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What is a Lightning Switch?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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A lightning switch is a wireless remote control switch that does not require batteries, marketed foremostly for the application of controlling light fixtures, though it can also be used to control appliances. The lightning switch converts mechanical stress placed on the switch (by simply pressing it) into electrical current, sending a radio frequency (RF) code to a programmed receiver. The paired receiver is either plugged into a wall outlet or hard-wired into the junction box of a light fixture, turning the connected device on or off.

Piezoelectricity refers to the science of using mechanical stress to generate electrical current. Materials such as crystals, some ceramics and bone will generate an electric current in response to an adequate amount of applied physical stress. The lightning switch design, which looks similar to a rocker switch, takes advantage of piezoelectricity to send RF signals to receivers within 45 feet (13.7m) or more, depending on the model. The RF signal can travel through walls, floors, cement and brick.

A lightning switch can be mounted in the same housing that contains a standard, wired wall switch, replacing the wired switch. It can also be mounted in a more convenient location. Installing a lightning switch right inside a door can eliminate the need to walk across a darkened room to turn on a light. It can be placed on a glass slider, on brick or on cement with double back tape.

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To use a lightning switch with a ceiling fixture, the receiver is wired into the junction box in the ceiling. Wall lamps can be controlled by plugging a receiver into the wall, and plugging the lamp into the receiver.

Every lightning switch generates its own unique code, making it possible to use several lightning switches in the house, each one controlling its own light. Conversely, receivers can be easily programmed with more than one code, so that multiple switches can control a single light. How is this handy? One might want a lightning switch in the wall and one on the bedside stand, for example. Moreover, imagine pulling up to your house after dark and illuminating the entire house, including the porch light, with the single press of a button from the safety of your car! Since the lightning switch never needs batteries, it can stay in the glove compartment or purse.

Many new construction and remodels also use lightning switches to save money, eliminating the need to run wired switches throughout the premises. Reducing wiring is also potentially safer, as it can decrease the chances for electrical fires.

Several companies manufacture lightning switches, so look for a model that is easy to program and has a solid guarantee. At least one company boasts that its lightning switches will work for decades under normal use, without becoming weak. Switches and receivers can be purchased separately or as a pair. Switches can generally be had for just under $30 US Dollars (USD), while receivers run $33 - $50 USD or more, depending on many factors including how far they transmit.

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