Everything you need to know about Light Switches and Dimmers

by Team HomeServe |
Pressing Light Switch

You walk into a room. Flip on the light switch and the room illuminates. Simple, right? Not quite. Over the years, advancements in electricity have introduced ways to make purchasing light switches a somewhat complicated process. Not only are there different kinds of switches, but there are also dimmer options, light bulb pairings and stylistic finishing to consider.


Before you head to your nearest Home Depot or Lowe’s store and get seriously overwhelmed by the options, here's what to know:

Types of light switches and dimmers

There are four main types of switches and dimmers to know. Note that while switches only have one determined brightness, dimmer styles allow you to adjust the lighting levels. According to Home Depot, dimmers can save energy as well as extend bulb life.


The most common type and easiest to install or replace, single-pole styles control one fixture from a single switch or dimmer.

Three- or four-way

These switches and dimmers allow you to control one fixture from more than one location. For instance, there may be a switch or dimmer at the bottom of the stairs as well as at the top.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You


Designed to control lights from three or more locations, these are used in larger spaces where multiple switches or dimmers make sense for convenience and safety.


These can control two fixtures without needing a separate circuit box. Double-pole switches and dimmers are usually found in industrial applications where there's a need to supply large appliances and machinery.

The light bulbs to match

An important reminder from the Home Depot: Some light bulb types are only compatible with certain types of switches or dimmers. For instance, there are compact fluorescent and LED bulbs made specifically for dimmers. Be sure to check the packaging before you make the wrong purchase and have to head back to the store sooner than you expected.

The style options

The Spruce noted that the style of the switch or dimmer usually comes down to preferences or existing pieces, as it generally does not affect the function or wiring. That said, some of the common options for light switches are toggles, rockers, sliders and push buttons. Dimmer control styles include rotary knobs that rotate to adjust the lighting levels, as well as toggle, slide, rocker and tap options. Timers and motion sensors are other features to consider when choosing the right switches and dimmers for your lighting needs. Finally, decorative switch plates can add a personal touch to your lighting controls.

When it's time for light switch replacements or upgrades, installing a new one is an easy DIY task. However, keep in mind that when electricity is involved, safety should always come first. (That means, never start any electrical DIY project without turning off the power first!)

If you're nervous to perform the task alone, never hesitate to contact a licensed electrician for professional help.

Being prepared for electrical repairs before they arise is always a good strategy. See how plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repairs.