After installing a light fixture in my living room, I thought it would be fun to go hog wild and install a dimmer switch. This is one of the easiest improvements you can make to your home and it makes a huge impact. Mood lighting anyone?
You’ll need a Voltage Detector; Voltage Tester; Wire Stripper/Cutter; Electrical Tape; Safety Glasses; Slide Dimmer; Philip’s Head & Flathead Screwdrivers
Step1: First you want to turn the power off. Then test the wires with a voltage detector to make sure no power is still running to the switch. If the detector lights up red or makes a chirping sound when touched to the switch, stop and make sure you’ve properly shut off the power. Once you’re sure there is no power running through the switch, carefully remove the switchplate and begin unscrewing the switch from the wall. Pull out the switch as much as you can so that the wires are exposed.
If you can identify the hot (black), neutral (white), and ground (green) wires based on color, feel free to skip forward to Step 3. If not, read on.
Step 2: Before moving on to the next step, you’ll want to turn your power back on so that you can identify your hot and neutral wires using a voltage tester. When you do this, it’s important not to touch just the tips of the pins, rather you want the portion where the plastic base and metal meet to sit on top of the wires. If your reading reflects 120 volts, the wire touching the red pin is neutral and the wire touching the black pin is hot. If you get this 120 volt reading no matter which pin is touching which wire, both wires are hot. This is not commonplace unless you live in an older house like I do. At the end of this step, be sure to turn the power off again!
Step 3: Before touching anything, grab your voltage detector and test to make sure there is no electricity running through the switch. Unscrew the switch from the wall and carefully unravel/unhook the wires from the screws.
Step 4: Strip the insulation from the wires (both on the wall and on the switch) about 0.5″ (you can strip more if needed).
Step 5: Twist each individual wire clockwise.
Step 6: First you’ll want to install the ground wire. Since I didn’t have one, I just capped it with a wire nut and secured it with electrical tape.
Step 7: In order of ground, neutral, and hot, connect the appropriate wires. You’ll want to twist them together in a clockwise motion. If, like me, you’re dealing with stiff wires, simply wrap the wires coming from the dimmer switch around those coming from the wall.
Step 8: Next, you’ll cap off the wires with wire nuts and secure them with electrical tape.
Step 9: Carefully push all of the wires into the box and screw the dimmer switch into the wall.
Step 10: Add a switchplate and turn the power back on.