Step by Step Guide to Installing a light switch or replacing it
Although not everyone dares to take on electrical issues in a bid to fix them, this guide will help you choose whether to take on the task or hire a professional.
- Access to the Housebreaker.
- Screwdriver (Flat Tip).
- Voltage Tester.
- New Light Switch.
How to install a light switch doesn’t require you to be a professional electrician. All you need is to remember the first thing to do, ensure you turn off the power.
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STEPS FOR REPLACING A LIGHT SWITCH
1. To turn off the power, you need to locate your home’s circuit breaker, identify the control switch of the room you plan to work on, and switch it off.
2. Using a screwdriver (flat tip), unfasten the old light switch cover from the wall.
3. Before you proceed with other steps, confirm that power is no longer running through the light switch by using a voltage tester. You can do this by placing the tester on the wire; if you hear a beep sound, repeat the first step and ensure it is done accurately.
4. Upon completing the first step, that is, power is now turned off; use the screwdriver to pull out the switch.
5. After pulling out the old switch, you will see two wires that need to be disconnected. Loosen the screws found on the two sides of the switch to disconnect the two visible wires.
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For those living in older homes, the best thing to do is to call a professional electrician for electrical problems.
1. Tighten the earlier loosened screws to attach the wires to a new light switch.
2. Make sure the wires are tightly connected before fastening the switchback onto the wall.
3. Using the flat tip screwdriver, secure the cover plate.
4. Turn the power back on to test the new switch
One economical way of adding beauty to any room in your home is to replace the old wall plate with a new, ornamental one. Although you do not have to be a professional electrician to do this, understanding the different types of switches available, parts of a switch, and required tools makes the job easier.
TYPES OF SWITCHES
In simple terms, switches make it possible for power to flow as it opens and closes electrical circuits. Initially, switches had a simplistic design, but things have taken a new turn now. More recent switches come with several features, including a delayed fade and the ability to recall various preset settings. The four basic types of switches available are:
- Single-pole light switches. This is the most common type of light switch available, and you turn lights on by flipping the switch up. On the other hand, flipping the switch down breaks the current flow, thereby turning lights off.
- Double-pole switch. The double-pole switch functions like the single-pole switch because it has on & off positions, and you can turn light or appliances on & off from one area. The only difference is that double-pole switches are usually used for light fixtures that require 240-volt circuits.
- Three-way switches. The three-way switch is often used in pairs and allows you to turn a light or receptacle on and off from two separate places. These switches do not have distinct on or off positions because these positions change with use. However, a different type of switch cannot be used for a three-way application, and the right one must be in two.
- Four-way switches. The four-way switch is often used alongside two three-way switches to switch on/off a light fixture from a separate third place instead of two places with just a three-way switch. The four-way switch looks precisely like a double-pole switch but with no distinct on or off positions.
Asides from turning light fixtures on and off, these basic types of switches may have extra features like dimmer controls, timers, motion sensing, occupancy sensors, water, security protection and lighting security installation
TOOLS AND MATERIALS NEEDED
At about the same price of a dollar that you will purchase a single-pole switch, you can replace a few components. Alongside the new switch you want to install, you will need the following materials and tools:
- Voltage tester.
- Slotted screwdriver.
- Phillips head screwdriver.
- Needle nose pliers.
- Wire stripper.
- Electrical tape.
The light installation can be completed in about 10 minutes. With every necessary tool in place, you can install a light switch even if you have no prior knowledge of how to.
PARTS OF A LIGHT SWITCH
Before you attempt to install a light switch, it would be helpful to know the three essential parts of the light switch.
- Switch and plate. Remember those parts you deal with every day? Those are the switch and cover plate. The plate covers the hole in the wall fashionably. On the other hand, the switch is the actual device you interact with; when turned up and down, it determines whether the lights come on or goes off.
- Wires. Upon removing the cover plate, these wires become visible. Based on the position of the switch, these electrical wires transmit signals to the terminal, thereby turning lights on/off. The number of wires is determined by the switch’s placement in a circuit, whether it is at the center or on the end.
- Terminals. Based on the position of the switch, the terminals create the next line of action for the wires. Therefore, it helps in sending electrical signals between the circuit board and light fixture or appliance. Faulty connection to the terminal causes electrical failures and defects with the light source. The terminal is made up of a plastic device that is turned by securing the wires in place such that they are tightly held together.
HOW TO INSTALL A LIGHT SWITCH
- Take a photo of the wire connections after removing the cover plate to show how the wires are attached to the old switch before you take them apart. This will be helpful when installing the new switch.
- Keep yourself safe throughout the installation process by wearing rubber-soled shoes and using insulated (rubber) tools.
- Look for the circuit breaker linked to the switch, and if your house uses fuses, ensure you disconnect it from the fuse box before you begin your DIY.
- Switch the power off. Remove the cover plate. Verify that electricity no longer flows through the circuit using a voltage tester. Write a note and put it on the electric panel warning others not to switch the power back on until told otherwise.
- Disconnect the wire connections for inspection. Unfasten the mounting screws and carefully remove the switch out of the wall box. Inspect the wiring. A broken or loose wire connection might be responsible for the defect. Ensure the wires are disconnected from the switch, and the unprotected copper wires are neatly taken care of. If the wire-connection lies behind the switch, cut the wire at the end closest to the device and get rid of all damaged wires.
- Prepare the electrical wires for connection to the new switch. Remove the rubber coating, so a few inches of the copper conductor is revealed. Twist the tails of each wire into a hook using the needle-nose plier, such that the hook is tight enough to fit around the terminal screw.
- Attach the electrical wires to the new switch. Loosen the terminal screws found on the new switch until they become impossible to twist. Connect the black wire and white wire to the two brass screw terminals by coiling the wires around the screws in a circular manner. The third wire (copper ground wire) to the green ground screw in a similar manner of coiling around the screws. Ensure the connection is tight around each screw by tightening the screw terminals and squeezing the wire ends firmly using a long-nose plier.
- Take the safe route by using electrical tape. Cover all exposed wires and terminals with electrical tape to prevent any electrical hazard.
- Return the switch back into the wall box. Carefully bend the wires and place the switch back into the wall box. Fasten the switch in place by tightening the mounting screws.
- Cover with a switch plate. Fix the new ornamental wall plate. Switch power back on and test if the switch is working well.
- Always buy spec-rated or commercial devices, so switches used over and over last longer. Furthermore, by reviewing the required tools and materials, you can save a lot of time and prevent interruptions as you can easily pick them up in one trip to the store before your project starts.
A single-pole switch controls a light fixture from one spot. With every tool in place, necessary safety precautions are taken, and guidelines to follow, fixing or changing a simple light switch is not a tough DIY to complete.
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