Glossary of Terms for Light Switch Plates and Electrical Devices
Comprehensive description of light switch plate configurations, sizes, and the electrical devices. See sections for Devices, Switch Plates and Electrical Terms.
Decora Devices - Decora is a newer style of device. All Decora devices fit into the same shape opening - a large rectangular roughly 1.25" wide by 2.5" tall (1.312" x 2.625" or 1 5/16" W x 2 5/8" H). Decora devices are alternately known as decorator, designer, rocker, paddle, block, flat or wide switches. (The term "Decora" is trademarked by Leviton, a major manufacturer of electrical devices.) Buy Decora Outlets, Rocker Switches and Slide Dimmers
Despard Devices - Despard, or "interchangeable" devices, fit into 29/32" W x 11/16" H plate openings oriented in either a horizontal or vertical direction. Require a mounting strap to hold in switch plate openings. Shop for Despard Switches, Outlets, and Straps
Dimmer Devices - Light dimmers come in rocker, toggle, rotary and slider versions, some with preset buttons or levers that will maintain a particular level each time you turn it on. Buy Dimmer Light Switch Controls
Duplex Devices - Duplex devices have two receptacles or toggle switches on a single housing or mounting setup that accepts two plugs or horizontal throw toggle switches (or a combination of both). Fits double 1-11/32" W x 1-1/8" H plate openings that are rounded on sides and flat on top and bottom. Shop for Duplex Outlets and Horizontal Toggle Switches
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter GFCI Outlet Devices - GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) receptacles, or sometimes just GFI (ground fault interrupter), are usually in the shape of a Decora outlet with a reset button in the middle. These outlets have a safety feature that detects current leakage and breaks the circuit if it exceeds a certain level. Required in locations near water sources. Check local codes for guidelines. Buy GFCI Outlet Receptacles
Vintage Low Voltage Devices - Replacement low voltage light switches have on and off buttons for the low voltage lighting systems common in homes built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Available in white, ivory and gray, they are designed to be used alone or with mounting brackets, depending upon the switch plate style used. Buy Low Voltage Light Switches
Electrical Outlet Devices - Power outlets, or receptacles, come in many shapes including Decora, duplex, Despard and round in various diameters. They are available in different amp ratings, typically 15A and 20A for most residential or commercial applications. Buy Single, Duplex, and Decora Outlets
Pushbutton Switches - Pushbutton devices consist of two 1/2" round switches that you alternately push in to turn lights on or off. Authentic reproduction push button light switches allow you to keep the architectural look and feel of Arts & Crafts or Victorian era homes while meeting current electrical standards. Offered in single pole, 3 way and dimmer versions. Buy Push Button Switches or Pushbutton Light Dimmers
Receptacles - Receptacles, as referred to in electrical trade jargon, are more commonly known as outlets to most consumers, and so are usually called outlets on this web site. Receptacles come in many shapes including Decora, duplex, Despard and round in various diameters for various industrial power outlet applications. They are available in different amp ratings, typically 15A and 20A for most residential or commercial applications. Shop for Receptacle Outlets
Common Toggle Devices - Toggle switches, sometimes referred to as flip switches, are available in many styles. Toggles come in many housing shapes including duplex, Decora, Despard, and standard which all control equipment or lights by toggling on and off. Toggles are available in different amp ratings, typically 15A and 20A for most residential or commercial applications. Buy Toggle Light Switches
Standard Toggle Switch - Regular toggle switches are devices with a squared-off protruding 5/8" handle that can be flipped up and down to turn on lights, fans or electrical devices. Fits rectangular 13/32" W x 15/16" H openings that are vertically oriented. Available in single pole, 3 way, 4 way and lighted versions.
