How to Replace a Light Switch

August 2, 2019


It’s easy to take things for granted, especially when things blend well into daily life. A light switch is flipped almost every time a room is entered, and the light turning on in response is expected every time. But when it doesn’t, the inconvenience quickly becomes apparent.

Luckily, it’s quite easy to replace a standard light switch, and the process makes for a fun and affordable DIY project.

Step 1 - Safety

First thing’s first, any electrical DIY project requires you to turn off the power. Aside from just switching off the light control itself, you also need to make sure to turn off the circuit on the main breaker panel.

Step 2 – Remove the Cover

Once the power is turned off, you can remove the old switch by unscrewing the cover from the wall using a standard screwdriver. To loosen screws, remember to turn them counterclockwise (clockwise will tighten them). The plate and screws should be kept close by, since you will be needing to reattach them once the new switch has been installed.

Step 3 – Test the Circuit

It’s good practice to ensure that no electricity is flowing before moving on to the next step. Do this by using a voltage meter to double check.

Step 4 – Remove the Old Switch

Pull the old switch away from the wall after you’ve unscrewed the screws that hold it in place. At this point the wires will still be attached, so it’s a good idea to take a picture as a reference for when its time to reattach them.

Step 5 – Disconnect the Wires

Loosen the terminal screws that are connecting the wires and then the light switch should be free to completely remove. Bend the wires in opposite directions so that they are kept separated.

Step 6 – Install the New Switch

Begin by attaching the wires in the same order as with the old switch. The white (neutral) wire connects to the silver terminal, and the black (or sometimes red) wire connects to the brass terminal (this is the hot wire). In some cases, there may also be a grounding wire, so just follow the picture of the old switch connections and keep everything consistent.

Step 7 - Reattach the New Switch

Push the newly wired switch into the electrical box and screw it into place. Now replace the cover plate by using a screwdriver to tighten each of the screws into place.

Step 8 – Power Up

Turn the power back on by switching the circuit back to the “on” position. Flip the switch you just replaced and see the results of your hard work!

If you still experience an issue with the switch, don’t hesitate to call a professional. Many electrical repairs are serious work, so don’t take on a task that you wouldn’t be entirely comfortable doing.

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