Different Types of Light Switches and Dimmers

Light switches have become an integral part of homes, businesses, facilities, and more. What was once a simple decision, has turned into a home improvement staple available in numerous designs. However, with different switch styles, wiring requirements, and programmable capabilities, the countless light switch and dimmer options can be tricky to navigate.

Regardless of the type of light switch in question, the basic function always remains the same: turn a switch on and it completes the circuit, allowing electricity to flow through it. In contrast, turning it off breaks the circuit, as the switch creates a gap to stop the flow. Once you have selected the perfect light fixture for your home or business, make sure you pick the right electrical switch for your needs.

Switches and Dimmers

Generally, there are two major categories of light switches: essential light switches and special light switches. Essential light switches include common household light switches like single-pole, two-terminal light switches, three-way switches, four-way switches, and dimmer switches. Apart from standard toggle and rotary switches, speciality switches can carry out everything from turning on when you walk into a room to varying the speed of whole-house fans. Furthermore, other specialized switches can be time-programmed or alert you when a remote light is on or off. There are also decorative switches on the market, those of which include styles that rock, turn, or slide rather than toggle. In the next section, we will outline the 8 most popular light switches and dimmers.

  1. Single-Pole Switch

In general, single-pole switches have two brass terminal screws, in addition to a toggle labeled ON and OFF. Moreover, a majority will feature a grounding screw that connects to the circuit’s ground wire. This type of light switch controls one light fixture or electrical outlet from a single location. During installation, two hot wires should always be connected to the light switch, not two neutrals. While one terminal connects to the incoming power-source wire, the other is utilized to connect the outgoing hot wire to the fixture. Please note that these types of light switches are good for small rooms that lack light sources.

  1. Three-Way Switch

Three-way switches feature three terminals in addition to a ground terminal, and they can control one fixture from two locations. Since they are paired with a second switch, their toggles are not labeled ON or OFF. Frequently found in stairwells or long hallways, three-way switches ensure that you do not walk in the dark to find a switch.

  1. Four-Way Switch

A four-way switch is similar to a three-way switch, with the exception that it has four terminals, in addition to a ground terminal, and it controls one fixture from three locations. Keep in mind that four-way switches must be combined between two three-way switches to form a circuit. While not as popular as their counterparts, four-way switches are great choices from large rooms with numerous entrances.

  1. Rotary Dimmer

Serving as the most common type of dimmer switch, when you rotate the knob of the device clockwise and counterclockwise, the intensity of the light changes.

  1. Sliding Dimmer

Often found in bedrooms where people prefer different types of lighting throughout the day, a sliding dimmer with an ON/OFF toggle turns the light back onto the brightness you had set the last time it was on.

  1. Dimmer Switch

If you are not a fan of big knobs and sliders, a dimmer switch with a small slider next to the toggle is your best bet.

  1. Wall-Control Dimmer

A wall-control dimmer has the ability to control and dim several lights, in addition to being programmed to turn on a combination of lights at a desired brightness with the touch of a button.                                                                                                                                                                                          

  1. Occupancy Switch

Occupancy sensor switches are energy-efficient, and they have a built-in motion detector that turns the light on when someone enters the room, leaving it on for a predetermined amount of time.


ASAP NSN Parts is a leading distributor of switches, all of which have been sourced from top global manufacturers on our Approved Vendor List (AVL). Backed by rapid lead times and unmatched cost savings, customers can easily meet rigid time constraints and strict budget requirements. Get started today and see how ASAP NSN Parts can help fulfill your operational needs!


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