Single Pole Switch Devices - Single pole devices provide control from one location. Available in black, brown, gray, white, ivory. Buy Single Pole Toggle Switches, Single Pole Decora Rocker Switches, Single Pole Despard Switches
3 Way Switch Devices - Three way switches provide control of a light from two locations. Note: Three way dimmers when used with 3 way or 4 way switches allow a light to be dimmed from one location, then turned on and off from other locations. However, they can only be dimmed from the one location. Available in black, brown, white, ivory and gray. Buy 3-Way Toggle Switches, 3-Way Decora Rocker Switches, 3-Way Despard Switches
4 Way Switch Devices - Four way switches provide control of a light from three locations. Note: Three way dimmers when used with 3 way or 4 way switches allow a light to be dimmed from one location, then turned on and off from other locations. However, they can only be dimmed from the one location. Buy 4-Way Toggle Switches or 4-Way Decora Rocker Switches
Switchplate Gang - Gang refers to the width of a plate, rather than the number of devices or type of openings on a plate. Standard single gang plate is 2-3/4" wide, double gang is 4-1/2" wide, triple gang is 6-3/8" wide, etc. Shown in photo are a single gang Despard, double gang toggle, triple gang Decora and four gang duplex plate. Buy Switchplates by Size
Mounting Straps - Mounting straps are required for Despard, or "interchangeable" devices. Center strap also has device mounting holes for use on device-mounted switchplates that will not be using devices, for example, louvered switch plates. Note that similar brackets were used for vintage low voltage light switches. Buy Despard Mounting Straps
Screws - Switch plates use standard 6-32 size screws (1/8" thread width) with slotted oval heads. Switch plates (including oversized plates) typically include 1/2" screws except for standard Decora and Despard which include 1/4" screws. Extra long screws are available for purchase for installations into deep surfaces. There are 4 basic formations for screw positions on switchplates - device mounting, box mounting, interchangeable mounting and center mount. The size of the switchplate itself does not affect screw positions which are standard per device. Buy Wall Switch Plate Screws
Standard Size Switch Plate Dimensions - Standard switch plates dimensions (height, width) for sizes up to 10 gangs.
Standard Switch Plates - 4.5" High
|One Gang -||2-3/4" W||Six Gang -||11-13/16" W|
|Two Gang -||4-9/16" W||Seven Gang -||13-5/8" W|
|Three Gang -||6-3/8" W||Eight Gang -||15-7/16" W|
|Four Gang -||8-3/16" W||Nine Gang -||17-1/4" W|
|Five Gang -||10" W||Ten Gang -||19-1/16" W|
Switch Plate Dimensions - Oversize or Jumbo - Oversized switch plates dimensions (height, width) for sizes up to 10 gangs. Buy Oversized Switch Plates & Outlet Covers in 50+ Configurations
Oversize Switch Plates - 5.5" High
|One Gang -||5.5" W||Six Gang -||15.5" W|
|Two Gang -||7.5" W||Seven Gang -||17.5" W|
|Three Gang -||9.5" W||Eight Gang -||19.5" W|
|Four Gang -||11.5" W||Nine Gang -||21.5" W|
|Five Gang -||13.5" W||Ten Gang -||23.5" W|
SWITCH PLATE STYLES
Switch Plates - Blank - Blank switch plates come in standard, oversize and narrow versions. They are used to cover unused electrical wall boxes. Box mounting. Buy Blank Switchplates
Switch Plates - Decora - Decora switch plates have large rectangular openings that are roughly 1.25" wide by 2.5" tall (1.312" x 2.625"). The standardized shape allows for flexibility when installing or switching out devices. Decora switches are easier to use for the elderly or mobility challenged. Decora openings are alternately known as decorator, designer, rocker, paddle, block, flat or wide switches. (The term "Decora" is trademarked by Leviton, a major manufacturer of electrical devices.) Buy Decora Switchplates
Switch Plates - Despard - Hold Despard, or interchangeable, devices. Plate openings are 29/32" W x 11/16" H, are oriented in either a horizontal or vertical direction and require a device mounting strap. Available in one, two or three gangs; standard, narrow and oversized configurations. Buy Despard Switchplates
Switch Plates - Duplex - Duplex plates have two rounded openings that are flat top and bottom and are 1-11/32" W x 1-1/8" H. These openings accommodate duplex receptacles, duplex toggles and combination duplex devices. Buy Duplex Switchplates
Switch Plates - Floor Mounted with Cap - Heavy duty solid brass or nickel switch plate and recessed receptacle with a protective cover plate intended for mounting flush with the surface of the floor. Floor mounted electrical outlets are a good safety solution for situations where electrical cords are temporarily plugged in to help avoid tripping risk. Buy Floor Mount Outlet Covers
Switch Plates - Low Voltage - Low voltage are specialized plates for older homes built in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's that used transformers to convert the electrical current to low voltages. The cover plates come in four different series of opening sizes that are very close in size but are distinct in their methods of mounting, screw hole positions, their opening orientations and their spacing. Buy Low Voltage Switchplates
Switch Plates - No Hole - Completely blank wall switch plates with no holes are available for any project requiring a metal panel with a custom layout. Panels may be drilled, cut, stamped, punched or altered as needed using your own tools or metal fabrication services. Plates have a 1/4" raised beveled edge and no openings whatsoever. Buy No Hole Switchplates (Found under the blank wallplate section.)
