August 2, 2018

Categories Home Inspiration

How to Change a Light Switch: A Step-by-Step Guide with Photos

If you’ve never changed a light switch before, don’t be intimidated. With a couple tools and by following these simple instructions, you can change out a light switch by yourself in several minutes.


Before You Begin: To change out a single pole light switch, a switch that controls a light or appliance from a single location in your home, you will need the following tools, pictured below: Voltage Tester, Flathead Screwdriver, Phillips Screwdriver, Pliers, Electrical Tape



1. First, go to your breaker box and shut off the breaker switch going to the circuit you are working on.


2. Turn the light switch off and on to make sure the light does not come on and there is no power to the switch.


3. Using your Flathead screwdriver, you can now safely remove the faceplate by loosening the screws.


4. Once the switch and wiring are exposed, use the voltage tester to verify there is no power coming into the electrical box. Do this by touching your tester to the wires or terminals on the light switch.


5. Once you are sure there is no power, remove the wires from the old switch. There should be three wires. Each wire should have a hook on the end to go around a screw.  If not, you need to use your pliers to make a hook on the end of each wire.



6. You are now ready to install the new switch. With the Phillips screwdriver, take the ground wire – the bare copper wire (or it could be a green wire) – and attach it to the green screw. Make sure the hook of the wire faces clockwise so the tightening of the screw will tighten the wire around the screw.


7. You can now fasten the other two insulated wires to the two brass screws on the switch.  It does not make any difference which screw either of these wires attaches to, because a single pole switch only opens or closes the power to the light.


8. Next, a best practice is to take a piece of electrical tape and cover the two brass screw heads to prevent an unwanted contact from anything else in your electrical box.



9. Finally, install the switch (with the writing on the switch right-side up) into the box and install the faceplate. At this point, you can restore the power from your breaker box.


Congratulations, you have replaced your light switch!

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Meet the author

Kent Zaitz

Kent has been as a real estate agent specializing in both new home construction and resale homes for over 40 years. Kent and his wife, Diane, have marketed over 2,400 new homes, condominiums, townhouses and lots during their careers. They are well-versed in ‘Energy Star’ and ‘Built Green’ construction, ‘Smart Regs’ required by the City of Boulder for income units, and the ‘Build Smart’ program in Boulder County. Their understanding of new construction is very helpful when working in the resale market.
Kent Zaitz

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