Replacing a Wall Switch

A standard wall switch – technically, a single-pole switch – is a snap to replace. There are just two screw terminals to worry about. (Some types may have a third screw. It's for a ground wire.) The most challenging part of this project is making sure you orient the new switch so you can see the word ON with the little lever pointing up.


Remove the mounting screws holding the switch to the electrical box. Holding the mounting straps, carefully pull the switch from the box. Be careful not to touch any bare wires or screw terminals until you've tested the switch for power.


Test for power by touching one probe of the circuit tester to the grounded metal box or to the bare grounding wire and touching the other probe to each screw terminal in turn. If the tester glows, there's still power entering the box. Turn off the correct circuit at the service panel before proceeding.


Double-check the wire connections. The black wire should be on one brass terminal, and the white wire, marked with a band of black electrical tape to indicate that it's hot, should be on the other. Disconnect the wires from the terminals, and remove the switch. If the wires are broken or nicked, clip off the damaged portion using a combination tool. Strip the wires so there's about 3/4 inch of bare wire at each end.


Connect the circuit wires to the proper screw terminals on the new switch. Tighten the screws firmly but do not overtighten; overtightening may strip the screw threads. Remember, never screw more than one wire to a terminal; use a pigtail connection instead.


Remount the switch, carefully tucking the wires inside the box. Be careful not to break through the protective insulation on the wires when pushing them into the box. Reattach the switch cover plate, and restore power to the switch at the main service panel.





Installing a Dimmer Switch


Installing a Three-Way Switch

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