Time: 45 min-1 hour
Are you looking to replace an old, worn-out light switch with a new one? Are the knobs starting to become loose, or does it not feel as secure as it used to?
In this post, you’ll learn how to replace a light switch. The process works whether it controls a light fixture or other appliance. You can complete this project quickly and easily with determination and the right technique and materials.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to tackle 3 different types of light switch replacements. Or, you’ll know when it’s time to contact a professional.
*We urge extreme caution when doing any type of electrical work as it is dangerous. Mistakes can result in anything from costly damage to death
- Needle nose Pliers
- Circuit Tester (Multimeter)
- Wire Stripper*
- Wire Cutter*
- Single-Pole Light Switch
- UL-Rated Wire Connector*
- Electrical Tape*
- Grounding Pigtail*
Before You Begin: Wiring For Light Switches
Use a standard screwdriver to loosen the screws on either side counterclockwise. Now, taking out the wires from the back may be difficult. To release them without causing damage, insert a small screwdriver into the slot beneath each hole and push in as you pull away, one wire at a time. This will help loosen its grip on the wire and simplify the process.
Here is an explanation for all wires in regards to where they go:
- Black wires (sometimes red) are hot. A hot wire means they always have electricity running through them. These connect to the brass screws or the holes on the same side as the brass screw
- Green wires (sometimes bare copper) are grounding wires which carry excess electricity safely into the ground. They attach to the green terminals (green grounding screw) on the light switch or electrical box
- White wires are neutral, meaning they return the used electricity to the power source. They connect to the silver screw or the wire hole that’s on the same side as the silver screw
How To Replace A Single-Pole Light Switch In 9 Steps
A single-pole switch is the only switch for one or more electrical appliances.
1. Turn Off The Power At The Circuit Breaker
Before doing any work on the switch, make sure you turn off the power at the circuit breaker. You can do this by simply going to your circuit breaker box, locating the right circuit breaker, and flipping the breaker switch to “off.” This will help ensure that you don’t get electrocuted while replacing your light switch.
2. Remove The Cover Plate
Once the power is off, remove the cover plate from the wall switch by unscrewing it with a screwdriver. This will allow you to access the old switch underneath.
3. Verify Power Is Off With A Multimeter
To be extra safe, use a multimeter to verify that there is no power running through the wires connected to the switch. This will help prevent any accidents or injuries during step four.
4. Unscrew And Gently Pull Out The Old Switch
Once you have verified that there is no power running through the wires connected to the old switch, unscrew it from its bracket and gently pull it out of its mounting hole in the wall.
5. Note How The Wires Are Connected
Before disconnecting any wires from your old switch, take note of the wire connections so that when you reconnect them to your new switch, everything works properly.
6. Disconnect Wires And Remove The Old Switch
Once all of the wires have been disconnected from your old switch, carefully remove it from its mounting hole in the wall and discard it safely.
7. Attach Wires To New Switch In The Same Configuration
Now that all of your wires are disconnected and your old switch has been removed, attach them to your new switch in the exact same configuration as before (making sure not to mix up any colors).
8. Install New Switch And Cover Plate
Once all of your wires are attached to your new switch in their proper configuration, slide it into place in its mounting hole and secure it with screws if necessary. Then replace the cover plate onto the wall using the screws provided with the new cover plate package.
9. Turn Power Back On And Test The Light Switch
Now all that’s left is turning on the power at the circuit breaker and testing out the new light switch. Make sure everything works properly before leaving the room or job site. If it does, wonderful! If not, now is a great time to reach out to a professional electrician for help.
How To Replace A Dual-Location Switch (Three-Way Switch)
A three-way switch is when 2 switches control the same electrical appliances. They call them this because they have 3 terminal screws in them.
1. To ensure absolute safety, make sure to deactivate the switch at the fuse box or circuit breaker
2. Carefully unscrew and take off the switch plate. Then, use a voltage tester or multimeter to ensure there is no electrical current in the circuit
3. To remove the three-way switch from its electrical box, unscrew it and pull it out with all wires still connected. This type of switch typically has at least three wires, though some may have a fourth if there is a ground wire attached. The two brass screws usually located on top of the switch will both have their own wire. An additional wire attaches to one screw that is likely found near the bottom (it should be in another color than green).
*To ensure you know which way corresponds to what when installing, mark down this third cable by taping it and place tape on any other cables coming off those sides too. The new switch may have electrical screw connectors in slightly different locations than the original. Many switches have a pair of terminals on opposite sides of the top, and a single terminal at the bottom
4. Disconnect the wires from the switch
5. To ensure a safe connection with the new switch, label and secure every wire to its corresponding terminal. Alternatively, you can make an effortless transition by transferring one wire at once from the old switch to the new one
6. Make sure to securely connect the green ground wire from your existing switch to the new switch’s green screw terminal or directly into the electrical box
7. Securely fasten the new, wired switch into its socket within the electrical box with a screw
8. Screw the switch plate on and turn the power on. If it works, fantastic! If it doesn’t, consult with a professional electrician
How To Replace A Dimmer Switch In 9 Steps
1. To ensure the safety of yourself and your electronic device, make sure to switch off the power source at the circuit or fuse panel before beginning
2. Carefully unscrew and take off the switch plate. Afterward, use a voltage tester or multimeter to ensure that the circuit is no longer live
3. Gently unscrew the switch from the electrical box and then carefully remove it, making sure to leave all wires attached
4. Unplug the wires from your old switch. Instead of screw terminals, dimmer switches are normally attached to home wiring with a few small lengths of wire protruding outwards from their body
5. To attach the dimmer switch’s black wires to the previously-attached colored wires on the old switch, twist them together and secure them with one of the supplied connectors (wire nuts)
6. Carefully insert the new switch into the electrical box, ensuring that it fits snugly. Note that dimmers are typically larger than regular switches, so force should not be used to fit them in place. You may need to rearrange or organize wires first for optimal placement of the switch before securing it with a screw.
7. Attach the switch plate with the screws
8. Slide the control knob, if present, onto the stem jutting out of the switch
9. Turn the power on and see if the switch works. If it does, great! If not, now is a good time to contact a professional electrician.
Put Your Homes Electrical In Blue Sky Electrics Expert Hands
When it comes to electrical safety, there is no room for error. A mistake can lead to costlier repairs and even serious injury.
Let the professionals at Blue Sky Electric keep your home in optimal condition by replacing faulty light switches and more. Our friendly and helpful staff know how to take care of those hard-to-reach areas of your home, ensuring you get the peace of mind that everything is up to code. Don’t wait for a serious situation to arise before getting your home’s electrical work inspected or repaired – let us handle it.
For superior repair jobs and competitive rates, trust Blue Sky Electric with all of your residential needs. Fill out our contact form today, and let us show you what we can do!