6 things to know when buying switches and sockets

What is a ‘gang’?

When you look at a socket or a light switch, how many control points does it have? If it is a double plug, it is 2-gang, the single plug is 1-gang. The same with a light switch, if you have a switch, it is 1 group, two switches, 2 groups, etc.

What is 2-way?

This is a term that describes how the switch works. A 1-way switch just breaks the circuit when thrown, it only has one terminal active. A 2-way switch switches the live connection from one terminal to another, allowing it to connect to another 2-way switch, controlling a light from two positions.

What is the double pole?

The double pole is a safety feature at the mains control points that interrupts the connection of the neutral and live terminals, providing complete insulation, allowing the maintenance of high-power appliances.

What is a middle switch?

A middle switch is for when you need to control a light from three positions. Imagine you have a landing light that needs to be controlled from two ends of the landing and the bottom of the stairs, the switch in the middle of this circuit would be intermediate.

What finishes are available?

There are many more options than the standard white plastic plates from the swamps that adorn thousands of walls across the country. There are many metal finishes available, some of the most common are;

  • Brushed steel without stains

  • Polished chrome

  • Brushed chrome

  • Polished brass

  • Antique brass

  • Black nickel

  • Pearl nickel

  • White painted metal (in gloss or matt)

All metallic finishes are available in thin plate thicknesses, from 5mm to 1.5mm super thin and with or without visible screws. It’s worth noting that these slim plates won’t fit anything shallower than a 35mm deep back box.

Regulations on assembly.

There are new UK regulations that apply to newly built properties regarding the position of switches and sockets. All sockets must be installed at least 450mm from the floor, while light switches must be no more than 1200mm from the floor. All points should also be a minimum of 350mm from any corner of a room. This is to facilitate use by people with disabilities or wheelchair users. It is also recommended that the plugs be placed about 100m from a work surface to leave enough space without damaging the hanging flex.

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