How to Change a Smart Light Switch
What Will You Need to Change a Light Switch
Firstly, to change a single pole light switch, the tools and materials you’ll need include:
- A screwdriver
- Wire cutters and a wire stripper, if needed
- A non-contact circuit tester
- Needle nose pliers
- A single pole wall switch
- Electrical tape, a grounding pigtail, and a UL-rated wire connected, if needed
Light Switch Wiring
Light switches provide a break in the hot circuit wire leading to the light fixture or another device. Flipping the switch opens and closes the hot wire circuit, allowing you to turn it on and off whenever you desire. Replacement can be fairly easy, as it is just a matter of disconnecting two hot wires from the old switch and reconnecting them to the new switch.
With a single pole light switch, you don’t need to pay attention to which hot wire gets attached to which screw terminal (they’re interchangeable). However, there can always be complications like missing wires or old wiring. Pay attention to which wires are attached to the switch and make sure they are attached in a similar fashion to the new switch.
Different Types of Light Switches
Light switches mounted on walls can contain 1-3 or even more individual switches which allow you to switch on (and off) different light fittings in a larger area from one switch. There are a plethora of options available in terms of finishes, and dimmers are a great choice if you want to control the light levels in the area.
How to Change a Light Switch
Step 1: Stop the Power Breaker & Remove the Switch Cover
You will first need to stop your power breaker and remove the wall switch’s cover plate by removing the mounting screws. Use a non-contact circuit tester to test for power to ensure optimal safety. Insert the tester probe into the box alongside the screw terminals - the tester will light up or make a sound if there is a live current.
Once you verify that the power is fully off, remove the mounting screws holding the switch to the box, and extract the switch by carefully pulling outward on the straps. Avoid stressing the wires, as old wires may be brittle and insulation can crack.
Step 2: Verify the Wires
Observing how the wires are connected to the light switch is important - newer wiring will have black insulation attached to brass or copper-colored screw terminals along one side or opposite sides of the switch body. In some switch loops, the switch may be connected to a black and white wire which has been marked with black tape to indicate that it is a hot wire.
With an older switch, the wires have rubber or cloth insulation with no color coding, so it is common practice now to label these wires with black tape to identify them as hot wires.
Step 3: Disconnect The Cables & Remove the Switch
Take the switch out of the box far enough that you can reach the screw terminals with a screwdriver, and then disconnect the circuit wires. Examine the wire loops at the end of the wires and snip off any damaged portions of wires (then strip ¾ inch of insulation to expose new copper wire from the damaged wire). If the light switch has a grounding screw attached to the circuit ground wires, unscrew the connection.
Step 4) Connect the New Switch
You will need to make three wire connections: the grounding pigtail and the two hot wire connections. Form a clockwise, C-shaped loop at the end of each wire and attach the free end of the grounding pigtail to the green grounding screw on the strap of the light switch. Loop the wire around the shaft of the screw and tighten it firmly.
Attach two hot wires to the screw terminals on the side of the switch body and tighten the screws securely.
Step 5) Install the Switch and Cover Plate
Tuck the wires into the wall box and secure the light switch with the mounting screws threaded into the holes in the box. Be sure that the light switch is positioned right side up (the on/off markings should read correctly). Align the switch so it is vertical in the box and attach the cover plate. Turn on the power to the circuit with the breaker box and test the switch!