Switch into Gear with the Right Light Switches
One of the best ways to lower your energy bill is by properly controlling which lights are on and which are off based on the time of day and their function. In order to help you control your lighting better, we will cover several recommendations of ours, ranging from the basic snap switch to more complex occupancy sensors and dimmers.
Light Switch Types
- Snap Switches: These are your basic switches that flip up and down in one motion to control the on & off functions of a light. You’ll often find these switches in homes and offices where people in large, shared spaces can turn off unwanted lighting.
- Photocells: These sensors control lighting automatically based on levels of natural light. They are the kind of lights that will power on at sundown and off at sunrise. More advanced sensors are also available that will increase and lower levels of fluorescent light based on the level of daylight.
- Mechanical or Electronic Time Clocks: These switches automatically power on and off lighting in spaces such as offices and warehouses. The purpose of such switches is to provide security, safety, and functionality for a space.
- Crank Timers: These timers are operated by a spring and similar to what you would find on old appliances such as ovens. They allow you to manually control when lights will turn on and off based on daily need.
- Occupancy Sensors: These are sensors that activate and deactivate lights based on the time that a person is occupying an area. They are great sensors for spaces that may not be frequently used and only need to be lit a fraction of the time compared to the rest of a property. They also offer great safety benefits, since they can startle a trespasser and alert the property security or owners to the area.
- Dimmers: These switches decrease wattage and output of both fluorescent and incandescent lighting. Incandescent light bulbs with dimmers also tend to have a longer lifespan than ones without. The main drawback of this is however, that lumen output is reduced more than wattage, decreasing their efficiency while being dimmed. If you choose to dim fluorescent lighting, you will have to purchase special dimming ballasts and bulb holders, but you won’t have to worry about lost efficiency, unlike incandescent bulbs.
In addition to knowing what kind of switch you need, you’ll also want to be aware of its compatibility with the circuit. Below are several different switch & circuit combinations that you may encounter during your next lighting project.
- Single Pole: This setup involves controlling one light fixture from a sole location. You will commonly find this setup in both home and office settings.
- 3-Way: This setup controls one fixture from two locations. This setup is common for hallways, stairways, and large rooms such as dining rooms and living rooms.
- 4-way: This setup controls light from one fixture in three different locations. This setup, like the 3-way, is also common in large rooms. You’ll find this setup installation more complicated than both the single and 3-way, because one 4-way switch must be installed with two 3-way switches as part of a 4-way circuit.
- Multi-Location: This setup controls one fixture from three or more locations and is found in larger rooms. You can also expect the installation process to be a little more complicated than the 4-way setup.
- Double Switch: Here, you can control two fixtures in a single setup without separate boxes. You also have the option to install two parallel switches with a double box. This setup involves more wiring, so you’ll need to make sure there is room for all of them so you won’t receive a building code violation.
With any project that involves electrical wiring comes the risk of serious injury and even death. Proper safety equipment and clothing should always be worn, in addition to making sure that the electricity is turned off in the installation area. Always seek guidance and help from a qualified lighting professional whenever beginning your next project.