Upgrading Light Switches at Home

Lighting at home is an important part of the function and aesthetic of the space. Upgrading your light switches can create a nicer lighting atmosphere in the home and add to the value of the interior space. In terms of difficulty, upgrading the light switches ranks as one of the easiest home electrical jobs. All electrical work at home needs to be taken seriously and done with the utmost care. Installing a new light switch, though, is one of the most basic home electrical projects that anyone can undertake. Here are some things to consider for the upgrade.

Gather Tools and Cut the Power

The first step for any home repair project is to gather the necessary tools for the job. To install new light switches, you will need a few simple tools that most people have lying around the house. These include: phillips and flathead screwdrivers, long nose pliers, wire strippers, wire cutters, electrical tape, masking tape, and a voltage tester. Installing new light switches is a fairly straightforward job that involves simply removing the existing switch and connecting the wiring of a new one.

After you have the tools ready, shut off the power to the area where you will be working. Locate the breaker box and the appropriate fuse for the switches you are changing and turn them off. Verify that the power is off by flipping the light switches on and off and then using your voltage tester on the switch you are going to change to ensure that there is no power running to the switch. The reading on the voltage meter should be zero.

Remove the Switch, Old Wires, and Reconnect

The next step is to remove the old switch. Unscrew the plastic wall plate and carefully pull the switch out of the wall enough to disconnect the wires. Next, examine the setup. Single pole switches will have two or three wired connections–a black hot wire, a white neutral, and a green or bare copper grounding wire. Some switches may be threeways with a fourth red wire alongside the black, white, and green. Examine the switch setup and specific connection points and prepare to install the new switch. Be vigilant about any loose, broken, or frayed copper wires as these can cause the switch to malfunction or even start a fire. Cut off frayed ends and leave about ¾ of copper exposed on each wire to reconnect the new switch.

The final step is to reconnect the new switch by attaching each of the wires to the connection points and screwing them on tight. Attach the grounding wire, the black, and then the white. Make sure the connection points are attached tight, so use pliers to tighten each end. When you have ensured that the new wires are secure and the new switch is properly installed, gently push the switch back into the electrical box, align the mounting screws, and screw the fixture back into the corresponding holes. Lastly, reattach the plastic wall plate, turn the power back on, and test the switch. If all the wires are attached properly, the switch should work fine and you will have light.

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