i-c8c91722d6cafe899905341ba9df2f3c-light-switches.jpgI’m doing better today, but still a little wobbly, and trying to conserve my energy for the Bruce Springsteen concert tonight. Thus, a poll:

Imagine you have a light switch box containing multiple switches, like to one at right. These switches control lights in adjoining areas of the house– say, the living room, and the light on the stairs up to the bedrooms. At least one of these switches is part of a pair– say, there’s another switch at the top of the stairs controlling that light.

The question is this: when you go to bed at night, turning off all the lights, what should the position of the adjacent switches be?


This poll has nothing at all to do with my own weird compulsions. Nope. Nothing whatsoever.

Comments

  1. #1 cisko
    August 25, 2009

    I notice in the photo that your mounting screws are not properly aligned. They should all have the slots oriented vertically. Please fix.

    I assume you forgot to add the option for rewiring switches so that they will be off in the correct (i.e., down) position.

    It’s probably best for all concerned if you just assume I’m joking about this. Ha?

  2. #2 John S. Wilkins
    August 25, 2009

    I can’t believe you missed the obvious answer: whatever positions they are in once you have turned them on and off 35 times.

    This is about obsessive compulsive behaviour, isn’t it?

    Have I said too much?

  3. #3 Electric Landlady
    August 25, 2009

    I answered “up, down, same, different, who cares?”, but I do know people who would answer otherwise. I laugh at those people.

    Cisko is totally right about the screws though.

  4. #4 kevin
    August 25, 2009

    Vertically oriented screws? Please. Horizontal is the only reasonable orientation, and anyone who tells you different is just punking you.

  5. #5 chezjake
    August 25, 2009

    When considering the problem of two switches controlling the same light, the last switch you touch to turn out should be in the down position.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    August 25, 2009

    There is an aesthetic reason for having them be the same: assuming reasonable lighting, you can see that switch from across the room. Not so the screws holding them in place (unless your eyesight is much better than mine), so going to great lengths to have them line up perfectly (whether you think vertical or horizontal is “perfect”) is a symptom of either OCD on the occupant’s part, or having to stage the house for the benefit of OCD real estate agents and prospective buyers.

    Yes, I prefer to use certain switches for toggling lights depending on which other lights I am toggling at the same time. For instance, my kitchen light is wired to three different switches: a singleton by the dining room door, one outside the 1/2 bath (paired with the switch to the light in that hallway), and one in the garage (paired with one of the switches for the garage light). If I only want to toggle the kitchen light, I use the singleton switch. If I am also toggling the garage light (because I am about to drive somewhere at night, or have just returned), I use the switch in the garage.

  7. #7 6EQUJ5
    August 25, 2009

    My apartment has no three-way switches. They are simple two-pole affairs, installed conventionally with the toggle down when off.

  8. #8 OmegaMom
    August 25, 2009

    I hate 3-way switches. Bah. My vote was for a different answer than in the poll: I don’t care as long as the damned lights are OFF. Or ON.

  9. #9 Kevin H
    August 25, 2009

    I guess I have ranked preference, All down, then all up, then mixed. I remember walking across a dark empty kitchen once to get them all down, but I generally have given up on it, but I bet if I were building my own house, I would slightly resist putting in a second switch to a light to prevent this issue.

    I always knew this was a small irrational thing, but it seems much sillier when I write it down.

  10. #10 Chuk
    August 25, 2009

    Some of the banks look right when they’re all up, some when they are all down. Depends where they are — the ones in my kitchen should all be “up” when they’re off. But I won’t walk across a room to change them or check unless I happen to be using them anyway. Maybe I’ll make one of the kids fix it.

  11. #11 Mary Aileen
    August 25, 2009

    I answered “all in the down position, but it’s not that big a deal.” In my case, it’s a stairwell light with two switches, the one at the top of the stairs sharing a bank with two other switches. If those three get out of alignment, I won’t go back down/up the stairs in the dark to fix it, but I make a point of fixing it next time I take the stairs when it’s *not* dark. Otherwise, I always use the light on the stairs, even when I wouldn’t actually need to, precisely so they don’t get out of alignment.

  12. #12 milkshake
    August 25, 2009

    ‘the switches should be in superposition’ is the obvious answer (so will you finally stop staring at them).

  13. #13 Ewan
    August 25, 2009

    In our (reasonably new, never rewired) house we have two kitchen light sets both controlled by two switches, which are mounted as pairs. When all lights are on (or off), three of the four switches are in one orientation, the fourth in the other. This amuses me and bothers my wife, which amuses me further :-).

    [I actually have slightly stronger feelings about left-right ordering. And switchplates. But I digress..]

  14. #14 Mark P
    August 26, 2009

    With three-way switches there can always be times when at least one switch is in the up position and the lights are off (unless you are OCD). But in general, the switches should be wired so that it can be arranged that when the lights are off, both switches are in the down position. It’s simply a matter of convention: up is on, down is off.

  15. #15 stephenk
    August 27, 2009

    “It’s simply a matter of convention: up is on, down is off.”

    Except in those countries (like Australia, and I assume the UK) where the convention is down is on and up is off.

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