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How to Wire a Light Switch

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by Jeff Patterson in Interior DIY Projects
How to Wire Light Switches

It can be downright frustrating to do electrical work.

But I found a light switch that’s easy to install and looks awesome.

I almost had my daughter wire this light switch but then imagined what my wife would say!!

If your switches look old and grimy you may need to replace them.

Especially if you want a modern looking home.

Today I’m going to show you how easy it is to install a new switch.

And I’ve got a give away that could literally save your life 😀

Every week I walk through Lowe’s or Home Depot looking for the newest supplies.

Why?

So I can share what I find with you.

This past Saturday I spotted something really cool: Adorne light switches.

Adorne light switches

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock but I’ve never seen these before.

After investigating the Adorne switches and outlets I decided to buy one.

I did this for two reasons

  1. To see how they differ from traditional switches and
  2. To share a few super important electrical tips with you.

Plus, Adorne has a ton of different color options that other switches don’t have.

Red, black, purple…you name it they have it.

Here’s your supply list for installing this kind of light switch

The Adorne switch isn’t cheap.

But if you’re going for a sleek modern look it could be the answer.

Okay, let me show you how to wire a light switch in about 5 minutes without shocking yourself!

 

5 smart tips everyone should know when removing light switches

You might know some of my tips.

But I bet you don’t know all 5 (kudos to you if you do!!)

Here they are

  1. Turn off the electricity at the panel or fuse box (I bet you know this one)
  2. Score around the tabs of the old light switch
  3. Double check the electricity with a non-contact voltage tester
  4. Take a picture of the old switch’s wiring
  5. Rub the copper wires with emery cloth

Let me quickly address these tips.

Always, ALWAYS, turn off the electricity to your switch at the electric panel or fuse box.

Turn off electricity

Find the breaker or fuse that controls the switch’s power.

If you can’t locate the specific circuit just go ahead and turn off the entire panel.

 

Scoring the intersection between the old switch’s tabs and wall will prevent you from tearing the paint.

Score switch tabs

Sometimes prior homeowners (not you of course) paint over the switch’s tabs.

When you go to remove the old switch it will tear the old paint off the wall.

Now you have to repaint or worse yet patch the wall.

BUMMER.

Sore the tabs, you’ll thank me later.

 

Double check the electricity is turned off by placing your non-contact voltage tester next to the switch terminals.

Use voltage tester

The tester will beep if there’s electricity still running to the switch.

In my early DIY days I didn’t use a voltage tester.

BIG MISTAKE.

One time I was replacing a switch in our bathroom.

Since the power was off to the light I figured the switch wasn’t live.

Next thing I knew there was a nice shock running up my left arm and into my chest.

Fortunately my wife didn’t collect any insurance money from State Farm.

If you don’t want to get shocked then use a voltage tester, it’s the most important tool for any electrical project.

Taking a picture of the old wiring is just flat out smart.

Take picture of wiring

Pictures give you a reference for how to wire the new switch.

Hey, my 73 year old Mom has an iPhone and now texts.

Love you Mom 😀

Finally, use emery cloth to make your copper wires shine.

Emery cloth wires

This improves the contact between the copper wire and new switch.

I’ve wired switches before and they didn’t work simply because the old copper wires were oxidized too much.

A few emery cloth applications later the switch was working with no problem.

Once your old switch is removed you can wire up the new one.

I’ll show you why I like the Adorne switches.

 

How to wire an Adorne light switch

Some people pay $4 for Starbuck’s coffee.

I drink green tea from home and spend my money on new light switches.

What a nerd, right?

Like I said earlier, Adorne switches aren’t cheap.

But sometimes cheap isn’t what you want in your new kitchen, bathroom, or living room.

Check out my video to see all my tips in action and why you might like the Adorne switches for certain rooms. They’re pretty cool.

 

What’s Next

Wiring a switch is very similar to wiring an outlet.

But remember, bathrooms and kitchens need GFCI outlets – our tutorial shows you step-by-step how to install one.

Grab our free guide if you’re doing a DIY bathroom remodel – it shares how to remodel a bathroom in 10 days or less

Send Me The Guide

 

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Ask your questions below and we’d be happy to help.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. Our online store has great supplies for homeowners doing a bathroom remodel. You’ll find shower systems, tiling tools, and more.

108 Comments
  1. Jeremy McAdoo says:

    Hey Jeff,
    Glad I was able to get to your website. Moving to a new house a few months ago this will help me by changing out some of my switches to motion activated ones that I have seen and hanging pesky ceiling fans (I hate doing those). Thanks for all your help for me, with stuff around the house I know my wife has been impressed that I have been able to do some handyman work around the house because of your videos.

    1. Glad to help buddy, especially if it makes your wife happy! Motion activated switches are fantastic. We have one in our laundry room and it comes in handy when holding a basket full of dirty socks. Only issue is I now walk into rooms expecting the light to automatically run on, haha.

  2. Cesar guzman says:

    Hey Jeff, for the past month you have helped me literary fix over 40% of my new house and I have no words to describe how easy your videos have made this happen. This last video you posted, it’s awesome. We have some old light switches in my living room so this video helps me a ton. Thanks for all your posts. You making DIY for first home owners so much easier.

