What Is a Toggle Switch?

Malcolm Tatum

The toggle switch is a type of electrical switch that is characterized by the presence of some type of handle or lever that makes it possible to control the flow of electrical power from a power supply to a device of some type. An electrical toggle switch can be used in a number of different applications, both in commercial and in residential settings. Considered very easy to operate, switches of this type can last for many years before requiring replacement.

A toggle switch is an electrical switch that is usually mounted in a box on the wall.
A toggle switch is an electrical switch that is usually mounted in a box on the wall.

Over time, a toggle switch has come to be a collective term for just about any type of electrical control where a handle, lever, or some type of rocking mechanism is used to manage the flow of electrical current. Some switches, especially industrial toggles, are somewhat large and are constructed with a metal lever that is equipped with a handle located in the middle of the lever. For safety reasons, these industrial designs often require a great deal of effort to move from one position to another, and may be equipped with locks or timing devices as part of the safety precautions. Other switches of this type are small devices that can be operated with the use of a finger.

One of the more common forms of the toggle today is found in the home. The toggle light switch is a device that is used to control the flow of power from the main wiring in the home into the wiring of an appliance or fixture. A toggle of this type is usually mounted in the wall, and covered with a simple switch cover that leaves the lever exposed. By moving the toggle up or down, it is possible to turn on overhead lights, or to supply power to outlets that are wired directly to the switch. In some home designs, a toggle switch is placed just inside the front door and controls outlets in the adjoining room, making it possible to easily flip on lamps plugged into those outlets and flood the space with light upon entering the space.

While push button and virtual keypads have come into more common use at home and in some commercial and business settings, toggle switches continues to be the most popular choice for controlling the flow of electricity from a source to a device. The sheer simplicity of the design ensures that the chances of the switch breaking down or malfunctioning makes it an attractive option. Even in situations where the switch eventually wears out, the process of replacing a toggle switch is something that can usually be accomplished in minutes, and with very little effort required.

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Discussion Comments


It's almost a status symbol among car enthusiasts. A center console lined with toggle switches means there are a lot of aftermarket add ons that do everything from turn on a nitrous oxide system to folding fog lights to more (truly, the variety of mechanical add ons is staggering).

A bunch of toggle switches in a car, then, suggest customization and that always interests auto enthusiasts.

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