Group of toggle switches

What is a Single & Double Pole Electrical Switch?

What is a Single Pole & Double Pole Switch? It all has to do with how many circuits you want to control with one switch. It also depends on what you want that circuit to accomplish.

Understanding the difference between a Single Pole (SP) and Double Pole (DP) switch is pivotal in selecting the right switch for your electrical needs. At its core, the distinction lies in the number of circuits a switch can control and the desired outcome for each circuit.

A Single Pole switch, as the name suggests, controls a single circuit. This simplicity makes it ideal for basic lighting or appliance control scenarios where only one circuit needs to be managed. On the other hand, a Double Pole switch has the capability to control two separate circuits simultaneously. This added functionality lends itself to applications where more complex control is required, such as controlling both the live and neutral wires of a circuit for increased safety in certain situations.

Ultimately, the choice between a Single Pole and Double Pole switch depends on the specific requirements of your electrical setup. Whether you’re looking for straightforward control of a single circuit or the versatility to manage multiple circuits simultaneously, understanding the nuances between these switch types ensures that you make an informed decision that aligns perfectly with your needs.

Types of Electrical Switch Actuation Configurations

SPST switch stands for a single pole single throw electrical switch. A SPST switch controls a single wire circuit.

Example: ON – OFF

Single Pull Single Throw SPST Switch diagram

SPDT switch stands for a single pole double throw electrical switch. A SPDT switch controls two single wire circuits, with only one circuit able to be energized at a given time.

Example: ON – OFF – ON

Single Pull Double Throw SPDT switch diagram

DPST switch stands for double pull single throw electrial switch. A DPST switch controls two wire circuits and both are energized at the same time.

Example: On – OFF

Double Throw Single Pull diagram

DPDT switch stands for a double pole double throw electrical switch. A DPDT switch controls four circuits, allowing two of the four circuits to be energized at the same time. Similar to the DPST configuration, the two circuits which are energized will either both be ON or both be OFF, and can have different voltages from separate sources wired to one DPDT switch.

Example: ON – OFF – ON

double pull double throw DPDT switch diagram

This terminology is consistent across the different types of electrical switches including toggle switches, rocker switches, and push button switches. These actuations can also be momentary, meaning the actuation only occurs while the switch is being held in a specific position. Momentary action is designated differently across the industry, but at Del City, we indicated momentary action by ( ). 

To learn more about electrical switch configurations and common uses, watch the video below! Or, start searching for your switch by using our electrical switch selector!

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