    1. You made my day Cesar!

      I’m so stoked that you’re a first time homeowner and learning a how to fix stuff. It’ll come in handy down the road. You’re going to save a ton of money and be able to better negotiate with contractors when the time comes to do that 😀

  3. Mechelle says:

    Hi Jeff. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial. I have been afraid to try and fix anything electrical in my house, because I’ve always been afraid too. But your video really explained and simplified how this process works. I’m excited now to try it myself, and no longer apprehensive about doing so. All I need now is a voltage tester. Thanks for your great tips.

    1. Knowing how to stay safe is half the battle Mechelle. With a voltage tester and the tips from this tutorial I bet you’ll be able to do a lot of electrical projects 😀

  4. Michelle says:

    Hello, Jeff! Thanks for another great video! Our next electrical project involves installing new track lighting in the front hallway. It’s been a challenge to find something we like that is customizable to the length of the hall. TIP: To make sure you are ‘killing’ the proper switch at the fuse box, plug a light into the outlet you are turning off. Turn the light on before you head to the box. Someone helping you can let you know when the light goes out. Or if you are doing the job alone, plug in something that makes noise, like a radio. Turn up the volume before heading to the fuse box. You’ll know you’ve gotten the right switch when you don’t hear the radio anymore. Of course, use a voltage tester before digging into the wall switch just to be sure! SAFETY TIP: Remember to take off all jewelry–rings, watches, bracelets, and even necklaces–before working on electrical items.

    1. Your tips are FANTASTIC Michelle!!

      Using a radio is such a great idea when working alone so that you don’t have to constantly walk up and down steps from the panel to the outlet.

      Funny story: I wanted to plug a radio into an outlet to test it but forgot I gave it away!! So I put an iPad under the light that was plugged into the wall. Then I face timed with it and watched to see when the light went out while standing still standing at the panel. Thank goodness for technology.

      Wonderful safety tip with regard to the jewelry. I didn’t even think of this, thank you 😀

  5. David Rock says:

    Great product Jeff. I am in the planning phase of finishing my basement and those light switches would be a cool look. I enjoy watching all of your videos which are very helpful. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Dave for being an original HRT fan. You’re the best!!

      Adorne has a ton of different options and I think you might like what you see at Lowe’s. They’ll certainly make your basement look more modern.

      Keep me posted on your basement, I’d love to see pictures 😀

  6. Jeff C says:

    I’m doing some wiring as I move my woodworking setup around in my basement and I have 2 tips.

    My first tip is always understand electrical codes with regard to the type (gauge/thickness) of wire you should be using to support the amount of power that your devices consume. Also important in the codes is the number of strands that your wire should contain if you are going to wire up a 2 or 3 way switch. (3 ways can get pretty confusing). It’s important for safety and future maintenance to use the correct color and/or to mark your runner wire accordingly.

    My second tip which is a little less confusing is to try out your new circuit before you button things up. Granted, it is hard to make a mistake, especially now that you don’t have to bend the wire into a loop and screw it onto the side of the switch, but if there is something error somewhere, it’s easier to fix while the wires are not in the wall. For that reason, I like to minimize the amount of copper showing on the back. It makes your testing a little safer.

    1. Great tips Jeff with regard to understanding the correct gauge. It’s worth researching the local code and developing a strategy for your remodel.

      I also agree with testing the switch or outlet before screwing it to the electrical box. I’ve buttoned everything up only to realize something wasn’t quite right and then had to undo everything, arghhhh!!!

  7. David says:

    Great video, well put together, short, and to the point – I appreciate that! Great point to clean the wires. Corrosion can really zap your power. It is also very important to put the wire nut on the ground very tight and to tighten the screws. Thanks for the video – awesome.

    1. Thanks David.

      I forgot to mention in the video that stranded wire should be 1/8 inch longer when wrapped around the solid copper wire so that the two will be nice and tight in the wire nut.

      Thanks for liking the video 😀

  8. Frann says:

    I have a couple light switches in the kitchen that need replaced and I was going to hire my handyman to do this, but after seeing your video I think I can actually do this myself. I love all the helpful hints and tips, saves me money when I don’t have to hire something simple done. I don’t have an electrical tester and if I don’t win one I’ll definitely be buying myself one. I do know about turning off the power at the breaker box, that was always something my husband did first. I’ve had to learn a lot about taking care of “fixes” around the house since my husband passed away almost 3 years ago. I love being independent and not having to rely on someone else all the time to help me out. Keep up the great work Jeff.

    1. You can totally replace your switches Frann. And if you take the picture of the existing wiring and then get stuck you’ll be able to reference the pic. Staying safe and following the tips in this tutorial plus the ones posted by Michelle will help you a lot 😀

  9. Ingrid says:

    Excellent tutorial. I, too, take photos as I’m undoing a project to help me put it back together since my home is older and nothing seems as simple as in your videos. The comments here also offer some good advice. These sleek light switches are a nice design and the voltage tester is the perfect choice of a giveaway.

