Switches and Outlets

Lutron Diva Switch

As important as the fixtures themselves, switches and outlets determine how effective your electrical planning was.

When deciding on your switch and outlet locations, it is essential to walk through the space either physically if possible or in your imagination. You must be able to perceive how the space will be used.

  • Where will you enter and exit the room?
  • Where will furniture be placed for lamps?
  • Any audio visual components?
  • Do you need floor outlets?

And so on.....

Each element should first be looked at individually and then as part of the entire electrical package. These are all important questions that will need answering to effectively plan your switches and outlets.


You should consider three way or even four way switching where ever possible. This will give your plan maximum flexibility.

It will allow you to turn lights and other components on and off as you enter or exit any doorway to that room or space.

The type of lighting system or whole house automation is important to decide at this time also since your electrician will want to use the correct wiring.

Lutron and many other lighting companies now offer many different lighting systems. These allow you to have multi function switches in each room.

For instance you can have a multi switch plate which will turn on only certain lights when one button is pushed or others when another is pushed. You can have one button that turns on all lights or turns them all off.

There are many combinations available and these can also tie into other electronic features in your home. We will discuss these a little later in our section on whole house automation.

Dimmer Switches

Lutron Maestro Dimmer Switch

Dimmers are a nice feature to add to your lighting plan. They not only provide an inexpensive way to save energy and bulb life but also allow the ability to create a special ambiance in a room or space.

Most types of lamps (bulbs) can be dimmed with the exception of fluorecents. Low voltage lighting requires special dimmers that are more costly than standard ones, but they still have the ability to be dimmed.

Also, low voltage lighting requires ballasts to function. Some fixtures have integral (built-in) ballasts however most do not. Thought must be given to where a ballast can be hidden but still be accessible if requiring maintenance, repair or replacement.

The ballasts are available in two types; magnetic or electronic. The magnetic type is bigger, bulkier and noisier than the electronic type. Although the electronic type is smaller and quieter, they are also much more costly than the magnetic type.


Outlets play an important role in your overall electrical plan as well. Required outlet locations vary based on local and state codes. Most require all rooms to have outlets placed a certain number of feet apart from each other.

This is however the minimum amount required. You may find that you would like to add additional outlets for features you plan to use. It is important to think this through so that your outlet plan allows you as much freedom and flexibility as your switching plan.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) are also required by code usually within 6 feet of any source of water like kitchen and bathroom sinks and for exterior outlets.

Your electrician will know what your local codes require. All the wiring, switches and outlets will be checked by the local electrical inspector before the walls can be closed up.