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Types of Light Switches

by Tom Sowders

Close-up of a toggle light switch

Isn't it nice when you realize smart people have been innovating and improving products that you didn't even know you needed yet? More light switches have been invented and perfected than you may realize, but that doesn't mean you don't want them. Light switch designers have gotten very good at helping you achieve the lighting and efficiency you want. From standard dimmers, to timers with built-in atomic clocks, to in-wall dimmer/timers, you can now light your home efficiently, beautifully, and, best of all, conveniently.

Toggle or Paddle Switches
Boring! Just kidding. There are many times when an on/off toggle switch is all you need. Quick anecdote: I used to live in a trailer on my friend's parents' property. When you flipped the light switch in the bathroom, the light and nearby socket would burst to life. Because we always had the radio plugged in and tuned to the rock station, when you flipped the switch, you would be greeted by a wave of hair metal. For this reason (and because we amplified the effect by adding rock'n roll posters), we called it The Rockin' Bathroom. No dimming or timing necessary in here! On/off, baby. Plain and simple. Now, you may have no desire for a Rockin' Bathroom (Hey, I was 22), but there are some rooms, like the garage or workshop, where it's all business, and anything more than a simple toggle switch would be unnecessary.

Occupancy / Vacancy Sensors
Picture of occupancy and vacancy light switch sensorThe easiest way to turn on your lights when you walk into a room is to do nothing at all - just walk into the room. Motion sensor switches do what you think they do: They turn on your lights when they sense motion. This is, of course, a matter of both convenience and security. The only caveat is that you have to always want the lights on when you are in the room. Not very sneaky! For this reason, occupancy/vacancy sensor light switches are typically used in business locations and are great for bathrooms and closets.

Dimmers
These are almost always a good idea because dimming the lights just a little bit will reduce your electric bill and extend the life of your light bulbs. Not to mention that dimmed lights can be a lot more flattering! Dimmers give you control over the amount of lighting in a given room at a given moment. Sometimes you want to clearly see what you are doing at the kitchen table; sometimes you want something with a more aesthetic appeal. The control that dimmers give you make one or two of them a must in every house, in this copywriter's opinion. Dimmers are the bee's knees, ya'll!

Wall Timers
Picture of a wall timer switchIn-wall timers, like dimmers, give you the option to be efficient, economical, and conservational in your energy usage. People have different reasons for wanting to consume less energy, but everyone agrees that digital in-wall timer switches are a great way to exercise a plan when it comes to lighting your home or business. Wall timers have become so sophisticated that they often come with a function that randomizes the times that your lights shut on and off, so that burglars can-t tell that the house is vacant. Some also come with astronomical technology, allowing your timers to self-adjust according to the changing sunset times throughout the year. So. Much. Win.

Plug-in Switches
For some reason, many people don't realize that dimmers are not merely reserved for hardwired lighting. Plug-in dimmers make it possible to dim your lamps, as well. Now you can exercise some control over the levels of ALL the lights in your home, even holiday lights. Like the plug-in dimmer, plug-in timers expand your ability to control lights and other electronic appliances at home. They can be moved throughout the home, inside and out. Finally, inline switches, which you can easily add to your favorite (or least favorite) lamp, eliminate the need to reach under the lampshade to switch it on and off. Plug-in and in-line switches are all about convenience, control, and maximizing your home's energy efficiency.

Door Jamb Light Switches
A wolf howlingIt's 8:59 p.m., and you have one minute left before your self-imposed snack cut-off time of 9 o'clock. You rush to the pantry, voracious for something sweet, like a starved wolf who loves sandwich cookies above all else, you fling open the door. AND...darkness. The clock is ticking while you rummage through the paperboard boxes blindly until, alas, the clock tolls 9 p.m., and you are out of luck. Now your tummy will rumble, and bed time will be no fun. Or! Do yourself a favor: Install a door jamb switch. That way, the light will come on automatically when you open the pantry door. You don't have to be a hungry, snackless wolf anymore.

As you can see, there are a lot of options when it comes to light switches. Toggle switches, motion sensors, dimmers, wall timers, plug-in switches, and door jamb switches allow you to maximize your home's energy efficiency and exercise control over the way your home or business is lighted from the inside out. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of home customization, and it is one of the easiest things to change about your space. All these different types of light switches allow you to make drastic improvements to the way your home or business looks and feels. And now you are aware of just how many options and how much control you have over your lighting.

 

Written by Tom Sowders



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