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The absolute majority of electrical appliances have an On/Off switch. However, the absolute majority of sandwich toasters do not - you just plug them into the socket and unplug them when you're done. At least, that's the case for all household sandwich toasters I've ever seen. I'm referring to this device, not the vertical toaster (where the lever doubles as a switch):

enter image description here

It looks like some models do have a switch, but apparently these are just the larger/industrial types, not the common variety.

Why is that?

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Doesn't the lid serve that dual purpose? – Marjan Venema Feb 10 '13 at 10:57
@MarjanVenema If it does, then I don't know about it :). – Vitaly Mijiritsky Feb 10 '13 at 15:57
Hmm, and checking could be a burning experience... :-) – Marjan Venema Feb 10 '13 at 18:55
A more intense debate of the electrical aspects of this along with a similar Q&A can be found here: Where is the switch? – UXAndrew Feb 11 '13 at 5:58
The Tefal model has a switch and also plates that can be taken out to wash. – judy Jul 5 at 3:47
up vote 24 down vote accepted

When designing one of the first thing you learn is safety first. On a device generating heat, having a power button which could easily be forgotten, is a bad idea. In this particular case, the consequences’ can be severe if a user forgets to power off. That is why the power button have been deliberately omitted. Cognitively speaking, it is easier to remember to pull the cord from the jack than switching of a button. You use more muscles and are often forced to use both hands. Using more of your body in an action helps you to remember. The case is the same with an iron.

enter image description here

Iron without power button

This is the reason for not having a power button on non-exclusive heat generating devices. But, there are differences. Exclusive hardware having electronics for safety do have a power button, since it saves the user from error. As in the Sandwich Toaster by taerv:

This sandwich toaster is designed for people who seek high quality and durable home appliances. Thanks to power button there is no need for pluging cable to the socket every time we want to use this device, and built-in a timer makes it much easier to use. While using you do not have to check the state of the thing we toast – you only have to set amount time you want (shown by shining diods), after which the sandwich toaster turns itself off and sygnalizes that with a sound.

Straight handle and special hinge facilitates compressing thicker sandwiches and steel latch will never break. Heating plates are interchangable so the device is much more functional and it’s easier to keep it clean.

enter image description here

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+1 for the iron analogue. And I just have an idea of adding an accelerometer to iron so it may be automatically turned off if it's not used for a specific amount of time. – alexeypegov Feb 11 '13 at 8:01
@alexeypegov Thanks! You accelerometer sounds like a great idea, and good safety first thinking! – Benny Skogberg Feb 11 '13 at 8:06
Great idea @BennySkogberg – Oisin Lavery Feb 12 '13 at 13:33
No power-off button on a sandwich toaster can still cause accidents though. 'Hypothetically speaking' someone could make them-self a Tuna Toastie while watching a horror movie late at night but forget to unplug the toaster; causing the toaster to short-circuit, blow the trip switch in the fuse box (causing all the lights and electrics in the house to shut down too, which could be quite scary at the best of times but especially during a late night horror movie) and also result in the toaster breaking forever. Hypothetically speaking of course. – JonW Feb 12 '13 at 14:26
@JonW I agree that this is not bullit proof - but its better than a power button. You could also use an external timer on the jack, which I use on my Nespresso machine at home, or buy the expensive toaster with built in safety. The Nespresso machine goes into "hybernating" state if we're not using it - but an external timer feel better. Safety costs! – Benny Skogberg Feb 12 '13 at 14:59

First of all, as you mentioned, today many of these do have a on\off button.

If I had to guess, I would say that a reason to not having a button is that the electricity cable is the most explicit and obvious state indicator - If it's in the wall, it's on, otherwise it's off.

Since these toasters should not be left on, being both dangerous and costly, the makers may have decided to make the decision simple and be explicit about it. If you go in the kitchen and see it plugged in, it's on...

Just my intuition.

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Really good point. Also, it could be based on the idea that a toaster is not something you need to be plugged in all day. It's a device you use for maybe 10 minutes a day, and it often shares a power socket with other devices such as the coffee machine (just like a mixer does for example). It may be an invalid idea, but it's possible that manufacturers never thought of the idea that people would want to keep it plugged in the whole time. – Vincent van Scherpenseel Feb 10 '13 at 10:25
I haven't encountered one with a button that's meant for home use. The electricity cable is a good indicator for all electrical appliances, but still most of them do have a button :). Why should the toaster be any different? – Vitaly Mijiritsky Feb 10 '13 at 13:24
If that is indeed a usability fault with no better reasons than historical ones, I guess whoever introduces a home sandwich toaster with an on/off switch would disrupt the market – Dvir Adler Feb 10 '13 at 14:12
Having a switch in a toaster is a safety failure... – Deer Hunter Feb 10 '13 at 19:04
@vitaly didn't you eventually mark the correct answer that says the same thing my answer did? – Ben Feb 13 '13 at 10:53

I think the primary reason is convenience. The lifting of the lid serves as a visual indicator of how much the sandwich is done and also also deactivates the heating coil. If a person wants to grill it anymore he has to just close it again and open it when he think its grilled sufficiently. Having a switch makes a two step process i.e 1. Switch off to turn off the heating coil 2. Open the lid

Hence then turning it back on again becomes a two step process i.e. closing it and then turning it on (and there is a good reason people might forget about turning it on and come back after a few minutes and find the sandwich is still cold)

The other reason I think is safety. If someone opens the sandwich maker without shutting it down and touches the heating appliance, it might not be a pleasant situation but the additional action of the heating coil switching off when opened prevents the possibility of that happen (I know there are chances of burns due to hot coils and so on but thats something I have no answer for).

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I totally agree that it is a safety precaution. It is a very clear indicator that something is on without an On / Off button if you see the plug in the wall.

Let's also not forget that if the cord and plug is essentially the means of turning it on / off it will get a lot of use. The Breville Panini Press I have at home has a clever plug with a finger hole that 1) Makes it very easy to remove from the wall 2) Eliminates the desire to just tug on the cord to remove the plug (never do this!) and weakening the attachment of the wire to the plug

enter image description here

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But... how does the electricity get through the hole?? ;) – devios Feb 15 '13 at 1:20
I believe it uses your finger as the conductive element to complete the circuit... I could be wrong though :) – ckaufman Feb 15 '13 at 20:44
Clever plug! really like it. I need one of these for my smartphone charger... – Onofre Pouplana Apr 10 '15 at 10:28
This plug makes me somewhat uncomfortable... – J_rgen Jul 5 at 7:43

Cost. If the manufacturer can save $.25 by not putting a switch on it, that's extra profit. I believe they can justify it by assuming that these aren't devices people would typically leave on their counter. They take them out, plug them in, use it, then clean and store it again.

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I think this could be a safety precaution. Making a sandwich creates a lot of mess -- the butter and cheese normally get stuck to the grill plates after use. If there was an off switch, people may be tempted to leave the device plugged in before placing their dripping-wet dish cloth onto the grill plates. In general, these types of devices are not watertight and if a little bit of water gets into the 'inner workings', the user could be in for a nasty shock.

No sensible person would consider cleaning while the grill plates were still hot. This forces them to unplug the device from the mains, thus reducing the risk of electrocution. (I recently electrocuted myself refilling a mains connected iron.)

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electrocuted: you keep using that word, i do not think it means what you think it means – Daniel Alexiuc Feb 25 '13 at 23:24

Besides of the security reasons, there is no need to keep a sandwich inside when it is off. When it's empty, for the security reasons, it's better to plug it off than switch it off using a switch, and no switch mostly forces users to do so.

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