Electricity makes modern life possible, from keeping food cool in the refrigerator to lighting up the rooms in your home. However, when electrical devices fail, or problems develop, it can create havoc. In many cases, you’ll have to call an electrician to help, but that’s not the case with all issues. For instance, if you’re experiencing trouble with a light switch or just want to upgrade your aging switches, you can actually do it yourself. Not sure how to go about replacing a light switch DIY? We’ll walk you through it below.
Why Might You Need to Replace a Light Switch?
There are plenty of reasons that you might need to replace a light switch. One of the most common is to upgrade from an older switch to something a bit more modern. For instance, you might want to upgrade a single switch to a dual switch so you can control the light and the fan in a room separately, or you could be installing an IoT device that requires a smart switch. Another reason to replace a switch is if the existing one is broken or damaged in some way. Finally, you might consider replacing switches if you’re giving the home a refresh before putting it on the market.
First, a Visual Aid
While we’ve included step-by-step instructions below, we’ve also included a handy video.
A Word of Caution
Before you do anything with the light switch, you need to make sure that the power is off. Turn off the circuit breaker that controls the switch you’ll be replacing. Doing this will also mean that you have no light in the room, so make sure you have a flashlight or lantern so you can see what you’re doing.
Gather Your Tools
You’ll need a few tools for this DIY task. Make sure you have the following:
- Small screwdriver (flathead in most cases)
- Power drill
- Replacement switch
- Wire strippers
Replacing Your Light Switch
Once you’ve got the breaker turned off and your tools assembled, it’s time to actually replace the switch. Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove the switch cover using a screwdriver.
- Test the switch with the voltmeter to make sure there’s no power.
- Unscrew the switch from the wall.
- Pull it away from the hole.
- Inspect the wire connections so you can connect the new switch the same way.
- Use the small screwdriver to loosen the wires in the switch.
- Pull them out.
- Use your wire strippers to remove some of the insulation from the wire so you can make a good connection.
- Insert the wires into the new switch in the same locations as they were in the old switch.
- Use the small screwdriver to tighten the connection.
- Have someone else go turn the breaker back on.
- Test the voltage at the switch to make sure there’s power. If not, turn the breaker back off and locate the missing connection, then test again. When you have power to the switch, proceed with the final steps.
- Mount the switch in the wall.
- Replace the switch faceplate.
Tips and Tricks
To help ensure that you’re able to replace that light switch simply and easily, we’ll conclude with some important tips and tricks.
- Make absolutely sure that there is no power to the switch before you touch any wires. Electric shock can be fatal.
- Make sure there is plenty of slack in the wires behind the switch. If there is not enough slack, you should consider having the switch professionally rewired. Slack in the wires will make it easier for the next person to replace or modify the switch.
- Not all light switches connect in the same way. If you are upgrading from a very old switch to a new one, make sure you know how the wires should connect to the new one.
- The wires connected to your switch may be any number of colors. Pay attention to how they’re connected so you know which ones are which.
- If you are not 100% sure you can replace the switch on your own, hire a professional electrician to do it for you.
With the instructions above in hand and the tips we’ve covered in mind, you should be ready and able to handle that DIY switch replacement.