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Installing a Dimmer Switch

Installing Dimmer Switch
 

Installing a dimmer switch is one of the easiest ways to transform a room. This single addition upgrades room lighting from two moods—on and off—to a range of subtle variations. Most dimmers are designed to fit a standard wall box opening, which makes it easy to replace the switch for any incandescent or halogen light with a dimmer.

 

Dimmers come in two basic wiring configurations: standard single-pole dimmers and three-way dimmers. With a standard single pole dimmer, a single switch controls a light. With a three-way dimmer, you can control a light with two switches. You’ll need one three-way dimmer and one three-way switch. This lets you dim from one location and turn the lights on and off from another.

 

While working with wiring may feel intimidating, installing a dimmer switch is a project many homeowners familiar with a few common tools can easily do themselves. But before beginning any project, review the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions carefully. If any doubts remain, consult an electrician.


 

Preparation

 

• Determine the number of switches that control the light fixture. If only one switch controls the light, purchase
  a single pole dimmer. If two switches control a single light or a group of lights, you will need a three-way
  dimmer.
• Cut the power to the switch at your circuit breaker box or fuse box.

 

Safety 

 

• Ordinary dimmer switches are not intended for use with most fluorescent lights. Only used CFLs labeled as
  "dimmable."
• Do not use an ordinary dimmer switch with a ceiling fan. The current fluctuations can burn out the motor.
• If there isn’t enough room in the wall box to easily accommodate the new dimmer and wiring, install a bigger
  box.

 

Savings

 

• Save energy and extend bulb life by replacing a standard switch with a dimmer.
• A dimmer on a frequently used light at a lower light setting can provide enough energy savings to pay for itself
  over time.
• Install the dimmer yourself and save money.


WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS JOB:

TOOLS:

MATERIALS:


 

Step 1: Turn Off the Power

Step 1: Turn Off the Power 1. Turn off the power to your switch at the breaker.

2. Confirm power is off by flipping the switch on and off.
  

Step 2: Remove the Old Switch

Step 2: Remove the Old Switch 1. Remove your existing wall plate and the screws mounting the switch to the wall box.

2. Carefully pull the switch away from the wall. If you see a bundle of white wires in the
    back of the wall box, you can leave them in place. You won’t be using them.

3. Be careful not to touch any of the wires until you’ve confirmed they aren’t carrying
    electrical current. Test the circuit with a known working voltage tester, to ensure
    power isn’t reaching the circuit. If the tester detects voltage, switch off the
    appropriate circuit breaker or remove the appropriate fuse and test the circuit
    again.

4. If you’re replacing a three-way switch, one wire will be connected to a screw that is
    colored differently or labeled “COMMON.” Note that this is different from the wire
    connected to the green screw, which is the ground wire. Tag the common wire with
    a piece of electrical tape to identify it when wiring the new dimmer.

5. Disconnect all wires from the old switch. If you’re replacing an existing dimmer,
    you’ll need to unscrew the wire nuts around the switch wires and house wires.
  

Step 3: Connect the New Dimmer Switch

Step 3:Connect the New Dimmer Switch

Standard Single Pole Dimmer

 

1. If the house wires are bent, use a wire stripper to cut off the twisted ends. Remove
    ¾” of insulation from the end of the house wires and the dimmer switch wires,
    if needed.

2. Connect the ground wire from your dimmer to a green or bare copper wire in the
    wall box. Twist the ends together clockwise and cap them using a wire connector
    nut.

3. Connect each dimmer wire to a house wire by gripping the wire ends with a pair of
    pliers and twisting them together. The wires from the dimmer will typically be black.
    The two house wires may be black, red, or white with black marking. Tighten a wire
    nut over each pair of wire ends. If there is bare wire exposed, unscrew the wire
    connector, remove the wires, trim the ends of the wires with a wire cutter, and then
    re-cap the wires.

 

Three-Way Switch

 

1. If the house wires are bent, use a wire stripper to cut off the twisted ends. Remove
    ¾” of insulation from the end of the house wires and the dimmer switch wires,
    if needed.

2. Connect the ground wire from your dimmer to a green or bare copper wire in the
    wall box. Twist the ends together clockwise and cap them using a wire connector
    nut.

3. Connect the black dimmer wire to your tagged common wire and remove the
    electrical tape.

4. Connect the two remaining dimmer wires, called traveler wires, separately to each
    remaining wire in your wall box.

5. Use a screwdriver to mount your dimmer to the wall with the provided screws.

  

Step 4: Replace the Wall Plate

Step 4:Replace the Wall Plate 1. Carefully tuck the wires back into the electrical box.

2. Tighten the screws holding the dimmer to the electrical box.

3. If you are installing a dimmer that has a removable knob, remove the knob from the
    dimmer by gently pulling outward before attaching the wall plate.

4. If the dimmer has a separate wall plate, tighten the mounting screws that hold the
    wall plate to the switch. If you’re using a wall plate with a "screwless" design, screw
    the wall plate adapter to the dimmer, and carefully snap the wall plate onto the
    adapter.

5. If the dimmer has a separate knob, push it on.

6. You can now turn the power back on at the breaker and test the dimmer.