How to wire and install a light switch

Mr. HowToSpecialist October 21, 2011 Comments Off
How to wire and install a light switch
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This article is about how to wire and install a light switch. Generally speaking, the light switches are used to operate the electric lights, especially in residential and commercial buildings. In most of these cases, the light switches are installed on the wall, but the specific location within the room, the height at which they are mounted, or the shape of the light switches, vary from country to country. The light switches are of  many kinds: single or multiple, or proper for indoor or outdoor. Installing and wiring a light switch is not a tough complex, provided you pay attention to the safety guidelines and you understand a few basic electricity principles.

However, in this article we will show you how to wire and install a light switch, in a diy step-by-step project. In order to install the switch, you need the following:

Materials:

  • light switch

 

Tools:

  • safety gloves
  • safety glasses
  • utility knife
  • measuring tape
  • pliers
  • screwdriver
  • voltage tester

 

Tips:

  • turn off the power for all circuits of your house
  • before touching any wire, use a voltage tester on every single wire of the junction box, to make sure the power is turned off
  • installing a light switch is not an easy job, so if you don’t want to assume the risks it is better to hire a certified professional

 

How to install a light switch

Turning the power off

Turning the power off

The first thing you should do is to turn the power off. Some persons consider that is safe to turn off only the circuit on which you wire and install the switch, but we highly recommend you to turn off the power for all circuits in your house, as you can never be too pro-active when dealing with electricity.

Next, use the voltage tester on each wire as to make sure it is safe to touch them. Again, we emphasize that it’s best to verify several times, before touching the electric wires.

Preparing the junction box to install the light switch

Preparing the junction box to install the light switch

The next step of the diy project is to clean the paint, residues or drywall mud from the box, using a pair of pliers. Make sure you have removed all materials that are in the junction or over the screw holes of the junction box. This operation is important, especially if you deal with a new-built house or a repainted room.

However, even if you are replacing an old switch it is better to asses the junction box, as to make sure the new electric light switch could be installed and aligned  properly.

Dissembled light switch

Dissembled light switch

After you have bought the right light switch for your needs you have to dissemble it, either by using a screwdriver or just with your hands, depending on the manufacturer and on the product type. This operation is essential as you will connect the electric wires to inner part of the switch.

 

Consequently, strip the switch toggles and frame from the light switch.

Cutting the wires to install the switch

Cutting the wires to install the switch

The next step of the project, after we have dissembled the light switch, is  to start wiring the switch. Consequently, we  used the pliers to cut the wires at about 7”/15 cm past the wall.

This length should be enough as to be able to wire the switch, but in the same time to fit inside the junction box without any difficulty. Remember that you don’t have to cut the wires too long, as afterwards they might not fit in the junction box and you will have to redo the operation.

Stripping the insulation from the wires

Stripping the insulation from the wires

After we made sure the wires are cut to the proper length, we have proceeded to the next step. Subsequently, we used the pliers to strip about 1”/2.5 cm of the wire insulation. Remember that it could prove dangerous to strip more than 1 inch, as in time the wires could accidentally touch.

Smart tip: the easiest and the most efficient method to strip the insulation is to use wire strippers. In addition, you should select the correct wire size on the stripper gauge.

 

 How to wire light switch

Connecting the wires to the light switch

Connecting the wires to the light switch

Next, use the pliers to bend the wires end in a l-shape (c-shape as well for some switches with side screws).

However, you have probably noticed that the wires are colored differently: the brown wire is the phase, as the red wires are those which close each of the the two light circuits.  The electric color code is different from country to country. Each of this wires has to be installed in a specific slot of the outlet. The phase wire has to be installed on the middle of the switch, usually in the bottom part of it.

Wiring the phase wire to the light switch

Wiring the phase wire to the light switch

After you place the wire ends in the proper place, lock them into position by driving in the screw, using a screwdriver.

 

As the phase wire should be connected to the bottom part of the light switch, the other wires should be connected in the opposite side of the switch, in the same manner, using the same technique. Make sure the wires are fastened firmly, otherwise the switch won’t work properly.

Wired light switch

Wired light switch

After you have finished wiring the light switch, it is better to check once again if the connections are made properly and if the wires are installed in the right place.

 

 

Generally speaking, after wiring the light receptacle, you should get the same result as in the picture.

Pushing the switch in the box

Pushing the switch in the box

After you have wired the outlet, you should bend the wires as to fit perfectly in the junction box. Afterwards, push the switch plate gently into the box, as to see if the light switch has enough room to be secured into position.

If there are no issues, you can fasten loosely the light switch in the junction box, with screws. The reason why you shouldn’t lock it too tightly is that we have to make sure the light switch is well aligned.

Level the light switch

Level the light switch

In order to level the light switch, we usually use a laser level, but you can also use a spirit level. It will just make the process a little more difficult, especially for beginners. Nevertheless, you can see the technique in the image (use a clean level to avoid damaging the paint coat).

Make sure the laser level is properly set and check if the switch is aligned. If you notice that it’s not horizontal, unscrew it and adjust its position until it is right. Afterwards, fix it again into the junction box, by driving in the screws clockwise.

Fixing the light switch with screws

Fixing the light switch with screws

After you have finished wiring the light switch, you can continue the process by fastening it with several screws. Remember that you don’t have to screw them to tightly, as you risk damaging the switch.

 

 

Smart tip: rotate the screwdriver clockwise, as to firmly lock  the light switch.

Fixing the light switch toggle

Attaching the light switch toggle

The next step after fixing the light switch in the junction box is to attach the cover and the toggles. In order to install them, just use your fingers and apply little pressure on them until you are sure they have been secured correctly.

 

 

This operation is not complex, and in addition, it represents one of the final steps of the process.

Light switch

Light switch

After you have finished installing the light switch, just go to the electric panel and turn on the power.

 

 

The last step is to turn on the light, using the new installed light switch, as to check if the hard work paid off. If the lightning feature works properly, you have just learned how to wire and install a light switch.

 

Thank you for reading our article on how to install a light switch, and we recommend you to check out the rest of our projects. Don’t forget to share our articles with your friends, by using the social media widgets.

 Related projects:

 How to install an electrical outlet

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