi-circuit control as well as regulate multiple dimming functions all at the same time. The way that the wiring and mechanism control the current is different from a three-way switch; it can pair with any style switch with the added convenience of pairing with existing smart home hardware.
Because this is not a simple on and off switch it may require some programming which will require you to be extra thorough when integrating/installing/troubleshooting. The more high-end and sophisticated the equipment is, the higher the price will be. On the plus side, depending on home size, you would unlikely have multiple multi-location dimmer switches.
4. Plug-In Dimmer Switch
This switch can come either wired or wireless. Wired plug-in dimmers were popular for a time and while they provide basic dimming ability, most versions are making the shift towards smart home lighting and therefore this option is phasing out. There are versions like the remote switch with this ability to dim.
5. Smart Dimmer Switch
This switch connects your home lighting to a smart hub. Different brands and different models operate on different software platforms but the core similarity is the ability to program and control all facets of homes lighting, and other pairable features are there.
Options like this are great when seeking energy-efficiency to manage electrical usage in the household. It is a tool that provides insight but extra comfort given you can control your components from feasibly anywhere. Smart home dimmers and are more costly and do require more time to install and integrate.
We hope this was helpful in your research of wall switches and dimmers. As always, for more tips, lists, and recommendations like this, visit for inspirational articles at Home Decor Bliss!