Toggle or Rocker: Which Light Switch Is Better?


When it comes to renovating or updating a home, the light switches may seem small, but they make a difference on the look and feel of a house. Plus, much like door knobs, light switches are a tool in your home you likely touch multiple times every day. It’s important to feel confident in your choice. 

There are two major industry-standard light switch options: rockers, also known as Decora light switches, and toggles. From a cost perspective, toggles pricing starts at 50 cents and rockers pricing starts at about $2. 

So are rocker light switches worth the extra investment? While they do the same job, there are some key differences to help you decide which choice is best for you.

The Basics: Light Switch 101

What’s a toggle switch? 

Toggles are light switches that “flip” up and down. They were invented in 1916 by Morris Goldberg and William J. Newton, replacing push button light switches that were known to get stuck easily. Toggle light switches quickly became the standard choice for homes.

What’s a rocker switch, also known as Decora? 

You may know Rocker lights as “Decora” which is short for Decorator. The product was established by Leviton in 1973, but it’s now used throughout the industry for any rocker light switch. They’re the newer and more updated choice for ease of use, convenience and style. 

Rocker vs. Toggle For Light Switches

Here’s a breakdown on the difference between rockers and toggles by functionality, design/build quality and labor. 

1. Functionality

 

Rocker or decorative light switch

All in all, rockers and toggles do the same job: turn power on and off. The biggest difference in terms of functionality is that toggles have a bit more “snap” and rockers seem to require a little more force to switch. That said, rockers can be more accessible to switch on and off with elbows or shoulders if you have your hands full with groceries, children, etc. 

Also, a good point was made in our Youtube comments section that Rocker switches can be a better choice for seniors or anyone else who doesn’t have the best fine motor control.

  • Toggle: Snappier feel 
  • Rocker: Easier to use, particularly when hands are full 

2. Design and Build Quality

Yokes and mounting brackets

 

The yokes on the toggle and rocker light switches

While the designs are different, the materials are very similar and the color of the switches is likely to wear similarly over the years. Tip: if you’re worried about discoloration, consider picking “light almond” instead of white. It might give you more leeway over time. 

Also, rocker light switches generally take up a bit more real estate on a wall, but they sit more flush. And they’re overall a trendier and more upscale choice, which is an important consideration if you’re selling your home. 

Taking a look at the inside, the mounting brackets, also known as “yokes,” are also very similar. But toggles do have a spring, which interacts with lever arms to give it that snappy feel. 

On a personal note, I have seen rockers fail mostly from the rocker literally breaking off, which would require a purchase of a new switch. 

  • Toggle: Reliable, has a spring to give it a “snappy” feel 
  • Rocker: More potential to break off and need replacing over the years, trendier and more updated choice 

3. Labor

 

Backwiring feature on the rocker light switches

The biggest difference I see between the toggles and rockers is the process of installation. 

Toggles have push-in connection options also knows as speed wiring (I am not a big fan of this type of wiring method) and standard screw terminals (what I would use). For standard screw terminals or side wiring, you’ll have to make a Shepherd’s hook or J hook clockwise around the screw, which takes a bit longer but is worth it. 

On the other hand, rocker light switches like the Eaton rocker shown have a wiring method called backwiring. This is a big plus for DIYers. The rocker also has the speed wiring option (again, wouldn’t recommend) and the standard screw terminals. But the backwiring plates will save you time in the long run, particularly if you’re replacing multiple lights.

  • Toggle: You’ll have to make a Shepherd’s hook or J hook to install
  • Rocker: The option to use backwiring plates will save you save (big perk for DIYers)

The Wrap Up

The consensus in the comments is that rockers look more modern, upscale and updated.  And I’d agree. I use rockers on most of my projects unless standard toggles are already in the home to keep a consistent look.  Additionally, if you use Decora style light switches and outlets your face plates will all be the same which could allow you to buy in bulk and save a few dollars. 

If you’re going to renovate your home or update it to re-sell it, I’d recommend switching to rocker (Decora) light switches because they’re not very hard to replace and the investment is relatively low. You can also check out Decora outlets if you are updating to rocker light switches to give a consistent, more modern look.

What do you think? Do you have a preference for toggle or rocker light switches? Let us know your experience in the comments.

Scott

Home Owner, Real Estate Investor, and Creator (YouTube). Here to help others save time and money through doing their own home repairs and improvements.

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