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What is a Rocker Switch?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A rocker switch is a switch which consists of a piece which rocks back and forth in response to pressure to open and close a circuit. Rocker switches are commonly used as light switches, and they can be used in a variety of other applications as well; many appliances and surge protectors, for example, are fitted with rocker switches. As with other types of switches, it is possible to retrofit an existing switch to turn it into a rocker switch, if this is desired.

One advantage to the rocker switch is that because it does not protrude, it cannot be accidentally activated. Someone actually needs to put pressure on the switch to turn it on or off. This is one reason why rocker switches are popular for controlling lights and appliances when the switch is in a position which might be jostled or bumped. Rocker switches are also easier for people without fine motor control to operate, as long as the rocker is large, as they do not need to grasp and manipulate a toggle.

A number of features can be included in a rocker switch. Some have indicators showing whether the switch is on or off, and the switch can also be illuminated to indicate whether it is on or off. Many basic rocker switches have a small light which activates when the switch is turned on, for example, while more complex switches can have lights for both on and off settings. The size and shape of the rocker itself can vary as well, from a relatively flat plane to a more pronounced shape.

It is also possible to wire rocker switches into a multiway switch system. This type of system is especially popular with lighting. Using a multiway switch, a circuit can be controlled from several different locations, with different switches. This can make a space safer and more usable; for example, someone can turn a light on at the bottom of a set of stairs to see, and turn the light off at the top of the stairs when it is no longer needed.

When someone needs to repair or replace a rocker switch or any other kind of switch, energy to the circuit should be cut off, to ensure that people are not shocked. This can be done at a breaker or fuse box; in a household with multiple people, it may be a good idea to put a note on the box indicating that someone is working on the electricity and that none of the settings in the box should be changed.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Cageybird — On Jun 05, 2014

When my parents got older, I had many of their wall switches converted to illuminated rocker switches. It was much easier for them to find the right lights in the middle of the night, and it didn't take much pressure to turn them on. My mother's arthritis sometimes made it difficult for her to turn a regular lamp switch, so I had the electrician wire several lamps to a master rocker switch. Now when she presses that one rocker switch, all of the lamps around the living room couch turn on or off.

By AnswerMan — On Jun 04, 2014

The organ I play at church uses rows of rocker switches to control all of the voices and effects. I like that system because I can add or subtract voices with just a quick tap. If I want to turn everything off, I just sweep my hand across the bank of rocker switches. Other organs sometimes have pull stops, and I find them to be aggravating during performances.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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