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Light Switches Buying Guide

Chance Agrella | FreeRangeStock

In recent years, there has been nothing less than a renaissance in light switches. New switches offer a variety of options, such as full-range dimmer switches, a delayed fade from on to off, dimmers that remember a range of different pre-settings, occupancy switches that automatically turn lights on when a person enters a room, and central lighting control systems that can operate lights anywhere in the house. You can also control lights with hand-held, infrared, wireless remote controls. Such options can deliver not only personalized control but also energy savings.

Some switches are operated with keys, timers, flat rockers, or, in the case of an outdoor switch, a waterproof lever. They may be signaled by photoelectric eyes that sense light. Some switches are paired with receptacles (“combination” switches), and others have a pilot light that lights when the switch is on.

Dimmers, which control the amount of electricity that flows and the amount of light available, can be operated with a toggle, dial, slide, switch, touch pad, or button (special dimmers are needed for compact fluorescent or halogen lights and loads greater than 1000 watts).

Central lighting control systems allow you to operate all the lights in the house from one room, such as the master bedroom or living room, and can be programmed for lighting in different zones of the house at different times

Switches should match the ampere and voltage ratings for the circuit. And if your home has aluminum wiring, be sure the switches are designated “CU-AL” for compatibility.

Types of Light Switches

For more about buying various types of switches, please see:

  • Standard Light Switches. Conventional light switches—the types mounted in nearly all North American homes—include the single-pole switch, three-way switch, and four-way switch. For an explanation of these, READ MORE.
  • Timer Light Switches. Timer switches can be great energy savers if you often forget to turn lights off when you leave a room. Timer light switches are designed…READ MORE
About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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