What is this light switch called?
May 18, 2020 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I want to change out the light switches in our condo, but I can't find one, and I suspect it's because I don't know what it's called. Do you?

Our condo was built in 2007, and was built with this kind of switch throughout. I want to replace all the switches with rocker-type switches, but one particular one is bedeviling my ability to search for it.

When I look on the website of either Big National Home Improvement Chain Store, I find a bunch of single-switch switches, and several with two switches, both of which I'll need, but there's one in our living room with four switches (all in a row, not two on top two on the bottom). I can't for the life of me find a rocker-type four-switch...thing. And I think in part that's because I don't know what it's called.

When I search for "four rocker switch", I get lots of results for "four-pole switches", which isn't the same thing ; I search for all sorts of variations and the best I can find is wall plates for four-rocker switches, not the four-rocker switch itself.

The complicating factor here is that we bought a condo precisely because neither of us wanted to know or learn what the difference is between a light switch with four switches and a four-pole switch is. We're generally bad at (and don't have any desire to get substantially better at) home improvements, but I have changed out (single and dual) light switches before, so I'm comfortable doing this level of work.

For lack of a more elegant way to put it, I need the light switch that fits in this thing. White is fine, it doesn't need to be fancy - I just have no earthly idea what to call it, so I know how to look for it.
posted by pdb to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
"Four-gang" is the phrase.
posted by agentofselection at 10:56 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Based on my limited home improvement knowledge, I think you would just buy the 4 rocker switches separately and install the plate on top.
posted by mekily at 10:56 AM on May 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

The only single piece part is the cover. You just put four switches underneath into a 4 way gang box that is already there.
posted by cmm at 10:58 AM on May 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

Right, it’s just four individual switches in the box with a single plate on top.
posted by The AhForgetIt Tendency at 10:58 AM on May 18, 2020

Well now I just feel dumb, but it also validates my statement about lack of knowledge about home improvement! But that makes total sense. Thanks!
posted by pdb at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

don't forget to turn off power at the breaker box, and then test that power is off before removing that plate. 120V AC does not feel good.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:16 AM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

As a general rule: when it doubt, take the plate off and see what the last person did.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:09 PM on May 18, 2020

FYI, those switches you like are generally referred to as "Decora" or "Decora-style" switches. (That's the trade name under which they were originally sold in the 1970s.) This may help with your searching online.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:50 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

As an add-on bonus, you can mix and match the four switches in that gang as needed - a dimmer on the can lights, a switch with a timer on the lamp, etc.

One thing to watch out for - if any of the four switches are paired with another switch at the opposite end of the room, you *will* need to put a three-way switch in that location. (For rooms bigger than a certain size, you must have lighting control at both ends.) Not a big problem - just wire up the new three-way switch same as the old one was.

A final piece of advice if you plan on changing these yourself: take a picture or five at every step of disassembly. If you can, put a numbered tag on each wire as you disconnect it and take a picture of where it's landing on what switch.
posted by notsnot at 2:16 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Learn how to wire your switches properly, do not ever depend on the previous person to have done it right. This is true even for things that should have been done by professional electricians, like a condo built 13 years ago. Condos are often slammed up and corners are cut- a great place to cut corners is to hire unlicensed, poorly trained electricians.
posted by rockindata at 5:12 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

My suggestion would be to ask for local recommendations and then hire a professional electrician. It's worth the money to avoid electrical problems.
posted by TimHare at 8:37 PM on May 19, 2020

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