Types of electrical switches
The wall switch is one of the most common and important electrical devices in the home. There are several different types of switches, and although they may look the same when they are installed. While switches usually are used for lights, they can be used to turn electrical current on or off for nearly any electrical device. For example, switches sometimes are installed to control the current running to an outlet in order to turn a floor lamp on or off.
The single-pole switch is the general-purpose workhorse of switches. It is used to control a light, receptacle, or other device from a single location. A characteristic feature of a single-pole toggle switch is that it has on and off markings on the toggle. This is something you will not find on three-way or four-way switches.
Three-way switches are always used in pairs and allow you to control a light or receptacle from two different locations. These switches have no on/off markings because the on and off positions will vary as the switches are used. The three-way switch has three terminal screws.
The double-pole switch is commonly used in industrial applications but can be found in some home wiring systems. Like the single-pole switch, a double-pole switch has on/off markings and controls a device or equipment from one location. The main difference is that a double-pole switch has four hot brass terminals, instead of two, plus a ground terminal. This allows the user to connect it to two pairs of hot wires from a 240-volt circuit.
The four-way switch is used between two three-way switches to provide control for an outlet or light fixture from three or more different locations. If you want to have control from more than three locations—for example, five locations—you would still use two three-way switches (one on each end) and three four-way switches between the two three-ways.
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