How to Change a Light Switch
Whether you are looking to make a few upgrades in your home for your personal touch or looking to get your home ready to sell, consider a few things that can be done easily and offer to brighten up your home. If you are thinking of tackling some electrical work such as: replacing a light switch or light fixtures, you will want to consider if these are things you can tackle on your own or if you should call in a professional.
If you decide to DIY these are the things we need: small screwdriver, power drill, alternative lighting, replacement parts, electric meter tester, wire stripper.
Have your alternative lighting either powered through a separate breaker or battery powered. If you aren’t sure which breaker your switch is on or which outlet you can use, get a long extension cord to run from a different room and usually different rooms are on different breakers, but not always.
Set up your alternative lighting before turning the breaker off so you do not lose light during your project. Also, if you can do this during the day it is better than trying to do these things at night. It is possible you might need two people – one to be at the breaker and the other to be at the location of where you need to fix the light switch or other electrical outlets – to know when you have turned off the right breaker switch.
Do not replace a light switch yourself if you do not understand how does a light switch work!
The Steps to Switching the Switch
- Use your small screwdriver to remove the face plate of the switch cover. You do not want to use the power drill because it has too much torque for this part of the project.
Even though you have cut power from the breaker, you never want to assume that there is no power to any wiring without testing it. Use your electric meter tester to see if the switch has power to it. If the meter does not detect any electricity it is safe to proceed.
- You can now unscrew the switch from the wall and pull the switch out from the wall. Be sure to pay attention to which wire is connected to which side so you can reconnect it properly. Otherwise if you do not do it correctly you will have to take everything apart and switch the wires.
- To remove the wires from the switch you first can use the small screwdriver to loosen the wires and pull them out. The second wire has a pressure release and you can use your small screwdriver to push down in the square hole to release the pressure holding the wire in place. Once you have the wires out of the switch be sure to notate which wire goes to which part of the switch, you can do this with electrical tape or by marking them with a marker.
- When replacing the light switch it is a good idea to strip back the wire coating allowing more of the wire to be exposed. If the wire is frayed it should be cut to make it easier to put into the new switch. To use the wire stripper, there are usually several sizes of holes on the tool, find one that is smaller than the wire coating you are wanting to remove and clamp the wire trimmer down on it and in a fast motion pull and swipe the trimmer away from the wire, it should have the coating come right off.
Give it Some Slack – Light Switch Wiring
When switching out the new light switch and putting the freshly exposed wires into place, use your small screwdriver to tighten the wires into place inside the switch. You want to make sure you leave some slack in the wires for any future issues to be easier to resolve. If you have no slack in your wires it is more difficult to pull the switch out and replace the switch. You will tuck the wires back into the wall and screw the new switch into place using the power screwdriver or you can use the small screwdriver whatever your preference is.
Have one person stay at the switch and the other go to the breaker box and switch the breaker back on and see if the light turns on. If the light switch turns on, then then you have successfully changed out your light switch.
When you put the light cover back on do not use the power drill because it again has too much power and will likely crack the face plate. Use the small screwdriver to avoid breaking the light cover.
Why to Switch Out a Light Switch?
Why you might choose to switch out your light switch, functionality, you have a simple switch and you want to install a dimmer or a switch that also works a ceiling fan that you plan to install or have already installed. You might want to change it from a biscuit color switch to a bright white for a cleaner look kind of like a fresh coat of paint as my personal realtor Chelsea Fortney always says! , if you are considering selling your home soon or if it is just personal preference.