How to Replace a Light Switch

If the bulb in the bathroom doesn’t blink on, but it works in a different lamp, chances are that the switch has gone bad. Here’s how you replace it.

First, visit your local home improvement center or any other hardware store.

Make sure you turn the power off.

Turn Off Power

Before we get started, turn off power to the room that you’re working in. Turn the power off at the circuit breaker. Do not attempt this project with live electricity – you will kill yourself

If you don’t know which breaker to turn off, click off the master breaker (1). That turns everything off.

Remove Old Switch

With the power safely off, use a flat-tipped screwdriver to remove the switch cover plate. 

With the cover plate off, use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the two long screws that hold the switch in the junction box.

Pull the old switch out of the wall, and compare it to the new switch: they should be pretty similar. If they’re not, go back to the home improvement store and get a switch that matches. Take a picture of the switch to help you in the store.

Take a picture of the old switch, so you can compare your new installation to it.

Install the New Switch

Orient the new switch in the same direction as the old switch.

First, transfer the black power wire from the old switch to the new. Use your Phillips screwdriver to loosen the connection on the old switch – it might be tough to get loose, but it will come. 

Now do the same for the white common wire. If the wires on your switch are not the same color, hook them back up to the old switch, put the switch back into the wall and call an electrician – there’s something funky with your wiring. 

Finally, do the same for the green ground wire. 

If there are additional wires connected to the old switch, transfer them one-by-one to the new switch. 

Now you have the old switch wire-free and loving it.  That fellow can visit the dumpster.

Compare the new switch to the digital picture, to make sure you’ve got it right. If it isn’t the same, move the wires around until they match the picture.

Tighten all of the connections super tight on the new switch.

Try to align the switch so that the OFF position is at the bottom.

Snap the switch to the OFF position. It may be imprinted in the plastic of the switch, but otherwise it’s almost always with the toggle pointing down.

Gently push wires back into the junction box inside the wall. Look for any loose wires inside the junction box – there shouldn’t be any. If you find one, see if you can reconnect it from where it came loose.

Put the two long screws through the holes at the top and bottom of the switch. Guide them into the holes in the junction box and tighten them with the Phillips screwdriver.

Put the two short screws through the holes in the plastic switch plate, and put the plate into place. Use the flat-bladed screwdriver to tighten the screws. Don’t turn them too far – if it’s an old switch plate you can crack it.

Complete the Installation

Switch on the circuit breaker. If it immediately pops off, or if you hear a popping noise in the breaker panel, turn the main breaker to the OFF position. There’s a loose wire in your light switch. Go back and make sure everything’s tight.

Switch the circuit breaker on again.

Now go flip on your switch, and enjoy the bright, glorious light!

Please Note: . Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.


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Published by John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

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