How to Replace a Light Switch

How to change a light switch - Design Build PlannersHow to Replace a Light Switch

Replacing a light switch is reasonably simple – you just need to take it slow and follow the instructions carefully. You might be tempted to use a plug-in connection, but these are less reliable than using a switch with screw terminals. Besides, replacing a switch with screw terminals is easier than you might think.

First, turn off the power that goes to the switch. Do this at the fuse panel or main circuit breaker to ensure optimal safety. When the power is off, unscrew the old light switch. Leave the wires attached – though you may need to coax them out with the blade of your screwdriver. Pull the switch out from the electrical box (leaving the wires in place) and look at the wires and where they attach to the light switch.

There will be at least two wires: a black hot wire and a return wire, which may be any color except green (commonly red or black). There may also be a grounding wire, which is green or bare copper. If there is a white wire with a piece of black tape connected to the light switch, this means it is being used instead of a colored wire – it is not neutral.

Compare your old light switch to the new one, noting where the wires are attached to the old one and finding where to attach them to the new one. You can disconnect the wires from the old light switch and attach them to the new light switch one at a time – because you have turned off the power, it is safe to do this and makes the process a lot easier. Each wire attaches to a screw of the same color on the old one as the new one.

To attach the wires, strip off about half an inch of insulation with wire strippers. Use long-nosed pliers to twist the bare wire into a clockwise loop – the loop needs to wrap around the terminal screw, covering between two thirds and three quarters of the way around. The loop needs to go over the screw in a clockwise direction so that when you tighten the screw, the loop also tightens.

When you have attached all of the wires to the new light switch, simply push the switch into the electrical box and screw it into place. Remember to be careful as you do this, since using too much force may damage the wires. When the new light switch is in place, turn the power back on and try it out.

Replacing a light switch really is that simple! Just take care during each step and follow the instructions – if you rush, you are prone to make mistakes, which may take a while to figure out and fix. The most important part of replacing a light switch is to take the time to look at which color wires attach to which terminals. Using this method, replacing the wires one at a time, reduces the risk of making mistakes and makes replacing a light switch easy.


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