Today’s new homeowner question is: why so many friggin’ light switches?
I’m a simple guy. Until I was well into my thirties, I lived exclusively in apartments, and then I spent 25 years in a condo townhouse. My general philosophy of light switches is as follows:
You walk into a room. There is one switch. You flip it. A light comes on.
I mean, do you really need anything more than that?
In the condo, there was a ceiling fan/light over the staircase, and it had a keypad at both the top and bottom of the stairs. There were four or five buttons, and they each played a tone that drove the dog crazy, and I knew they controlled the fan, the speed of the fan, the light, and I don’t know what else; one button possibly would have caused the fan to act like a propeller and fly off with the roof of the house. I tried never to touch any of the buttons except the one that I was reasonably certain turned the light on and off.
When we bought the new house, we had recessed lighting installed in many of the rooms before we moved in, because the previous owners were evidently bats who did not require illumination. Rob, the electrician, asked us what kind of dimmers we wanted. I told him we wanted no dimmers. “The lights are either on or they’re off,” I said. And there are actually many rooms in our house that have a single light switch that turns the lights on and off.
Those are nice rooms.
Then there are rooms like the downstairs bath, which is roughly 7 feet by 8 feet and yet manages to be home to no fewer than six switches…seven if you count the one inside the medicine cabinet that turns on the mirror defogger that my daughter says she doesn’t know how she ever lived without. Two of the switches turn on fans, which implies that the previous owners had, well, let us say, exhaust problems. The remaining switches turn on, respectively, the main ceiling light, the vanity light, the shower light and a dimmer version of the main light. This is, keep in mind, in a room about the size of a large packing crate.
And even though two thirds of the switches turn on some sort of light, on the rare occasions when I go in there, I always manage to hit at least three buttons before I turn a light on, which I know is a mathematical impossibility, unless I’m hitting the same wrong buttons more than once, which is not an impossibility and, in any case, not a total loss, because then I leave the fans on. You know, just in case.
In the upstairs hallway, there is a light switch that sits about eye level and which doesn’t appear to do anything. We thought it might turn on the attic light, since the attic door is right above it, but that’s not the case. Barbara has suggested that it turns on an exterior light, but I’m too lazy to turn it on and run outside to find out.
The room in the house with the most light switches is the new kitchen, which has seven. It’s a big room, though, with lots of lights, so on a switch-per-square-foot or a switch-per-light ratio, the downstairs bathroom still has it beat.
Plus, I use the kitchen much more often, so I have a much better chance of learning which switch does what.
See you soon.