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Electrical101
Decora Light Switch

Electrical Switches

Toggling Single Pole Light Switch

120 V

Neutral

Toggling Single Pole Light Switch

Switches are used to control power to a load. They can be found on anything that runs on electricity. They can be used to control power to garbage disposals, exhaust fans, ceiling fans, gas fireplaces, receptacles, appliances and electronics.

When a switch is off (open), the circuit path is open and no current flows through a circuit. When a switch is on (closed) a continuous path is created to allow current to flow through the circuit and energize the load.

Single Pole Switch

A single pole switch is the most common type of switch. It has two terminals and it is either open or closed. A switch must be connected to the line (120 V) side of a load and not the neutral. If a switch is connected to the neutral side of a light bulb (or other load) the bulb will always be connected to 120 V even when the switch is turned off.

Ground is not shown in the diagrams below.

The circuit path is open and no current flows through a circuit.

A continuous path allows current to flow through the circuit and energize the load.

Decora Style Switches

Decora style is a decorative version of standard switches. Decora style is about 3 ½ times more expensive than switches. Some homeowners replace their standard switches to decora as an upgrade.

Decora switches are available in single pole, 3-way, and 4-way.

Open Single Pole Light Switch Closed Single Pole Light Switch

120 V

Neutral

Open Single Pole Light Switch

Closed Single Pole Light Switch

Home

Electrical Switches

Light Switch Wiring

Multiple Switch Wiring

3-way Switches

3-way Switch Wiring

Alternate 3-way Switch Wiring

4-way Switches

4-way Switch Wiring

Alternate 4-way Switch Wiring

Dimmer Switches

Dimmer Switch Wiring

Photocells and Timers

Ceiling Fan Switch Wiring

Motion Detectors and Occupancy Sensors