Switches are some of the most common electrical components in residential houses. Here is an overview of the most common types of switches, and the essential information to note should you wish to replace one:
Single Pole Switch
This is the most common switch in most residential houses. It is used to control one light or electrical light fixture, hence the name. A good example is a bathroom switch that only switches off or on the light bulb in the bathroom. Most of them are easy to operate because they have "On" and "Off" labels.
If you are a DIY installer, then the most important thing during the installation is to ensure that you don't get the labels wrong. You don't want somebody to tinker with your switch thinking that it is off while it is on.
Unlike a single-pole switch, a double-pole switch is used to control two separate light fixtures, and this is all done from one location. A double-pole handles twice the amount of voltage that conventional switches handle. This is because it controls two fixtures, and both of them pass through the same switch.
You can install a double-pole switch if you take the precaution of allowing enough room to account for all the connections. Remember that you are connecting two fixtures to one electrical box, and they shouldn't touch at all.
A three-way switch is designed to control one light fixture or electrical outlet from two different locations. For example, you can switch off a light bulb from one location and switch it off from a different location. They are usually used in rooms with more than one entrance, for example, large rooms, so that you don't have to move from one end to another to switch the lights on or off.
The installation of a three-way switch isn't as simple as that of a single-pole one. This is mainly because of the multiple connections as well as the fact that these switches are always used in pairs. Getting even one connection wrong endangers your house. It is also dangerous to replace a three-way switch with another one of a different kind. Therefore, installation of a three-way switch is best left to professional electricians.
These are just three examples of switches that you may find in your house, but there are more. Whichever switch you are installing or replacing, you need to reassure yourself that you know what you are doing. Otherwise, it is best to leave the work for the electricians.