How to Replace a Light Switch

Home repair doesn't get much easier. Just follow these step-by-step instructions.

If you're in the market for a light switch, be aware that several types are available. Some dual-pole switches, which control one light from two or more switches, have three or four terminal screws and a ground terminal. Single-pole switches, which control one light from one location, have two terminal screws and a ground terminal. If you're replacing a dual-pole switch, make note of the existing wiring, and if you're at all unsure of how to proceed, hire a licensed electrician to perform the job.

Here's how install a switch yourself:

Materials and Tools:

screwdriver
circuit tester
needle-nose pliers
wire strippers
light

Steps:

Remove the old switch

1. Shut off the power at the circuit-breaker box.

2. Remove the cover plate and test the terminals with the circuit tester. If the tester doesn't light up, there's no power going to the switch.

3. Remove the screws that hold the switch in place, and pull the switch from the wall.

4. Loosen the screws holding the wires to the switch, remove the wires, and remove the switch. In newer switches, the wires may go directly into the switch, where they are held in place by clamps inside the switch. These switches usually have a slot into which you can insert a small screwdriver to loosen the clamps.


Install the new switch

1. Begin by bending the end of the ground wire into a small hook, placing the hook over the ground terminal of the switch and tightening it in place.

2. Attach the remaining wires to the terminals and tighten them in the same way. Your new switch may have holes that allow you to insert the wires without using the terminal screws. If so, straighten the wires, press them into the holes as far as they'll go and then tug on them to make sure they're held securely in place.

3. Gently press the switch back into position and secure it in place with screws. Replace the switch cover and turn on the power at the circuit-breaker box.

Next Up

How to Install a Dimmer Switch

Learn how to replace a standard light switch with a dimmer switch.

How to Wire a Light Switch

Electricity is a mystery to many people, but some electrical projects — like wiring a switch — are so simple that anyone can do them. With a few easy steps and the right knowledge, there’s no need to hire an electrician.

Adding a Light Fixture to a Ceiling Fan

Enhancing a room's ambiance is as easy as following these step-by-step instructions.

How to Wire a 3-Way Light Switch

Do you want to be able to turn on one light via two different switches, like at the top and bottom of a staircase? Installing a 3-way switch will give you that convenience. Follow these tips on how to identify the flow of live current and guide you through the wiring connections.

How to Identify Basic Electrical Wiring

Whether you’re changing an outlet, light fixture or switch, the first thing you need to know is what all those different colored wires are for.

Landscape Lighting Trends and How to Choose What's Right for Your Yard

Learn about the latest trends in landscape lighting and how to illuminate your yard with inventive outdoor lighting solutions.

How to Replace a Standard Outlet With a GFCI Outlet

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets block electrical power to prevent potentially dangerous shocks — they should be installed in any area that water is present such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Changing a standard outlet to a GFCI is a fairly easy and inexpensive project that will help protect you and your family.

How to Test Electrical Receptacles for Grounding

Grounded electrical outlets are important for safety in the home. Learn how you can check your wiring for issues and gain peace of mind.

How to Clean a Computer Screen

Get the low-down on how to safely remove dust, fingerprints, smudges and streaks from any type of laptop screen or computer monitor.

Stop Home Energy Hogs

From thermostats to drafty windows, get tips for saving energy and money around the house.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.