How To: Change a Light Switch

Pin it button big

There are plenty of reasons to change out a lightswitch, from aesthetics to function, and it's a good general skill to have if, well, you live in a home with light switches. The best thing is it's surprisingly easy to do, even for someone with little (or no) electrical experience, and can be done in less than 10 minutes. Click below the jump to see our photo-illustrated how-to.

These directions are for a single switch that controls one or a set of lights. If you're working with a three-way switch (where two switches control the same light) these will not apply.

Tools needed: Screwdriver, new light switch

Step One: Turn off the breaker or fuse to the switch in question. If you're not sure which breaker controls the switch, turn off the main to be safe.

Step Two: Remove the plate cover

Pin it button big

Step Three: Unscrew the switch from the box.

Pin it button big

Step Four: Pull out the switch and assess the situation. It should have two coated wires coming from it. If your switch is grounded, it will have a third wire, this ground wire is usually an uncoated copper wire.

Pin it button big

Step Five: Remove the old switch from the wires. Depending on the type of switch the wires will be connected differently. Pay attention to how they're connected as you'll most likely want to connect the new wires the same way.

Step Six: If you have a ground wire, connect it to the new switch - it connects to the green screw at the bottom of the switch

Pin it button big

Step Seven: Connect the wires to the switch. In a standard one way switch, the order of the wires doesn't matter. The wires will either connect by being pushed into two holes in the back of the switch, or being side mounted to the copper screws on the side of the switch. Make sure the connection is solid.

Pin it button big

Step Eight: Screw the new switch into the box. If you're in an older house, the electrical box may be made of out metal. If this is the case, be very careful that no exposed wires (with the exception of the ground) are touching the metal box. Make sure it's right way up - when it's flipped down it will say "OFF" if it's the right way or "NO" if it's upside down.

Pin it button big

Step Nine: Put the plate cover on

Pin it button big

Step Ten: Turn the power back on and test your new switch. If it doesn't work, chances are you didn't make a good connection with one of the wires, go back to Step One and start again.

Enjoy your new switch!