DIY project: installing a dimmer switch
While we’re happy to install new light switches and dimmers, we typically aren’t asked to do those things unless they’re part of another project. That’s because it’s actually pretty easy to do yourself if you’re so inclined. (Yes, we’ll admit that you don’t need a professional for everything electrical!)
So we’re going to start an occasional series where we give you a few tips on DIY projects that can make a big difference around the house with just a small amount of time and money. And what better place to start than that classic standby—the dimmer switch!
Set the mood
A dimmer switch is a fantastic way to add flexibility to your home. For example, maybe you feel like you’re always eating dinner under a spotlight, or you just want a little more romantic ambiance. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn the lights down low?
Dimmers also can be useful in the living room or family room for keeping a bit of overhead light while watching TV and movies—or maybe setting a romantic mood just like in the dining room. (You can’t have too much romance, right?)
What you’ll need
To install a dimmer switch, you don’t need much: You need the switch, of course, as well as a switch plate that matches. You also will need a couple of screwdrivers, one flat-head and one Phillips. We highly recommend a voltage tester and some needle-nose pliers. Finally, make sure you have light bulbs in your fixture that are dimmable! (Not all of them are; the packaging should tell you either way.)
First, turn off the power to the light at the breaker or fuse box. Flip the switch to ensure the light doesn’t come on, and after you’ve removed the switch plate, double-check the wires using the voltage tester. If everything is off, use one of your screwdrivers to disconnect the switch from the box.
Disconnect the wires
Now that you’ve unscrewed the switch, now it’s time to detach the wires, which are held in by screws on the side. It’s a good idea to take a picture with your phone first, because you’ll want to remember where they are attached. It’s also a good idea to have your needle-nose pliers handy for this step—that box is a pretty small space. When you’re ready, loosen the screws and remove the wires (the grounding wire should be last if it’s a grounded switch).
Put in your new switch
To connect the dimmer switch, attach the wires in the same places they were attached to your old switch. There should be a black wire, a white wire, and a ground wire that could be either green or bare copper. Make sure each wire is held securely under the screw.
You’re almost done—just tuck the wires behind the switch, screw it back into the box, and add the switch plate. Then, go turn the breaker on and test your new dimmer. If you’ve followed all the steps here, you should be in good shape. Nice work!
Have a bigger job?
There are plenty of electrical jobs you shouldn’t try to tackle yourself—and that’s where we come in. When your project needs professional help, get in touch at (206) 434-6915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just fill out our webform here!