Switch Plates - Outlet Covers - We refer to plates with this configuration throughout our site as outlet plates, although technically they are duplex plates. Outlet plates have two rounded openings that are flat top and bottom and are 1-11/32" W x 1-1/8" H. These openings accommodate duplex receptacles, duplex toggles and combination duplex devices. Shop Duplex Outlet Covers
Switch Plates - Oversized - Oversized wallplates, also known as jumbo, wide or oversize, are 5.5" high and 3.5" wide for a single gang, adding 2" per gang as they go up in size. The plate device openings and screw hole positions are not affected by the outside dimensions of the plates. Oversize plates are hide contractor errors, paint build-up around existing installations or large openings needed when installing into granite or other deep solid surfaces. They are a popular, attractive choice for great rooms and other areas with large proportions. Buy Oversized Wall Plates
Switch Plates - Push Button - Pushbutton switchplates have two approximately 5/8' round openings spaced .937" apart, center to center, on a single gang that controls a single light switch. They have device mounting screw holes which are 2.375" apart, center to center. Available in one, two, three or for gang sizes in a range of colors and metal finishes. Buy Push Button Light Switch Covers
Switch Plates - Receptacle Covers - Receptacles, or outlets as referred to on this site, come in many shapes including duplex, Decora, Despard and round. See other sections for description of each type. Buy Receptacle Cover Plates - Standard & Jumbo
Switch Plates - Rocker - Rocker switch plates are more specifically referred to as Decora style plates throughout this site because they accommodate rocker switches, slider dimmers, block style outlets and modular jack frames for communication devices (phone, cable, Ethernet). They have large rectangular openings that are roughly 1.25" wide by 2.5" tall (1.312" x 2.625"). Decora openings are alternately known as decorator, designer, rocker, paddle, block, flat or wide switches. (The term "Decora" is trademarked by Leviton, a major manufacturer of electrical devices.) Buy Rocker Light Switch & Outlet Covers
Switch Plates - Telephone Jack - Metal - Metal phone and communication jack plates are available in two basic types:
1. Plates with one or more phone jack openings that are 9/16" W x 3/4" H. These use modular snap-in jacks or just fit over flush mounted phone hardware. Buy Modular Phone Jacks
2. Decora style plates with 1-1/4" x 2-1/2" openings that accept either an all-in-one phone jack insert or a modular jack frame with two or more jack adapters. Buy Phone Inserts for Decora Openings
Both styles are available in standard and oversize versions and work with USOC telephone, Category 3, 5E Ethernet and 6 modular phone and communication jacks. Box mounting screw holes are spaced 3-5/16" apart from center to center.
Often, current telephone electrical fittings are attached to the plate itself with the jack opening being in the shape of a rectangle with a small notch below. These types of plates can usually be replaced with metal telephone jack plates by switching to the modular phone jacks. Note: Metal phone jack plates require the safety of plastic modular jacks because of the electrical current carried in the phone wires.
Switch Plates - Telephone Jack - Plastic All-In-One - Molded plastic cover plates have the phone terminals mounted on the back. These plates come in a few combinations, shown here with one CATV wiring device and one telephone communication jack. Limited color choices. Buy Phone Jack Wallplates
Switch Plates - Telephone Jack - Wall Mount - At 3" x 4-1/2" x 3/8", wall phone jacks are slightly larger than standard switchplates and are typically used to mount a phone on a wall. Usually includes removable lugs and white plastic inserts that allow conversion from a wall phone jack to a flush mount telephone jack. Buy Wall Mounted Phone Jack Outlet Covers
Switch Plates - Toggle - Toggle switch plates have a small rectangular 13/32" W x 15/16" H opening that is vertically oriented. If you have a horizontally mounted toggle, it may actually be a duplex toggle device or a Despard toggle device - please see device section for details and photos of those styles. Buy Toggle Light Switch Covers
Amp Rating - Amps is the volume of current. 15A devices just have two straight slots; 20A devices have one straight slot and one "T" shaped slot. Currently manufactured devices also have "D" shaped grounding leg openings. Devices are usually offered in 15A and 20A versions.
Amperage - Amperage is the amount of current a particular appliance uses. The letter "A" refers to units called amperes or amps and indicates the amount of current that can be safely drawn through the device. Select devices based on the amperage rating of appliances you'll be using. Most homes have 15A devices installed, but if using many appliances at once on a particular outlet or using ones that draw a lot of power, then the 20A versions may be the better choice if your wiring will allow it.
Current - Current is the flow of electricity through a conductor. It is measured in amperes. A.C., or alternating current, is the common form of electricity that flows into homes and offices. Its direction is reversed 60 times per second in the U.S.; 50 times in Europe. D.C. is an electrical current that travels in one direction. Commonly used within computer electronic circuits and in batteries.
Voltage - Voltage is incoming electricity, in other words, the amount of electrical current available to your home coming through the power lines. This is limited to 110 volts for standard US homes. The voltage rating on a device indicates the current-carrying capacity and most U.S. devices you'll find will be a standard 125V.
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