    1. Don’t worry Ingrid, I think this switch is probably the simplest one in our home. Some of the switches are pretty darn crazy. You’re right, the comments are very helpful. That’s the cool part of our community 😀

  10. Robert says:

    I will be replacing the bedroom wall switch and possibly the ceiling light fixture in my son’s room. Hopefully it is one of the two and not the ancient wiring in this old house.
    You have some good advice on your site.
    I also need to replace an outside light fixture. I am waiting for better weather for that one.

    1. I don’t blame you for waiting to replace the outside fixture Robert, this winter has been brutal. Plus it’s not good to fiddle with electrical in the snow or sleet.

  11. Patti B says:

    Great video and love those new light switches! So cool how they don’t have the screws showing (it’s the little things, right?!) My hubby does all of these kinds of things around the house and I’ve never NEVER seen him use a voltage tester. So far, he hasn’t gotten electrocuted but I’m cringing with 911 already on my phone the whole time he’s working, so I’ll be off to “the Depot” to pick up a voltage tester soon! Thanks for the great tip, as always!

    1. You’re so right Patti, the missing screws add a nice touch.

      I just spotted this voltage tester at the Depot and was tempted to buy one for myself, haha.

  12. Paul Bishop says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I sure like your home repair and project videos. You have a very easy-to-understand “regular guy” style that I can really relate to.
    Here’s a tip that can make electrical projects easier:
    Take the time someday to figure out what each individual circuit breaker controls in your house: every switch / light / outlet / appliance, etc… and record it in a text file you can keep on your computer or mobile device. It takes some time to do this initially (although having a helper makes it easier), but it’s worth it. It’s a real time-saver when you need to turn off the power to a particular switch, outlet, or other device for any reason (like replacement). The text file can be easily revised if necessary, and I also print it out on paper and slip it into a plastic letter-sized page sleeve taped into the inside of my electrical panel door for quick and easy reference for what breaker controls what. Just be sure to always use a tester too though when doing your work.
    Thanks, and keep up the good work!
    -Paul

    1. Great idea Paul.

      My wife and I need to do this project. I’m dreading it though. Putting the info in a text file is smart. That way it can be edited at any time. I might put our map on Googe Drive 😀

  13. Jacque V. says:

    We have a wedding coming up for my son and knowing how many additional visitors to our home we will be having with the various festivities – I began looking around my ‘tired’ rooms trying to determine how I could ‘waken’ then up without spending tons of money or time! You post was like a ‘Light Bulb’! What a fantastic way to freshen up a wall that you don’t immediately know ‘what is wrong’ but when it is brought to your attention.. YES..updating and replacing the switches and outlets is a great idea (and probably a very good safety thought for the fact that there are two that just don’t seem to want to function properly anymore…..or hey – if I burn the house down that would be a way to ‘redecorate’ – but not one that I think my husband would go for :-)….) I have used voltage testers in the past, but sadly after having loaned my old one to a neighbor…it is not longer to be found! Oh well. That will not deter me…A Shopping I will Go !!! Thank you very much.

    1. You crack me up Jacque, lol.

      The new switches and outlets are a relatively easy way to freshen up any room. I say go for it because you might get some compliments in addition to a modern looking space.

      I’m going to agree with you and say that your husband won’t go for burning down the house, haha. The new switches will have to suffice 😀

  14. Molly says:

    Hi Jeff!

    Another great helpful tutorial. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort! I’ve rewired lamps so I’ve browsed the electrical aisle at the box stores a time or two. There are so many new things out now! I like that you’ve picked some of these “simpler” projects. They’re not simple for everyone and we all have different levels of experience with projects. Like I don’t know what emory cloth is — I see it’s like sandpaper but I didn’t know there was such a thing and that’s a use for it. The other day you profiled that happy sponge — I’d bought one prior to seeing your video but it’s interesting to see what someone else thinks of a new thing like that. Nothing is too basic I don’t think. My best tip based on my own experiences — you already hit it — TAKE PICTURES. Take a picture of every step in dismantling something, whether it’s a lamp or you’re getting ready to reupholster a chair! That’s saved or reassured me so many times to have that picture of what a particular project had going originally. Besides, it’s nice to have a “before” photo once you’ve completed your transformation or upgrade.

    I’d like that voltage tester! I haven’t tackled a project or two yet because I don’t have one. Thanks again!

    1. You’re so right Molly about taking pictures. I’ve had to look at the pictures to figure out what the heck went wrong. Not so fun but at least the pic helped me get back on track.

      Emery cloth is a good thing to get for our tool box. You can use it to lightly sand down pretty much anything. It’s perfect for removing oxidation on wires 😀

  15. Anne Sawyer says:

    I think I can do this!!!! You make it look so easy! And I love those Adorn switches!

    1. You can totally do this Anne.

      I’m no electrical genius. So if I think this is easy then it must be 😀

  16. Crystal says:

    I definitely have some switches that need to be replaced. My husband is a truck driver, so I have had to learn to do some things on my own. Now, I can change the switches out myself. Thanks Jeff!

