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Electrical Switches and Plugs: A Buyer’s Guide

This is a layman’s guide to things to consider before embarking on a new construction or renovation project.


The first problem many people run into is the bewildering variety of electrical terminology used. Here is a brief explanation of the basic terms that you will come across.

Gang: the number of switches or sockets on a board. A light switch with 3 switches is called a 3-group switch. A standard double plug is called a 2-group plug.

Path: the number of switches capable of turning on a light. For added flexibility, most switches are bi-directional. A 1-switch controlled light only requires a 1-way switch (although a 2-way switch can be used without any problem). A light controlled by 2 switches, for example a landing light, will require two 2-way switches.

Intermediate: If a light can be activated from 3 different switches, two of them must be 2-way switches and the third a intermediate switch.

Unipolar: a single-pole switch has one contact. When switched it will interrupt only the live current and leave the neutral current intact.

Double pole– A double pole switch has two separate contacts and will break both live and neutral currents. Double pole switches are recommended in most situations, especially if there are children in the house.


Remember, you can put as many switches and sockets on an electrical circuit as you need. However, it is worth planning where you will need them before you buy. You need to think about the different needs of the room and your lifestyle – where do you need the most plugs? With the proliferation of electrical appliances, you need to install more plugs than you think you will need and convert them to double plugs rather than single plugs, as the price difference is minimal.

Always buy switched plugs for added protection. This does not apply to electrical outlets for kitchen appliances, such as freezers, which should not be changed in case the switches are accidentally turned off.

Most people only put 1 TV spot in a room; Don’t make that mistake! Install TV spots on at least 2 different walls in a room, you may want to rearrange the furniture and move the TV in the future.

Also consider the lighting needs of a room. Dimmer switches provide a relatively inexpensive and easy way to vary the light levels in a room, particularly useful for creating different atmospheres in the dining room, living room, or bedrooms. Remember that if a light is to be operated from 2 locations, and one of the switches to be used is a dimmer, the other must be a standard 2-way light switch, not a dimmer.

Flat or raised plate?

The differences here are more than just aesthetic. Flat plate plugs look sleek, modern and sophisticated, but they also offer a practical and space-saving solution for placing plugs behind furniture. The downside to renovations, however, is that they often require deeper back boxes than originally installed, 35mm instead of 25mm. Changing back boxes can be time consuming and difficult.

Screwed or screwless?

Aesthetically, screwless flat plate switches give an even more modern look than bolt-on flat plate switches, but screwless switches and sockets have an additional advantage: They also save you time and money as they can be installed without the faceplate. before decorating and then painting around quickly and easily without the use of masking tape or worrying about marking the plate. When it’s dry, just grab the faceplate.


Polished chrome, brushed steel, and black nickel are the most popular modern finishes. The downside of polished chrome in particular is that it shows finger marks very easily. One way to help avoid this is to choose a range where the plate is polished chrome or black nickel, but the switches themselves are made of white or black plastic. Of the 3 finishes mentioned above, brushed steel (aka brushed chrome) is the easiest to keep clean.

Now you are ready to take the next step in your project. Good luck!


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