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Installing a Dimmer Switch in 10 Easy Steps

By Karin Mangan
Installing a Dimmer Switch in 10 Easy Steps

Big electrical jobs are usually best left to professional electricians or electrical contractors. However, you might be able to do the smaller jobs yourself. You just need the right tools (insulated tools provide an additional safety measure), the right wiring diagram, and an understanding of how to work safely with electricity. A common DIY job in the home is replacing a one-way light switch with a dimmer switch, which allows you to control the level of lighting in a room or area of the home and save money by using less electricity when the light is dimmed.

10 Easy Steps to Installing a Dimmer Switch

  1. Safety first. Turn off the electricity to the circuit you will be working on. To do this, you need to flip the correct breaker in the breaker box to the off position, or remove the relevant fuse from the fuse box. Then turn the light switch on the make sure the circuit is off.
  2. Screwdriver. Use one to undo the fixing screws on the old switch plate. Remove the old switch plate.
  3. Check for two terminals. If it has three (two at the bottom and one at the top) it is a 3-way switch.
  4. Unscrew the screws on the top and bottom of the switch and pull the switch out from the mounting box.
  5. Unscrew the terminals to disconnect the wires.
  6. Use a wire cutter to cut off the bare wire just below the plastic insulation on the three wires and strip off about 3/8" of the insulation to get a clean piece of wire to connect to the new dimmer switch. Do the same on the dimmer switch wires if required.
  7. Attach the wires from the new dimmer switch to those of the same color in the work box (i.e., connect black to black, etc.) and twist on a wire nut, making sure the bare wires are all completely encased in the wire nut.
  8. Fold the wires carefully back into the workbox and screw the switch into place.
  9. Fit the new dimmer switch plate over the top and secure it by tightening the screws.
  10. Switch the power back on and flip the switch to make sure it is working correctly.

If the light does not work when you turn the circuit back on, turn it off again and check the wire connections--are they all connected correctly and securely? If they look correct but the switch still does not work when the power is turned on, you should call an electrician.

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