    1. Glad you feel confident to do this yourself Crystal. You can most definitely get this done on your own 😀

  17. michael sklar says:

    installing 3 GFCI in kitchen, even those downstream from one – mostly not necessary.

    1. I know what you mean but it’s still nice to see the GFCIs. That might be a nice tutorial to explain to our community 😀

  18. Squafdonoboles says:

    Too late! I installed three Adorne Paddle Switches in my home a few months ago. It was quick and easy, and I highly recommend them.

    1. Way cool!! Sounds like your installation went smoothly 😀

  19. karen says:

    Hi Jeff, thanks for the update. I have installed a few replacement switches in my home. I like the broad ones that have a light inside the switch that are connected to my outside lights. This way, I can tell if I have left the outside lights on. Thanks also for the info re: the switch possibly being live even if the light is not. I never knew that! Ouch! Someone told me once that it was possible to wire a switch or plug in reverse and it would still work, but that it was bad to do that. Is that really true and if so, how do you know if your switch or plug is wired correctly?

    1. Switches with lights are cool. We have them in our master bathroom and they are great for late night visits.

      I wouldn’t wire the switch in reverse. The hot (typically black or red wire) goes with brass screws or screws labeled hot (like in this tutorial) and neutral (typically white wire) goes with silver screws or screws labeled as neutral. But always follow the directions for any switch and if you’re not sure, call the technical support line.

      In my experience, most companies have great tech support.

  20. Sanders says:

    Thanks. I always use No. 12 wire in any circuit I install — it’s harder to manipulate in the box, but is safer. Also, I avoid aluminum wire like the plague. I want to rewire at least part of my 93 year old house (my wife doesn’t think it’s such a good idea!). My sister and I rewired our mother’s house after Hurricane Hugo put over 5 feet of salt water in it. It was easy, though, as all of the walls and ceilings were torn out at the time. Yes, we made a chart of all of the circuits, to which we have referred many times. We drew each room and noted which breaker controls each of the outlets or fixtures.

    Watch the Harbor Freight ads. They frequently have coupons for a free simple volt-ohm meter. The non contact voltage tester would be a valuable addition to anyone’s tool box.

    Thanks again for your postings.

    1. Thanks Sanders and sorry to hear about your Mom’s home.

      We have sections of Pittsburgh that flood every year and I always feel bad for the homeowners. Flooding is so frustrating.

      Aluminum wire is very tricky. If you want to replace it and know how to do it then it might be a great idea 😀

  21. Sharon V says:

    I have just started to repaint my entire 1st floor and am changing the trim from cream to white, so now all my ivory switches will look off with the new white trim, so ALL my switches need to be replaced. Will definitely check out the Adorne paddle switches!

    1. Ahh yes, this is one of those projects that leads to another project.

      I’ve done that before Sharon.

      Adorne could be a good option for you 😀

  22. Vicki Hildebrand says:

    I need to check all outlets, switches and anything else in my house to find out why my house goes through so many light bulbs and I have so many “dim outs”. I’m disabled and have no one to do this for me and cannot afford to get someone to help so I’m willing to do everything I can to keep my house from burning down. Once I get that done, I would love to use the new light switches you described in this article. Thanks for the advice.

    1. Your switches might be the issue Vicki but also make sure your wiring is in good shape. It might not be a bad idea to call in an electrician to inspect your panel. The last time I had a panel issue it was pretty dangerous.

  23. Mark says:

    Jeff – I learned the hard way about the importance of taking a picture of the old wiring. After replacing a 3 way switch, I learned the hard way. I appreciate the great advice you offer.

    1. Yah mark, 3 way switches are sometimes a real pain. Pictures are so valuable with these little guys 😀

  24. Don says:

    I had a setup of switches like that where a light over an open stairway could be turned on or off by a switch at the top of the stairs, the bottom of the stairs, or halfway between which was the main level of the dwelling. Apparently at some time someone tried to “fix” it and the result was that it was now a “one-way” switch or maybe a “three-way” switch depending on the functional position of the other switches. Without knowing the details of how the system was wired I tried to sit at my desk and figure out how to correct the operation. Good idea – but bad execution!!!!! My fix did not put the lights operation back to “normal.” An additional problem facing me was that the switch terminals were not labeled so eventually I had to disconnect each and check continuity to determine which switch terminal corresponded to which switch function. I assumed that since a “dummy” had modified it, I could not even trust the coding of black vs. white wires. So I tried all combination of all switches and plotted the switch operation and where the power was on. Running up and down all the steps many times about did in this 80 year old but if I had a helper to do part of the stair climbing and calling out the power functions it would have saved a lot of work. I went back to my desk and again analyzed it to figure out what wiring changes needed to be made. When I went back to implement my changes, this time it worked. Were there any shortcuts I missed? (Other then having a young helper?)

