Electrical Switches And Sockets

This can be a layman’s guide to the things it is best to consider before embarking on a brand new build or renovation project.


The first problem many individuals encounter is the bewildering array of electrical terminology used. Here is a short explanation of the basic terms you will come across.

Gang: the number of switches or sockets on one plate. A light switch with 3 switches is called a 3 gang switch. A typical double socket is known as a 2 gang socket.

Way: the number of switches able to switching a light. For flexibility, most switches are 2-way. A light controlled from 1 switch only requires a 1-way switch (although a 2-way switch can be used without any problems). A light controlled from 2 switches e.g. a landing light, would require two 2-way switches.

Intermediate: if a light will be activated from 3 different switches, two of them will should be 2-way switches, and the third an intermediate switch.

Single Pole: a single pole switch has one contact. When switched it would break only the live current and leave the neutral current intact.

Double Pole: a double pole switch has two separate contacts and can break both live and neutral currents. Double pole switches are recommended in most situations, especially if there are children within the house.


Remember, you’ll be able to put as many switches and sockets onto an electrical circuit as you require. However, it is still worth planning where you will want them before you buy. You must think about the different needs of the room and your lifestyle: where do you require most power sockets? With the proliferation of electrical gadgets you need to install more sockets than you think you have to, and make them double sockets rather than single sockets, as the price difference is minimal.

Always buy switched sockets for extra protection. This does not apply to sockets for kitchen appliances equivalent to freezers, which should not be switched in case the switches are accidentally turned off.

Most individuals only put 1 TV point in a room; do not make that mistake! Install TV points on a minimum of 2 different walls in a room, you may well need to re-arrange the furniture and move the TV in the future.

Also consider the lighting needs of a room. Dimmer switches provide a comparatively cheap and simple solution to vary the light levels in a room, particularly useful for creating different moods in dining, living or bedrooms. Remember that if a light is to be operated from 2 places, and one of many switches to be used is a dimmer, the other should be an ordinary 2-way light switch, not a dimmer.

Flat or raised plate?

The differences here are more than simply aesthetic. Flat plate sockets look sleek, modern and sophisticated, but additionally they offer a practical, space-saving solution to fitting sockets behind furniture. However, the drawback for renovations is that they often require deeper back boxes than were originally installed, 35mm rather than 25mm. Changing back boxes could be time consuming and messy.

Screwed or screwless?

Aesthetically, screwless flat plate switches give an even more modern look than screwed flat plate, but screwless switches and sockets have an added advantage: they save you money and time too, as they can be fitted without the front plate before you decorate, then painted around quickly and easily without the use of masking tape or worrying about marking the plate. When dry, simply clip the front plate on.


Polished chrome, brushed steel and black nickel are the most well-liked modern finishes. The disadvantage of polished chrome particularly is that it shows up finger marks very easily. A technique to assist to avoid that is to decide on a spread where the plate is polished chrome or black nickel, however the switches themselves are made from black or white plastic. Of the three finishes mentioned above, brushed steel (also known as brushed chrome) is the easiest to keep clean.

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

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