How to Replace a Light Switch

I am going to show you step by step with pictures how to replace an old light switch with a new one.

In my case my switch was a combo outlet light switch. I do not need or want the outlet so I am going to just put a new switch in with no outlet. The switch turns on outside lights on the back of my house, so I need the switch but in the 8 years I have been in my home I have never used this outlet.

Skill – Intermediate

Time – 15 Minutes

Cost – $2 to $20 (Depends on the type of switch and plate cover you pick)

Tools and Materials

Light Switch

Switch Plate Cover

Stripping Pliers

Wire Nut

Electrical Tester

4 in 1 Screwdriver

  1. Turn Off Power

Breaker in off position

Turn off the power at the breaker box. Then test to see if there is power at the switch by turning it on.

  1. Take Off Switch Plate Cover

Switch Plate Cover

Unscrew and remove the switch plate cover

  1. Unscrew the Switch

Remove Combo Switch Screws

Unscrew and carefully pull the switch out of the box.

  1. Test to make sure power is Off

Test for Power

Using the electrical tester make sure there is no power. Check all wire to be safe. Also make a note or tape the hot wire.

  1. Remove Old Switch

You can do this by cutting each of the wires close to the switch, make sure to leave enough wire to attach the new switch. You could also unscrew each of the connections to remove the switch.

Mine had a couple extra wires because of the outlet so I just cut them off. If you are just replacing a switch you won’t have to worry about this.

  1. Strip Wires

Strip Wires

If you cut the wires to remove the old switch like I did you will need to strip off the plastic sleeve on the wires. You can use your wire strippers to take off about 1/2 inch so that the copper shows.

  1. Bend Wires into a Hook

Bend Wire into a Hook

Use the hole in the wire strippers to bend the wire into a hook.

  1. Connect the Ground Wire to Switch

Ground Screw

My house was built in the early 50’s and our light switches do not have a ground wire to connect. If you have a ground wire connect it to the green screw on the light switch.

  1. Connect the White Wires Together

Connect White Wires

You may not need to do this if you are just replacing a light switch. I had the outlet to remove so I need to reconnect the White/Neutral wires. If needed you can do this by using a wire nut.

  1. Connect the Black Wires to Switch

Connect Black Wires

The Hot Wire will go to the bottom Brass screw the black wire leading to the light fixture will go on the top Brass screw.

NOTE: Top and bottom of the light switch is determined by looking at the front of the switch and reading the words ON and OFF. Just make sure they are not upside down.

  1. Attach the New Switch to the Box

New Light Switch

Screw the new switch into the box.

  1. Attach the New Switch Plate Cover

New Light Switch and Cover

Screw in the new plate cover.

That’s it, 12 easy steps to install a new light switch.

Check out my article “How to Replace an Outlet”.

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