  25. Don says:

    I forgot to mention is that my non-contact voltage detector does not solve all my problems. For instance if I have a switch box that has 3 wires running into it, the three wires are within about an inch or 2 apart. When I poke my tester into the vicinity it indicates power independently of which wire I am trying to test. In other words if one of the wires has no voltage and I try to put my tester in the vicinity of that wire the tester is also close enough to one of the other wires that has power so it lights. Using an actual meter is the only way I can be sure of the hot wire. I have used a neon type tester but in bright light, it is sometimes hard to read. I also miss the old steel boxes connected back to “ground” by the metal conduit so i can be sure of what is “ground.”

  26. John S. says:

    I’m going to be installing a new thermostat before long…

    –J

  27. Adrianne Hurtig says:

    This looks simple enough – I’m thinking that I may actually be able to do this! Once again, you are amazing!! Thank you!!

  28. Michelle says:

    I don’t have any tips….I’m new to this kind of stuff! BUT I’ve replaced a couple of light fixtures and followed your advice to take pictures of the old wiring before taking it out and it was the best thing I did b/c I had to refer back to the pics a few times while putting the new fixtures in. Thanks for all your videos and tips! They’re super helpful for newbies like me.

  29. Mary O. says:

    I have a simple pull chain light fixture in my pantry. The chain broke off and I need to replace the fixture. I had a socket extender with a chain and a place for a bulb that I used in the broken fixture (which fortunately was broken in the on position), but I really need to fix it properly. I also have two old front porch lights that are falling apart and I am thinking of replacing them with LED lantern fixtures that are all in one, fixture and permanent LED lights.

  30. Debra says:

    I am a widow, so I had to learn to do stuff myself (besides the satisfaction in the job!) and I have been adding to my tools along the way. The no contact voltage tester I hadn’t heard of.Very interested in this- must check out- my late husband was a electrical engineer- would be thrilled! I sometimes surprise myself with the projects I’ve taken on and completed! Love your tutorials! Knowledge is power! Thanks!

  31. B.Looney says:

    Jeff, I learned at a young age to always use a flash light when messing with electrical stuff in dimly lit areas. Our hot water heater was in the shed behind the house and it had a tendacy to pop the safety breaker on the tank. One night I trotted out to the shed to reset the breaker and decided the moonlight provided more then enough light to see in the dark shed. Well I soon realized I was wrong. I opened the breaker box on the tank, stuck my finger inside to reset it and BAM, got zapped instantly because I stuck my finger in the wrong opening and touched the live wire. Talk about a jolting shock. It didn’t help matters that I had no shoes on and was standing on a damp floor. Ugh, never again always, have a flashlight and verify before you start putting your fingers near live wires.

  32. Joe Shepherd says:

    Jeff,

    Here”s another safety tip when doing any electrical project: remove any rings, jewelery or watches before starting. You’d be surprised how much the metal likes electricity.

  33. Dave says:

    Make shure battieres are good. Have old style tester batteries were bad & I became the tester

  34. Andy says:

    I have also learned the hard way the need to turn off the breaker and make sure that I got the right one. I now make sure the electricity is off to avoid an unexpected jolt. I really like the Adorne switch with it’s new look and the fact that the ground wire is attached to the plate and not directly into the switch. I enjoy your comments on jobs that many of us can do but do not always feel confident to start.

  35. replacing a ceiling fan with one that has a light…that tester sounds like a good thing to have

  36. Mike Keller says:

    Jeff,
    Great tip about using the non-contact volt tester… looks pretty simple to use… I shocked myself, like you did, when I thought just turning the breaker off was enough.
    A tip I use, or if you don’t have a volt tester, because I assume there is no current, and to avoid being injured by electricity is to do the work with one hand, and in the case there is a live wire you may touch. If you do get shocked, it is just a little zap, and not too painful, but won’t travel through your body/heart to other hand, if your other hand is grounded.
    I have not ended up in a hospital yet….
    Thanks,
    Mike

  37. Linda P says:

    What great timing for your electrical tips! I have a stack of 5 new LED ceiling lights I will be installing to save energy, reduce heat, and get rid of nearly 30 year old builders grade lighting. I sure could use the voltage tester so I don’t end up with curly hair!

  38. Carol Best says:

    If by chance you dont feel comfortable doing electrical repairs…hire someone with knowledge to help you out….Great..topics..very informative….thank you….

  39. Terry says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I am a new subscriber, and as a woman, am excited (with your help) to start doing all the handyMAN things I always wanted to try doing. My husband and I are musicians. And he has to watch how he uses his hands in regards to mechanical type things. So Ive sort of taken over fixing some thing’s around the house, and I’m going to soon, begin replacing my light switches with the ones shown here…. After my current project, which is to install the Remote control for my bedroom ceiling fan which supposedly just installs into your existing ceiling fan so that I don’t have to get completely awakened by getting up and reaching for the switch to change the speed. Also my husband has recently had stage 4 throat cancer so all the things I can do around the house means less worry and responsibility for him.
    Great job on explaining things for us beginner handy”men”types

  40. Nice video Jeff.
    I can do just about anything around the house or work shed. But electricity I stay at very easily done projects. Just do not like the jolts. Had blue sparks running up an down my arms one time when a friend had a drill with a taped cord. We were installing chimney liner (stainless steel ) and I forgot my drill. He had a corded one that had a lamp cord taped on it. Standing in a small pool of water was not good either. My hand froze to the drill and could not drop it. My friend slapped the drill our of my hand… Went home and got my drill, never use his tools again. LOL You could say it was a shocking experience.

