Rocker Vs. Toggle Light Switch: What Are The Major Differences?

Matthew Mountain
by Matthew Mountain

If it’s time to update the switches and sockets in your home, you may be considering a range of options. Additionally, you are probably considering what kind of finish you want; nowadays brushed chrome, nickel, and brass are popular options.

But when you go shopping for switches, you’ll discover that two of the most common switch types are rocker switches and toggle switches. Both will be discussed and compared in this article. Once you know the pros and cons of each light switch, you’ll know which is best to use in your home.

Rocker light switches are more appealing than toggle light switches because they’re more aesthetically pleasing, easier to use, and able to provide a wide range of dimming functions. Toggle light switches are not obsolete, but they’re falling further and further from their long-held position as the most common kind of light switch. You can’t go wrong with either switch.

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What Is a Rocker Light Switch?

Rocker switches are easier to operate because they require less hand pressure. They are wider and flatter than toggle switches too, yet both of these switches handle electricity in the same way.

Since rocker and toggle light switches largely operate in the same way, the main difference between these two switches is style. Both systems utilize the same kind of wiring configuration, and both can comfortably fit inside the same black box.

And should you want to swap out a rocker switch for a toggle, you can do this as well; if you have a background in electrical work, of course.

Pros and Cons of Rocker Light Switches

Almost every electrical control system utilizes switches. And when a system has a lot of switches, one must be able to identify each switch quickly. Also, one must ensure the switches are always efficient and functioning.

If, for example, a switch is misaligned, this may require the overall system to consume more electricity than normal. Moreover, a costly mistake could happen during operation.

These are a few of the reasons why individuals care about shapes, sizes, and finishes when it comes to light switches. The rocker switches that will be discussed here are beneficial for several reasons, though they have their downsides as well.

If you’re thinking about installing these soon. You should read through these pros and cons and then consider everything in totality before you purchase rocker light switches to install.

Pro: Customizable Icons

One of the main appeals of rocker switches is that their icons are customizable. Most owners of these switches customize them so they can communicate function better. Also, when a rocker switch is chosen specifically to match the decor of the room it’s being used in, the availability of customization is very appealing.

Pro: Provide Good Backlighting

If you’re a fan of backlighting, this is one reason why you should purchase rocker switches. Their backlighting function can also show the status of switches or provide additional illumination—it’s up to you!

Con: Taking up a Lot of Space

Since rocker switches rock back and forth—as their name implies—they require a lot of space; much more space than toggle light switches. The faces of these switches are usually constructed using plastic, and as mentioned earlier they can be customized with icons to indicate different functions.

And when backlighting is used, you will know whether a switch is on or off because of how the room is lit. There are no physical ON or OFF buttons on a rocker switch, and most of the time these require more space than toggle switches specifically because they often include so many icons.

Con: Debris Can Build Up Under Unsealed Switches

A more significant downside of rocker light switches is that dust and other debris can build up underneath these switches over time, especially if they aren’t sealed correctly. When this happens, using the rocker switch will be hard if not impossible.

When you install a rocker switch, make sure that the operator interface is sealed. Some say that rocker switches have more downsides than upsides, and even their sensitivity is viewed as a negative by some.

Others say these light switches are only good in small spaces—like vehicles—and that application in larger spaces would prove to be inefficient.

What Is a Toggle Light Switch?

When one hears the term “toggle light switch”, an image of a single-pole toggle light switch is what often comes to mind. This is a very basic kind of light switch, and it can be used to control not only lights but receptacles and other appliances as well from a single location.

It doesn’t have the standard ON/OFF markings, but their absence usually doesn’t inhibit a person from using these switches effectively. They have two brass screw terminals as well, and these are connected to the wires.

Understanding Hot and Neutral Wires

With these switches, the hot wires are usually black, and they provide power while sending it out as well. There’s also a terminal that is used so that ground wires can be connected to the circuit.

Usually, the neutral wires these systems employ are white, and they aren’t connected to any switches. Sometimes, however, two neutral wires are joined and ran through a box without touching any switches.

There are also instances when a single neutral wire is passed through a box. In this instance, this wire is functioning as a hot wire. Black tape should be on a wire like this or it should be somewhere close to the terminal so it’s known this is a hot wire and not a neutral wire.

Pros and Cons of Toggle Light Switches

Toggle light switches have been around for a long time, so their pros and cons are well known. If you want to know what these are, read through the sections below, and then decide whether or not purchasing a toggle light switch is the right move for you.

Pro: Simple Operation

Toggle light switches control electricity well, but in this way they are not much different from rocker switches. However, some homeowners regard toggle light switches as more aesthetically pleasing than rocker switches.

They also have the element of being standard on their side. Toggle switches do, however, make a loud clicking sound when they’re activated, and when compared to rocker switches this is a significant difference.

Pro: Cost

Using toggle light switches will be a good move if you’re looking to save on electricity bills. However, these are not much different, in terms of energy efficiency, than rocker switches.

In any case, it’s good to be energy efficient, not only for the environment but because every penny counts as well.

Con: Lacking Variety

In general, there are more rocker switches out there than there are toggle switches. For rockers, the 20 and 45 amp switches are quite useful and popular, but there are many more kinds of rockers out there.

But this doesn’t mean that regular toggles can’t be efficient. It’s just that the more specialized toggles are harder to find. They’re harder to find yet they do just about the same as rockers of a similar caliber.

Therefore, the question is simple: Is it really worth the aggravation of getting an intermediate toggle light switch when an intermediate rocker is just as good and easier to find?

Con: Appearance

When it comes to appearance, it’s here where toggle switches and rocker switches are considered to be pretty different. Rockers are considered to be more universal, as they can go well with a wide variety of interior decors.

In general, they look modern, whereas toggle switches are more of a bold statement of traditionalism. You can get a rocker switch with a variety of finishes, and while plastic is the most common, it’s said that metal brings out the best of the style these switches boast.

Others refer to white plastic switches as retro, and it’s certainly true that they’re cheaper than chrome, brass, nickel, and the other popular metals these switches are sometimes made of.

Related Questions

Will rocker light switches increase the value of a home?

Planning to renovate your home? Need to update it so you can re-sell it? You should change out your toggle light switches for rocker light switches. A replacement job like this is simple and it won’t cost a lot either.

How should an old cover plate be removed?

First, you must remove the cover plate screws. Next, the cover plate must be pried off using a flat-head screwdriver. At this point, you must be careful not to touch any wires inside the electrical box.

To confirm that the power is off, touch each wire in the electrical box with a non-contact voltage tester. If voltage is found, return to the service panel and turn off the correct circuit breaker. Once it’s off, retest the wires.

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Final Note

In the end, rocker light switches can provide more utility than basic toggle light switches, and at no extra cost. They are also more attractive than toggle switches, which these days are often seen as belonging to the 1970s.

Using a rocker light switch is easier too, but there is the problem of debris and dust building up under the switch when it’s not used often. No matter which kind of light switch you get, you’re getting a reliable component that will ensure you safely get light on demand for many years to come.

Matthew Mountain
Matthew Mountain

Matt loves everything DIY. He has been learning and practicing different trades since he was a kid, and he's often the first one called when a friend or family member needs a helping hand at home. Matt loves to work with wood and stone, and landscaping is by far his most favorite pastime.

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