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Switch Plate Cover History

You probably haven’t given any thought to the history of the Switch Plate Cover! Switches for lighting may be in hand-held devices, moving vehicles and buildings. Residential and commercial buildings usually have wall-mounted light switches to control lighting within a room. Mounting height, visibility, and other design factors vary from country to country. Switches are often recessed within a finished wall. Surface mounting is also fairly common though is seen more in commercial industrial and outbuilding settings than in houses. Light switches boxes have plastic, ceramic or metal covers to prevent accidental contact with live terminals of the switch. Wall plates are available in different styles and colours to blend in with the style of a room. The first light-switch employing quick-break technology was invented by John Henry Holmes in 1884 in the Shieldfield district of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.[1] Holmes was a prolific inventor of other electrical devices including the “Castle” dynamo and early electrical systems in trains. The toggle light switch was invented in 1916 by William J. Newton and Morris Goldberg. As a component of a building wiring system, installation of light switches will be regulated by some authority concerned with safety. The dimensions, mechanical designs, and even the general appearance of light switches changes very slowly with time. They frequently remain in service for many decades, often being changed only when a portion of a house is rewired. It is not extremely unusual to see century-old light switches still in functional use. Manufacturers introduce various new forms and styles, but for the most part decoration and fashion concerns are limited to the faceplates. Even the “modern” dimmer switch with knob is at least four decades old, and even in the newest construction the familiar toggle and rocker switch appearances predominate. The shape and size of the boxes and faceplates as well as what is integrated (for example in the UK it is normal to have the switch built into the plate) varies a lot by country.

Up or down

The direction which represents “on” also varies by country. In North America, it is usual for the “on” position of a toggle switch to be “up”, whereas in many other countries such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, and in New Zealand it is “down.” In multiway switching, the correspondence between a single switch’s state and whether lights are on or off depends on other switches in the circuit. In countries prone to earthquakes, such as Japan, most switches are positioned sideways to prevent the switch from inadvertently being turned on or off by falling object


The traditional light-switch mechanism is a toggle mechanism that provides “snap-action” through the use of an “overcenter” geometry. The design was patented in 1916 by William J. Newton and Morris Goldberg. The switch handle does not control the contacts directly, but through an intermediate arrangement of springs and levers. Turning the handle does not initially cause any motion of the contacts, which in fact continue to be positively held open by the force of the spring. Turning the handle gradually stretches the spring. When the mechanism passes over the center point, the spring energy is released and the spring, rather than the handle, drives the contacts rapidly and forcibly to the closed position with an audible “snapping” sound. The snap-action switch is a mechanical example of negative resistance. This mechanism is safe, reliable, and durable, but produces a loud snap or click. (Many people have at some point in their lives made an attempt to reduce this noise by operating the handle slowly or gingerly. Of course this is to no avail, since the very purpose of the mechanism is to ensure that the electrical portion of the switch always operates rapidly and forcefully — and noisily — regardless of how the handle is manipulated). As of 2004 in the United States, the toggle switch mechanism was almost entirely supplanted by “quiet switch” mechanisms. “Quiet switch” mechanisms still possess a form of snap action, but which is very weak as compared to its predecessor. They are therefore equipped with larger, high-quality contacts that are capable of switching domestic loads without damage, despite the less-positive action.

Light Switch Plate Covers

Light switch plate covers have two main purposes, aesthetics and safety. Let’s deal with safety first because how attractive your covers are will not matter if your house has burned down. Switch Plates cover the hollow area in the wall where the light switches are installed. This hollow area will have a bundle of wires in it which brings electricity to the switch. This electricity allows the lights to come on and go off ever time to flip the switch. Although the big hole in the wall is unattractive the wires themselves can be a fire and safety hazard. Covering these wires will protect both the wires and the people who are silly enough to stick their fingers in there. Make sure that all the wires are securely in place and that there are no bare wires that could cause problems. Now that the safety issues are taken care of we can move on to the fun parts. Actually before we get to the fun parts perhaps we should deal with the boring historical aspects. Although the inventor of switch plate covers has been lost (poor guy) to the annals of history the true history of switch plates is rather long and boring. Kind of like a long and boring wall that has bland switch plate covers. People used to try and hide their switches. They’d get plates that blended into the walls in order to pretend that they weren’t there. Pretending that they weren’t there didn’t work and made them difficult to find, so in recent years people decided to dress them up. Now light switch plate covers can make a fashion statement. That is the fun part, dressing up your walls.