Tips For Making Things Easier While You Install A New Dimmer Switch

21 October 2015
 Categories: , Articles


If you have always wanted a dimmer switch in your living or dining room, you may decide to try to install it yourself. However, you may be slightly apprehensive about working around electrical wires. If so, use the following four tips to make your job safer, as well as easier.

Use A Multimeter To Make Sure Your Wires Are Cold

The first thing you want to do before starting your task is to make sure the wires are cold, meaning they do not have any electricity running through them. Even if you switch off the circuit breaker, you may want to double check the current to ease your mind about touching the wires safely.

Instead of turning off just the switch to the room in which you are working, turn the main breaker off. Then, use a multimeter to check the wires to see if they are still hot.

If the meter reads anything except zero, do not proceed because there is still current running through them. You may want to contact a professional electrician if this is the case because your breaker box may have a loose wire that is still feeding electricity even when it is switched off.

If the meter does read zero, you can safely proceed with your dimmer switch installation.

Take A Picture Before And After You Remove The Old Switch

Even if the wires on your old and new switch are color-coded, there are times when they do not match up. Once the old switch is removed, you may forget which one is the positive, negative and neutral wire. To decrease the confusion, take pictures with your phone or tablet so you can refer to them while you install the new switch.

Gently pull the old switch away from the wall, enough to expose the wires. Then, take pictures from both sides, as well as from the top and bottom. After you have removed the switch, take another picture of the bare wires to give you a frame of reference.

Label The Wires With Masking Tape

Even if you do take pictures of the wiring, you may want to label each one of your house wires to make it easier to identify them while you are working. Referring to the pictures, mark a small piece of masking tape with the position of each one on the old switch.

Wrap and position the tape on each wire so it is far down enough not to touch the bare metal wires. You also want it away from your hands so it does not stick to them, impeding your work flow.

Double-Check The Wire Ends Before Placing The Wire Nuts Over Them

When you are ready to attach the wires from the new switch to your home's wiring, double-check and make sure the small, bare metal wires inside the rubber coating are smooth and have no kinks in them. Not only does this help ensure a consistent flow of electricity through the switch and into the light, it also reduces the chances of a stray wire creating a short and potentially causing a fire.

Before screwing on the wire nut, run your fingers along the wires to make sure they feel smooth. If not, untwist the wires, straighten them with your fingertips, and retwist them. Then, carefully position the nut over the tip and screw it on.

Using the tips above can help make your installation job easier and safer. However, if you discover wires that are not intact, or if you do not feel comfortable working with electrical wires, you may want to contact a contractor who specializes in electrical services to discuss your situation and possibly opt for professional installation. For more information, contact local electrical service companies like Beckstoffer-Welsh Inc