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How to Replace a Light Switch – All You Need to Know

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Once in a while, you’ll need to replace a light switch in your house. Perhaps you want to replace an old switch with a new decorative one to give your living room a new look. On the other hand, you could be replacing a broken switch. A light switch is bound to wear out due to frequent use. If you hear a crackling or buzzing noise when operating the switch, know that you need to replace it.

If you’re a DIY kind of person, replacing a light switch is something you can do for yourself. But what do you need to replace a light switch, and how do you do it? Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can do it.

What You’ll Need

Before you start replacing a light switch, ensure you have the following tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Utility knife
  • Wirecutter
  • Wire stripper
  • Needle-nose pliers

Once you have these tools, follow these procedures to replace the light switch.

1. Switch Off the Power Source

When working with electrical equipment, you should ensure safety by turning off the power. So go to the fuse box and find the circuit that supplies power to the switch you’re repairing. To ensure you switch off the correct circuit, read the labels.

Alternatively, leave the lights on and see if they’ll go off once you break the circuit. If the circuit breaker is far from the switch you want to replace, ask someone to stand near the lights and tell you when they go off. At this time, it might be a good idea to put labels on the circuits if they don’t have them.

2. Remove the Cover Plate

Use the screwdriver to remove the cover plate from the wall. Sometimes, the cover may have wall paint on it. Use a utility knife to cut the paint off. If the cover is broken, you won’t need it again. But if it’s in good condition, you can reuse it. Next, unscrew the switch and pull it gently away from the wall. Then use your tester to confirm that the wires have no current.

3. Disconnect the Switch

Before disconnecting the switch, take note of how the wires are connected. A single-pole switch should have two wires only. But if you see three or four wires coming to the switch, you’re looking at a multiple-way switch. Check whether the wires are color-coded. If not, mark them with electrical tapes. You can also take a picture using your phone to remind you how the wires should appear.

Use a screwdriver to disconnect the switch from the wall. Then remove any screws that hold wires to the switch.

4. Install the New Switch

You should make sure the new switch has similar connections as the old one. Then ensure the wire tips are in good shape. If not, cut off the end using the wire cutter. Use the wire stripper to remove a small section of insulation. Then using the needle-nose pliers, make a small C-shaped hook at the end of each wire.

Follow the color codes or the picture you took using your phone to determine where each wire will go. Using a screwdriver, attach each wire to the switch. Push the switch back to the box and tuck in the wires gently, then screw it in the box. Ensure you set the upside of the switch correctly.

5. Install the Cover Plate and Test the Switch

You can reuse the previous cover plate if it’s not broken or use a new one. Screw it back on the wall, taking care not to tighten too much. The plate material can crack or break when you apply too much pressure. 

Once everything is complete, go to the main switch and put the power back on. The switch will work if you follow all steps carefully.

When to Call a Professional

Replacing a light switch is among the few electrical repairs you can do at home, but it still includes the risk of electrocution. Plus, light switches aren’t all the same. Some are more complicated than others. So replacing a light switch may require a person with experience in electrical repair. If you don’t have that experience, calling an electrician may be better.

Do you need a certified electrician in Coeur d’Alene, ID? DNA Electric has a team of experienced electricians who can help with any electrical emergency you may be having. If you encounter a problem when installing a switch, call us, and we’ll be happy to send you a technician. If you’d like to know more about our electrician services, reach out to us, and we’ll be glad to help.

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