Switches: Up is On/Off?

Up is on in the US, but most places around the world have down-on. Anyone know the reason why these conventions evolved separately/differently?

PS: searching for different combinations of switch, up, down, on and off returns very random unrelated results! :smack:

I don’t know, but I do think that “down” is a more intuitive movement than “up”. It is the direction that your hand wants to go, thanks to gravity. Think about push buttons - often they are oriented horizontally facing upwards, in which case the only option is to press downwards. Sometimes they are oriented more vertically, in which case a horizontal push is required. But only very rarely are they oriented in such a way that an upwards push is required. The only example I can think of is car windows, where the non-intuitive upwards push is deliberately used to avoid inadvertent window closing.

If you could make an argument for “on” being somehow more important, more urgent, than “off”, or vice versa, that would be your answer. Unfortunately, I can’t. Seems pretty arbitrary to me.

You snuff a candle by slapping down on the wick.

Why do differently for a different light source?

What do candles have to do with it?

By your logic, we should turn our lights on using matches.

The ‘up’ position requires some sort of force to keep it there. In the down position, it is at rest or ‘off’.

“Bring up the lights” means to make them brighter.

“Take down the lights” means to make them dimmer.

Seems like a pretty natural progression to up=on/down=off to me.

My parents bought their house from the guy who built it. I don’t know if he got confused or really liked it this way, but all the switches are upside down. To turn something on, you turn the switch down, off is up. I can’t get used to it anytime I’m over there.

Over here in the UK, where down is on, you often find that the top surface of the switch has a red mark or even LED on it.

This makes it obvious at a glance if something is on or off. I don’t know if this is why down is on over here, or if someone just realised the opportunity sometime later.
Now how about which side of the sink should the hot tap be on ? :smiley:

Thought that was always the left side? no?

OK, but I think there are two questions here-- the relative “naturalness” of the up (U) and down (D) movements, and the question of whether the more natural movement should indicate “on” (1) or “off” (0).
You appear to be a D0 person, but that does not mean that D1 is wrong, or U0 or U1 for that matter.

I did not know about it being reversed oversees. I always thought off was down because in an emergancy, it is easier to make a downward motion to turn it off as opposed to an upward motion.

i have also heard that a downward direction is for safety purposes.

Just to shake things up, wikipediasays:

“In countries prone to earthquakes, such as Japan, most switches are positioned sideways to prevent the switch from inadvertently being turned on or off by falling objects” There is no citation though.

I’m glad down is off in the US. I sometimes take off my shirt and throw it at the wall a little higher than the switch so that, when it comes down, it turns off the light. It’s like remote control for the lights when I’m lazy. If done correctly, it can be romantic.

So the question is, do you strike your matches with an up motion, or a down motion?

Wall switches used to be mercury activated. With the “switch” itself in the up position, the bulb containing the mercury would be downward, making contact between the two wires.

Hmmmm. Lazy and ‘romantic’ can be a disastrous combo, imho. It means the guy wants some, but he expects me to do all the work! :wink:

As to the OP, there are a couple of switches in my house (well, apartment) where ‘up’ might mean ‘off’. But in both cases, it’s a situation where there are two switches for the same fixture. For instance, in my living room, there’s a switch by the front door, and another by the kitchen door. If I turn the light ‘on’ by flipping the switch by the kitchen door ‘up’, then to turn it ‘off’ by the front door, I have to flip it whatever way it isn’t already. So. . .is that clear as mud, or what? :wink:
My point is that it’s not always a case of ‘up is on and down is off’, especially if there are two toggles for the same fixture.

My kitchen has a similar set-up.

OTOH, anyone who puts the hot water knob on the right-hand side is just a trouble-maker. :stuck_out_tongue:

In the US, it’s required to be on the left by the Uniform Building Code. I believe it’s become an international standard, actually.

As for a switch being off in the down position, that’s a safety holdover from the old Frankenstein lab-like knife switches. These things were held in place only by the spring tension of the contacts and gravity. As a result, it was not unheard of for a knife switch to be loose and have the handle swing down. People are more likely to be injured by electrical equipment unexpectedly starting than by stopping, so the preferred failure mode would be for the circuit to be shut off.

Oh, norinew… I was ignoring “3-way” switches, since they have no defined direction other than “change the position of one switch to change whether the lights are on or off.”

And, a regular switch installed upside-down is properly called a no-ffo.

These were called “silent” or “whisper” switches, and they came along a long time after standard wall switches.

But those mercury switches work in either orientation.