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The Ultimate Light Switch Guide

Brushed nickel one toggle cover plate

In the past, choosing a light switch was a straightforward endeavor. There weren’t that many styles from which to choose. You had the trusty single toggle switch most commonly found inside homes with an occasional dimmer switch for use in setting the proper mood. While those switch styles may have come in multiples depending on the gang width of the switch box, choices beyond those types were limited as were the choices for accompanying cover plates.

However, modern technology has come to the world of switches, and now there are enough varying styles of switches to make a homeowner’s head spin. While standard toggle switches are still popular, there are varying styles of dimmer switches and even programmable switches that can be controlled with a timer or via Wi-Fi. If you know what you want, you don’t even need to travel to the home improvement store these days. You can simply order your switches and wall plates online without leaving the comfort of your home. Keep reading to learn more about the variety of switches that are available to today’s homeowner.


The tried-and-true single-pole switch is beautiful in its simplicity. Single-pole switches have two terminals with the toggle switch in between. Electricity is supplied by two hot leads and the neutral leads aren’t connected to the switch. A single-pole switch controls a single light source and is either off or on. Such switches are good in rooms with minimal lighting sources.


A three-way switch is similar in appearance to a single-pole switch, though it doesn’t have on and off on the toggle switch. It has three terminals, controls up to two lights, and is usually the outlet of choice when there’s more than one switch controlling the circuit. For example, if you have several central lights in a large room, you may want switches on either side of the room to control the lighting.


Another variation on the three-way theme, a four-way switch is much like a three-way switch. However, it can control three lights instead of just two.

Rotary Dimmer

The most common type of dimmer switch for many years, a rotary dimmer switch doesn’t feature a toggle. Instead, there’s a rotary knob in its place. The knob is depressed to turn the light on or off. It can also be turned to adjust the brightness of the light.

Sliding Dimmer

Sliding dimmer switches are also popular, as they accomplish the same goal as the rotary dimmer in a slightly different way. Instead of a rotary knob used to control the brightness of the light, sliders use slider bars that fulfill the same role. Many slide dimmers feature toggles to turn the light on and off, though some have slider bars that can be depressed to activate the light.

Toggle-Slide Dimmer

If you need a dimmer switch that’s a little more discreet, a toggle-slide dimmer switch may be perfect for your application. This type of switch looks much like a standard toggle switch. However, the toggle is slightly narrower, and alongside it is a tiny slide that can be used to control the brightness of the light. One of the benefits of this style of switch is that they can be used with standard toggle switch decorative wall plates instead of requiring specialty wall plates like other dimmer switches.

2-Duplex Wooden Decorative Wallplate

Programmable Switches

Some switches feature technology that allows homeowners to program them to turn off and on at preset times. They can be helpful if you arrive home after dark and want a light to be on when you arrive, for example. Some can even be integrated into your home’s wireless network and controlled remotely. Most programmable switches also feature standard controls in varying formats that also allow you to activate the light anytime outside of the programmed times.

Motion Sensing Switch

Some switches are fitted with motion sensors so that they come on anytime someone enters the room or space. They can be handy in areas where you may frequently have a difficult time turning on a switch because your hands are otherwise occupied. However, as is the case with programmable switches, most motion sensor switches can also be activated manually as needed.

Give the wide variety of switch styles on the market today, there’s no wonder that many people become overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the perfect switch for their respective application. However, by learning the pros and cons of the most prominent styles, you can find the perfect switch for your needs. To learn more about the different styles of light switches, contact Wallplate Warehouse at (888) 643-3744.

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