    Nice video
    Regards
    Richard Faller

  41. Len says:

    Hey Jeff, great video.
    Tip: Some homes built in the late 60s to the late 70s, used aluminum wiring. I ran into this with my mother-in-law’s house. If you have this, be sure that any switch or receptacle you use is rated “CO/ALR” The problem is that aluminum has a different thermal expansion than than the terminals and over time they can loosen and possibly arc (think fire!). The devices rated CO/ALR use screw terminals that have deep undercuts and are designed to act as a similar metal to aluminum and to expand at a similar rate. CO/ALR applies only to standard light switches and receptacles; CU/AL is the standard marking for circuit breakers and larger equipment.
    And connecting copper wire to aluminum wire is another issue because of potential corrosion. There are special twist-on connectors that have been designed for the purpose of joining aluminum to copper wire, which use a special antioxidant paste to prevent corrosion of the connection. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) considers these to be a temporary repair. The CPSC recommends that, for a permanent repair, pigtailing be done with special crimp connectors called COPALUM, or a special miniature lug-type connectors called AlumiConn connectors. Any repairs should be done by a qualified electrician familiar with aluminum wire problems and repair methods.

  42. Mike Thoma says:

    I need to work on getting new motion control lights on my outside house. The problem I have is getting these top heavy lights properly mounted so that they stay upright and don’t swivel under high winds.

  43. Linda S says:

    Thanks Jeff. It’s time to downsize so I’m starting to get my home ready for sale. Those Adorn paddle switches look nice and would upgrade some of the switches in the house. The safety tips are much appreciated. I successfully replaced a light fixture once, but I’ve never replaced any switches. This video came at a great time.

  44. Bee Bee says:

    Hi Jeff, was wondering if you could do a tutorial on how to wire a tandem light switch (not sure if this is what you call it). The light switch to my garage is inside the house. Every time when I’m in the garage and want to turn on or off the lights, I have to open the door to the house to access the switch. For a long time I’ve been wanting to do a switch inside the garage so I don’t have to keep opening and closing the door to turn on or off the lights. Problem is I’ve never done it before. I would really love to see a tutorial for it. BTW, thank you for the videos you make. They are interesting, helpful and easy to follow.

  45. Hey Jeff,
    Nice project and very good list of tools. Since you will cutting off power to a light switch I suggest that you get a good light source to ” shine ” on work site and a flashlight to look around the the hole – never know what you will find. If you use a metal ” hooded ” light, take care not to bump it as it may be hot. If you use the new CFL ones in your light you will have less heat. Best to all, Nick

  46. Debbie C. says:

    Love your tips. Im inspired to change my old switches to something more modern for my mid century ranch. thanks!!

  47. Patti White says:

    It may seem a little OCD, but my next electrical project is to switch switches in my new house so they are consistent. I HATE that you go in one bathroom and the first switch by the door is the light and the other is the fan, then you go into another bathroom and the first switch is the fan and other is the light. I’d just like to have the switches consistent throughout the house!

  48. Jaime says:

    Thank you so much! I actually was planning on putting in a new switch in my home office. Thanks for the tips!

  49. Craig Mingay says:

    Great tips. Thank you!

  50. Rachel says:

    I love the voltage tester and totally need one! About to replace all of the hard-wired smoke detectors in our house and I don’t want to get shocked!

  51. Ralph C says:

    Jeff, another trick for identifying the breaker that controls a switch or outlet; after making the identification using a radio etc, use a permanent market to write the breaker number on the inside of the cover plate. The next time you need to work on that switch/outlet, remove the cover plate, and the correct breaker # is there and you can quickly turn off the correct breaker. Of course, be sure to double check it with the non contact voltage tester just to be sure. This can save several trips to the panel.

  52. Nora says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for this info. I have been asking my sons for a long time now to change out my switches without any response. Now I’m sure that I can safely do this myself. Will let you know how things go.

  53. Angel says:

    Hey Jeff thanks for posting this electrical switch video and especially for choosing a Legrand item which just happens to be a company whose products I’ve been researching because they make some awesome products. As a semi-new home owner I’ve been learning how to maintain and repair many areas in my home including pool maintenance but electrical I’ve been apprehensive about and seeing this video has given me some bravado in tackling this. My wife has seen light switches that have illumination when they are off and I believe they are also Legrand and I’ve learned and practice the ever important slogan “happy wife, happy wife”

  54. Donna Richey says:

    Why do I need a voltage tester? Well simply because I bought an old house that needs 15 outlets and 7 switches replaced, not to mention the lights that are so old they have ceramic bases and practically are falling off the walls. But mostly because I don’t really want an instant perm!

