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, theres no need to hire an electrician.

Light Switch

Newly Installed White 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 simple steps and the right knowledge, there’s no need to hire an electrician.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

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How to Wire a Switch
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Materials Needed

  • new light switch
  • electrician’s pliers
  • screwdriver
  • current detector

Safety First

Always turn the power off at the breaker before starting any electrical project. Once you’ve turned your power off, remove the switch cover and use a current detector to make sure there’s no power going to any of the wires in the electrical box. If there’s no power, you’re ready to move on to the first step.

Turn Off Power

How to Wire a Light Switch: Turn Off Power

Once you’ve turned your power off, remove the switch cover and use a current detector to make sure there’s no power going to any of the wires in the electrical box.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Remove the Old Switch

Your switch is attached to the electrical box using two screws. Loosen the screws and pull the switch away from the wall. It’ll still be attached to the wires, so it won’t go far.

Remove Old Switch

How to Wire a Light Switch: Remove Old Switch

Your switch is attached to the electrical box using two screws. Loosen the screws and pull the switch away from the wall. It’ll still be attached to the wires, so it won’t go far.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Detach the Wires

Three wires will be attached to your switch: a hot (black) wire, a neutral (white) wire and a ground (copper) wire. The black and white wires are attached using brass screws (Image 1); when the power is on, these will both be “hot.” The copper wire is attached using a green screw; if you have an older home, you may not have a copper wire. Detach the three wires using a screwdriver and discard your old switch (Image 2).

Wire the New Switch

Each wire should have a half inch of wire exposed and bent into a U shape that will fit snugly around the screws on the switch. Your electrician’s pliers have a nifty feature made specifically for this purpose. On the edge of the pliers, you’ll find a small hole. Insert the wire into the hole and bend it around the lip of the pliers (Image 1). This should create the perfect U shape (Image 2).

Wrap your black wire clockwise around one of the brass screws. By wrapping clockwise (the same direction the screw turns), you ensure the wire’s connection will tighten when the screw is tightened. Repeat the process with the white wire, wrapping it clockwise around the other brass screw and tightening it with a screwdriver (Image 3). Finally, wrap your copper ground wire clockwise around the green grounding screw and tighten (Image 4). Your switch is now wired.

Attach and Cover

Use the two screws provided on your new switch to attach it to the electrical box (Image 1). Make sure your switch is installed relatively level. Finally, cover your switch and wires with the switch plate using two screws (Image 2). Do not overtighten your switch plate or you could crack it.

Test Your New Switch

Turn your power back on at the breaker and marvel at your electrical expertise.

Light Switch

Newly Installed White 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 simple steps and the right knowledge, there’s no need to hire an electrician.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

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 bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Changing a standard outlet to a GFCI is a fairly easy and inexpensive project.

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