How to Install Light Switches and Fixtures

July 27, 2015

Adding a new light switch to your room adds ambience and flexibility to your home's lighting. These tips show you how to replace light switches and everyday fixtures.

How to Install Light Switches and Fixtures

How to install a dimmer switch

Whether you choose a round dimmer switch or one that looks more like a standard switch with a lever on the side, installing a dimmer is a simple project .

  1. Turn off power to the switch at the service panel. Remove the cover plate and the screws holding the switch to the box.
  2. Carefully pull the switch out of the box. Use a neon-bulb voltage tester to verify that no power is reaching the switch. Unscrew the wires from the old switch. Straighten the exposed wire ends and trim if necessary so that no bare wire will stick out of the wire connectors.
  3. The wires from the dimmer can attach to either wire in the box. With pliers, twist the ends of the two pairs of wires together. Slip a wire connector over each pair of wires and twist clockwise, making sure that it fits securely. Join the ground wires the same way.
  4. Push the dimmer into the box, screw the dimmer to the box, screw on the cover plate and slip the knob into place. Restore power and test.

How to install an illuminated switch

An illuminated switch has a light inside the toggle that glows when it is off. That makes it easier to find the switch in the dark. Consider putting one in a bedroom, for instance.

  1. Turn off the power to the switch; remove the cover plate and the screws holding the switch to the box.
  2. Carefully pull the switch out of the box.
  3. Use a tester to verify that no power is reaching the switch.
  4. Transfer the wiring from the old switch to the new one. Push the switch back in the box, attach the screws, replace the cover plate and restore power.

Installing light fixtures

Adding a new fixture to your room can help set the perfect mood. These common fixtures are easy to install for any DIYer.

Flush-mounted fixtures: Shut off the power and verify that it is off; disconnect the wires and remove the fixture. Use wire connectors to attach the new wires, black to black, white to white, ground to ground. Tuck the wires into the box and screw the fixture base into the strap.

Canopy fixture: With the power off remove the old fixture. Attach the wires like colour to like colour, ground to ground, using wire connectors. Twist the threaded nipple of the fixture into the strap until the canopy is firm against the ceiling. Affix the canopy from beneath with a locknut.

Hanging fixture: Shut off the power and remove the old fixture. If the nipple is rusty, replace it to ease assembly. Thread the fixture wires through the reducing nut and canopy. Attach them to those in the junction box. Screw the canopy onto the reducing nut and fasten the nut to the nipple.

Safe fix for a broken bulb

When a light bulb breaks while still in its socket, tend to the repair right away.

  1. Pull the plug or shut off power at the service panel.
  2. If the glass is completely shattered, you may have difficulty getting enough of a grip on the bulb socket to remove it. Use needle-nose pliers to twist the bulb socket. If you can't get a grip, push a soap bar or a potato over the remaining glass shards and turn.
  3. Replace the bulb and restore the power.
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