  55. Hank Wolgast says:

    Jeff, you must be reading my mind or else how would you know what my next home repair-upgrade would be. This is something that has needed to be addressed for quite some time and I am going to install some ground fault receptacles too. The electrical tester would sure come in handy for this upgrade. Thanks for all the self help videos. I have used many of them already.

  56. Laurie Forbes says:

    Thanks SO much Jeff for all the new tutorials and tips every week! Being a complete newbie to most of these kinds of projects, your videos help a great deal. 🙂
    Would love to win the voltage tester (didn’t even know what one was…lol), as I need to replace some unsightly light switches (incl a 3-way!), by myself, and am a firm believer in safety first.
    Thanks again!

  57. Mike says:

    i actually got a little bite to myself by thinking that turn off the switch was enough. So this would come in handy as I have a three way switch that works at one in but not properly at the other end. BTW can you show me a diagram of how to wire the end without the dimmer on a three way switch. Love your tutorials, great job and I know this provides a great service to many.

  58. Jim B says:

    As always, great tips!
    JB

  59. Alan says:

    It can be confusing to remember which wire goes on what color terminal when wiring a switch or an outlet, so I use this little adage to remind me.
    It goes like this:
    “White Bright, Black Brass, Green Ground” That way I always get the polarization correct.

  60. Jim says:

    Thanks for the video/tips, Jeff. I recently installed all new switches, outlets, and GFI outlets in my kitchen. 2 good tips – 1. Whenever working with the electrical panel, put tape over the switch that you turn off, and/or tape a note on the front door of the panel that says “DO NOT TOUCH,” so nobody in your house turns the switch back on while you’re working. 2. When installing GFI outlets in metal boxes, tape around the outside of the outlet with electrical tape to cover the screws. If the metal screws come in contact with the metal box, it will blow the outlet (loud pop, sparks, smoke, etc.). It happened to me. Luckily nobody was hurt. 🙂

  61. Irene Foss says:

    I love the idea of a motion sensor switch to turn on the light in the garage. I sure would like to see a video of how to install a sensor switch.
    By the way, Jeff, I am 78 years old. So your Mom is a young chick.

  62. I’m so glad you had such great timing in putting out this video. I have to replace dimmer switches in two rooms that are inappropriate to the job. So glad you showed tips and a cool new switch!

    1. My little tip that I learned when I was constantly getting zapped by repeaters in phone pedestals is to wear either leather or rubber gloves when working with electricity. Cuts down on the connectivity to skin.

      1. Great tip Christi, anything that lessens the odds of getting shocked is worth a ton.

        There’s nothing worse than a zap up the arm, ouch!!

    2. Thanks Christi, keep me posted on your project and send me some pictures. I’d love to see how your room looks like with the new switches 😀

  63. Lori B says:

    Where do I begin? As a first time homeowner, I want to give my home my own touch and make it different from all the other houses on the block. I want to replace my outdoor lights so they are not the same as everyone else has. I also want to replace the pendant light in my dining room and the light in my bedroom. I would also really like to have some motion sensor lights outside and a motion sensor light in the garage would be wonderful. Yes, I have a lot on my “honey do” list, but I guess it is okay, since I’m the one that has to do it! I don’t have any tips because I’m still learning! 🙂

    1. Well congrats Lori on being a first time homeowner!!!

      I give you a lot of credit for wanting to customize your home and do it yourself. It’s that kind of industriousness that creates great things.

      You can certainly do the motion sensor lights.

      Check out this switch tutorial (it’s one of my first ones and is a bit tedious but shows you how easy it can be)

      http://hrtllc.wpengine.com/maestro-motion-sensor-light-switch/

      Last fall I had to replace our outdoor lights and made this tutorial

      http://hrtllc.wpengine.com/installing-outdoor-landscape-lighting/

      Kudos to you for learning and doing at the same time 😀

  64. John says:

    Jeff, what with all the people here telling you how wonderful your advice is, you ought to be able to handle a little criticism.

    To start with, the white wire in this case is not a Neutral wire. In fact in a switch configuration like this one, the white wire is more likely than not the HOT wire.

    This is because this is what it called a “Two Wire” switch configuration, in which the power goes to the lighting outlet first and then is sent to the switch location to control the light. So there is no Neutral wire at that switch box. The electrician who wired that switch was supposed to have re-identified the white wire with black, or some other color, but many didn’t as until recently the rule wasn’t really enforced by inspectors.

    As you might have guessed I am an electrician, and while I have no issue with you or anybody else providing tips and helpful advice so that people can do minor jobs themselves and save a few bucks, it does bother me when the information given out isn’t correct. When people get information that isn’t right, or they get incorrect terms for things, when they start doing projects armed with that information, they can make mistakes, mistakes than can be costly.

    Please, either learn a little more yourself, or ask an experienced electrician to proof your posts before unleashing them on a public that trusts you.

  65. I really need to fix up some of the electrical grounders and sockets in our house. I am not necessarily an electrician, but I have a general idea of how to repair things. Your article did re-enforce what I know and added onto it so now I feel like I can get the job done!

