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Electrical & Lighting

DIY Tips For How To Install A New Light Switch

By on Mar 31, 2014
DIY Tips For How To Install A New Light Switch

In order to replace a defective light switch, you will need two screwdrivers of differing sizes and a wire stripper. It is not difficult to replace one as long as you remember where each wire goes.

Here are the six easy steps:

1. Turn off power

It may seem obvious, but you must turn off the power to the switch at the main circuit breaker. Serious injury or death may result if you don't turn it off.

2. Remove the switch plate

Switch plates are generally secured to the electrical boxes behind them by screws. Although you can get certain plates that have plug-in connections, they are not reliable and should be avoided. Unscrew the switch plate with the larger of your two screwdrivers and remove it to expose the switch and the electrical box.

3. Remove the switch and wires connected to it

Unscrew the switch using the larger screwdriver and check where each wire connects and the color of each wire. It is a great idea to draw a simple picture to which you can refer for showing where the wires connect and which color goes where. In order to remove the wires from the switch, insert the smaller screwdriver into the groove beneath the connection while pulling gently on the wire. The three wires are colored as follows: 

  • Black: This is the "hot" wire that delivers power to the switch. It is connected to the brass screw. This wire might also have tape on it left by the previous installer.
  • White: This is the "neutral" wire and connects to the silver screw. 
  • Green or bare: If this wire is there, it is the "ground" wire and connects to the green screw. 

4. Reattach wires to the corresponding screws and switch to the electrical box

Strip a little bit of insulation off each wire with the stripper. Consult your drawing and then work in reverse. Insert the proper wire into the proper slot on the new switch and wind it clockwise around the proper screw. Tighten the screws on the switch and gently place it back in the electrical box. Finally, screw the switch firmly into place without excessive tightening.

5. Reattach the switch plate

With the power still off, put the switch plate back in place and screw it, too, into place.

6. Turn the power back on and test switch

This one is also obvious, but it pays to go strictly by the numbers when working with electricity.


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