5 easy steps to updating your light switches

It seems like everyone is looking for ways to make their home just a little bit more up to date, but it can seem like a daunting task to tackle large projects – not to mention the cost associated with them.  Fortunately, there are a lot of little things that you can do to bring your home into a more modern time.

For example, updating your light switches from the old style to the new, more modern Decora switches is a simple task that can be undertaken by almost anyone, even those who have never tackled electrical renovations. It’s also an inexpensive way to improve the look of your home if you’re planning on putting it on the market!

1.  First and most important!  Turn off the circuit breaker in your electrical panel before doing any electrical work. The easiest way to do this is to turn on the light switch you are going to replace, then turn off the corresponding breaker in the panel. If the light goes off, then the panel is labelled correctly and you’re on your way. If not, then you may have to do some trial and error before finding the right breaker.

2.  Once the power is off to the switch, simply unscrew the faceplate, then unscrew the two screws above and below the switch that are holding it in place, and pull out the whole switch.

3.  Now you’re looking at white, black (sometimes red) and bare copper wires.  The diagrams below show two options: 1. The power comes into the switch first, then goes to the light. 2. The power comes into the light first, then the switch. Compare your switch to these two diagrams to see which one to follow.

Take your new switch and compare it to the old one. Even though the front looks different, the switches are wired similarly. You can move the wires one at a time from the old to the new switch; this will help to ensure that you don’t get confused by having loose wires hanging out.

light switch wiring diagramlight switch wiring diagram

NOTE: If you’re changing a 3-way switch, there will be a black AND a red wire.  Pay close attention to where you’re removing them from the old switch so that you don’t get them mixed up on the new switch. (Also make sure that you're new switch is designed to be a 3 way switch.)

4.  Once you’ve reconnected the wires on your new switch, simply screw it back into place with the top and bottom screws. You can throw away the old faceplate as it won’t fit your Decora switch.  Put the matching Decora faceplate on and voila! your new switch is ready to go.

5.  Go back to your electrical panel and turn the breaker back on and you’re done!

Congratulations!  You’ve just taken a simple step to modernizing your home by improving the look. Now you can sit back and enjoy your newly modernized home...or now that you’ve updated one switch, you can get started on the rest of the switches in the house!

Copyright © Fortified Home Inspections Ltd. 2016

Articles