    1. That’s awesome Bill. We’re excited that you got inspired from the tutorial. Let us know if you have any questions 😀

  66. Thanks for the tips! My light switches stopped working, so having these instructions will help me to finally replace them. Using a tester seems like an important tip to make sure that I don’t get shocked. I would have also thought that the switch isn’t live if the power was turned off. It’s a good thing that you weren’t badly hurt when you were shocked by unknowingly trying to replace a live switch. I won’t make that same mistake, so using a voltage tester will help prevent me from getting a nice electric shock from running through my body.

    1. Yah, better safe than sorry Deanna!!

  67. SteveSS says:

    UGH! All of these success stories are killing me. I’m not unfamiliar with small electrical projects, by no means a master of them either. I recently had my kitchen remodeled, after all was done, I wanted a different look for the switches and outlets. My issue really isn’t about how to wire the units, but attaching the wires to the units. Right now (day 2) I’m trying to wire a 4 gang switch, all are three way and one with a dimmer. The major problem I am having is the wires coming from the wall are too short. Therefore I have no room to work and once I do get a wire (12gage) into the terminal and I tighten the hell out of it, the wires just pull out. Even when I do have a wire fully inserted, I tighten it with all my might, only to have it pullout. I’m at my wits end, I probably have about $400 tied up in switches, outlets, dimmers, night lights, GFCI’s, in fact I purposefully tried to buy several of each type. I get so angered when I watch the Legrand Adorne installation video, the person is standing at an outlet with a unit in their hand with like 2ft of wire and nonchalantly re-wiring it. Sorry guys and gals, everyone is talking great things about this product, meanwhile I’m ready to slit my wrist. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

    1. That stinks Steve, sorry to hear you’re having such a problem. Did you pigtail the short wires to longer ones? Maybe that might help if you have enough room in the box.

      1. SteveSS says:

        Hey Jeff, that’s exactly what I’m doing in about 5 minutes. plus I have to tackle this 3-Pole problem I’m having trying to install a dimmer on one of the switches. Wish me luck! Thanks for the suggestion Jeff.

  68. Steve Pittman says:

    Hi Jeff. I was wiring a trailor with lights and ran it to a light switch. Ran that to a outlet that I run power to. The problem I’m having is when I turn on the light switch it go out. If I turn it on it tips the breaker from the fuse box. The lights work if the switch is off. What is my problem and how do I fix it?

  69. I appreciate the five tips you offered for removing a light switch. I definitely didn’t know most of them, especially rubbing the copper wires with emery cloth. I’m not much of a handy man when it comes to electrical situations in our home. If we ever have any problems, I’ll need to hire someone. However, I’d like to learn. Thanks for the help!

  70. I never knew that you could rub wires with emery cloth. I’m not very handy myself so I will probably call a professional to change some of the wiring in my house. Along with light switches, I also need to change the wires in my electric door. Thanks for the tips.

  71. Julie s. says:

    Working on teplacing a 60 yr old light switch. Currently has 2 wires that are attached on on the top right and top left. New switch does not work attached this way. I am thinking both wires should be on the right like the other switches in the house.

  72. tricia says:

    Love the video- thank you for taking the time to create it, and your explanations are wonderful!! I saw the Adorn products a few hours ago at Menards, loved the look, and wondered if it was a diy project I could tackle.. I will watch your excellent video a few more times, get the right tools, then give it a try!

  73. Frank Lampard says:

    Love your informative article blog. I read your article very attentively which are useful and informative. Wire light switch is an essential factor for everyone. I always try to know about wire light switch. Thanks for your lovely sharing this post.

  74. Jerome Edinger says:

    I am struggling to fix my long strings of Christmas lights. It would be great to have a non contact voltmeter to determine where the circuit is open without having to take out each bulb one at a time. My first attempt didn’t work so apparently there are two bad bulbs so I get to start all over again.

    1. That’s super frustrating Jerome, been there.

  75. Al Pellletier says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I am slowly but surely gaining DIY skills as there is always something to do around the house….used to watch my parents and help out. This past year I have filled and sealed driveway asphalt cracks and sealed the driveway; waterproofed my basement walls and painted; repaired concrete garage and painted externally and internally (looks great), repaired concrete and painted concrete and wood in bulkhead; repaired the my front steps that are brick (a job that was more than I bargained for (mortar repair): not perfect but looking so much better and now safe;
    working on my secondary toilet that was leaking: of course it is a Kohler and standard parts do not work (& yes discontinued parts, but replacement kit is thankfully available). I was always afraid of electricity, started with learning how to change pushbutton doorbell by watching my uncle as a young girl then changing the next myself, that was easy.
    I am going to change a light switch in a home that was built pre 1940.
    I know some wiring was changed as some rooms updated, but some are still the cloth covered wiring so I know there won’t be any colored wiring indicating “hot” wire nor grounding wire. I have changed an electrical outlet and a switch with my mother years ago, and we did not use a low voltage tester. Yikes, now I am scared. I had started by shutting the power and checking the switch to find indeed the wiring is cloth covered. Put it back, and now checking on line with you. I am afraid of mixing up the wiring, what could happen if I do? Hoping to win the voltage tester. 🙂

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