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A Bright Idea

June 24, 2009

If you are like most twenty-somethings, you probably don’t know how to change a light switch. When it comes to electrical work, hiring an electrician is often a good idea….changing a light switch out shouldn’t be one of those times!

Changing a light switch is a fairly inexpensive way to bring your house to the 21st century and instantly clean up the place. Here is an example of what our light switches looked like before I switched them.


Dirty, painted over, and off-white (which certainly did not match our trim). Not cute.

This project is substantially easier than it looks! For all you DIY newbies our there, I will walk you through the process.

Step 1: TURN OFF THE POWER! This might be the most important step. Im embarrassed to say that I learned the hard way that this does not mean flip the room’s switch to off. Yes, I did that…and I got electrcuted….3 times. Go to your breaker box and turn off the power there. Try to find the room that you are working on only so that you don’t accidentally leave the refrigerator off for a few hours.

Step 2: Unscrew the face plate.

Step 3: Unscrew the switch from the electrical box that is in the wall. You can then pull it out of the wall and it will look something like this (don’t mind the white paint on our black wires. That was poor planning on the prior owner’s part):


Step 4: You are going to want to unattach all the wires. The ground wire (which is typically the copper wire not surrounded by plastic) is usually attached at the side. Unscrew that screw and it’ll unwind. The other wires can be more tricky. You have to find the small rectangular holes next to the wires. Stick something like a nail or a small screwdriver down into the holes (again…power OFF! Never stick metal into electrical wiring when the power is on haha!). Wiggle the nail in the hole and the wires should come loose.


If there are no holes or if the wires are clearly wrapped around the screws, simply loosen the screws on the side and the wires should come out. I had one like this today:

Step 5: Pretty much all you have to do now is reverse these steps. Stick the wires into the circular holes of the new switch. Tighten the screw around the ground wire. Place the switch in the electrical box and screw in. Screw in the face plate.

Easy Peasy. Beautiful new light switch.


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