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8 Easy Steps to Install a Dimmer Switch

8 Easy Steps to Install a Dimmer Switch

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May 6, 2010

Tired of the unromantic glare of that overhead light? Remedy the situation with a dimmer switch that is sure to make your evenings a bit more interesting. Installing a dimmer switch is easier than you might think.

How to Install a Dimmer Switch

  1. Start by turning off the power. Though this might seem like an obvious step, it is important enough to deserve a reminder! Have a voltage tester with you to check for a live circuit throughout the process, just in case something was wired incorrectly along the way.
  2. Remove the existing faceplate and the switch itself. Do this carefully, as the electrical wiring might have become brittle with age. Disconnect the wires from the switch. Now is a good time to use that voltage tester and make sure everything is safe.
  3. Cut the wire off right below the line of the insulation. Then use wire strippers to remove 3/8 of an inch of insulation and expose new wire.
  4. Most dimmer switches are pre-wired. Take one of the wires from the wall and hold it side-by-side to one of the wires from the dimmer switch. Twist the exposed areas of the wires together with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Then, tighten a wire nut over the connection.
  5. Wrap the area where the wire nut meets the insulation with a small bit of electrical tape. Two or three inches wrapped around it should be sufficient. This prevents the wires from moving or the nut from coming loose.
  6. Place the wires back into the box by moving them in an accordion shape. Some dimmer switches are larger than regular switches, so fitting into the same box can be the most frustrating part of the job. Be patient and don't force the wires! It might take some time to work everything in to where it should be.
  7. Screw in the dimmer switch and the faceplate. Make certain you have it in the right way, and that it is in the "off" position.
  8. Turn on the power and slowly turn up the switch. Instant romantic light!

Installing a dimmer switch is one of those jobs you can handle on your own most of the time. But if there are more wires than you expected to see in the box, or if your voltage tester tells you the wires are live when you know you have turned the power off, it's time to call a professional electrician to find the source of the problem.

About the author: Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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