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#1
Old 11-20-2003, 07:42 AM
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Light Switch positioning

Why are most light switches in homes and offices mounted vertically? They could be mounted horizontal, yes?
#2
Old 11-20-2003, 08:28 AM
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Yes and yes.

There is, in my office a place where 3 switches are mounted in close proximity. Two of the switches are vertical and one is horizontal. Also, it's not unusual to see a combination switch/outlet where the switch is horizontal.
#3
Old 11-20-2003, 08:53 AM
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Thank you Dr. Jackson, but the question is: Why are most light switches in the vertical position?
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Old 11-20-2003, 09:28 AM
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Sorry, didn't process the "why" part of the question. My WAG is convention - that's the way it's always been. It's the same reason that electrical outlets are generally a hammer's height above the floor. They don't have to be, but it's what everyone is used to and it works so there is no motivation to change.
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Old 11-20-2003, 09:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by LowerLip
Thank you Dr. Jackson, but the question is: Why are most light switches in the vertical position?
My WAG is that up=on, down=off is a lot more intuitive than using right/left.
#6
Old 11-20-2003, 09:48 AM
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Also, to mount them sideways, you would need a different type of 'box'. Or add blocking inbetween the studs.
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#7
Old 11-20-2003, 10:02 AM
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<B>enipla</B> gave the right answer.

Studs are vertical and the switch box is rectangular. To attach the box to the stud, it's better to place a long side to the stud than the short side.

Now you may ask, why are switching units built so the switch moves along the long direction and would it be possible to build them otherwise. I can't answer either of those questions.
#8
Old 11-20-2003, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Joe Random
My WAG is that up=on, down=off is a lot more intuitive than using right/left.
Incidentally; the convention for switches here (UK) and possibly Europe generally, is down=on, up=off (for both rocker and lever type switches, for room lights and power outlets).
#9
Old 11-20-2003, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by aahala
Now you may ask, why are switching units built so the switch moves along the long direction and would it be possible to build them otherwise. I can't answer either of those questions.
Most light switches in Japan are made that way. It allows two or three switches to be arranged vertically within a standard switch box. It takes less wall space than an American style 2- or 3-switch panel.
#10
Old 11-20-2003, 02:15 PM
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Once upon a time the light switch had a little ball of mercury inside the hollow toggle of the switch and an electrical contact at its base. When the switch was flipped to the up position the ball of mercury flowed to the bottom of the toggle, closed the contact, and completed the circuit thereby making the lights come on. These were called mercury switches and would only work in a vertical orientation. Years later, mercury switches were outlawed because of the inherent safety hazards associated with mercury, but the tradition of mounting light switches vertically lives on to this day in many places. That, in addition to what was said before regarding mounting the outlet box to a stud.

Interestingly enough, my grandparents house had the old mercury switches in several rooms when I was growing up. One day I noticed that one of them was installed upside down (the part labeled "off" was displayed when the switch was flipped up and vice versa) but it still worked according to the gravity pulling on the mercury. So, whenever this switch said it was off, it was actually on, and that was how I first found out about mercury switches.

SC
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#11
Old 11-20-2003, 03:55 PM
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I have some switches at home that operate left/right. One type is a ganged rocker switch, another is a combo fan speed control/light switch. I believe they are made by Leviton.
#12
Old 11-20-2003, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Stana Claus
Once upon a time the light switch had a little ball of mercury inside the hollow toggle of the switch and an electrical contact at its base.
[...]
Interestingly enough, my grandparents house had the old mercury switches in several rooms when I was growing up.
[...]
Holy frijoles, do I feel old!

You see, I distinctly recall the boom (if not the birth) of the "new, silent" mercury switches—it occurred during my late preteens / early teens. In any case, far too late to be a determining factor in how light switches were positioned.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that it was because of the way the earlier push-button light switches were oriented; and as for why they were oriented as they were, see enipla. (Another factor is that it may have been easier to install lath & plaster around a vertically-mounted switch.)
#13
Old 11-21-2003, 02:05 AM
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I think Santa Claus miight be onto something there. Makes sense with mercury and gravity. But all the other switches, as has been mentioned, maybe it became a tradition.
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