Uncle Bobs Tips

5 Easy Steps to Installing a Light Switch

5 Easy Steps to Installing a Light Switch

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There is nothing that adds to the despondency of a winter's day more than a dimly lit room. On the contrary, a well-lit room can dispel that gray gloominess with the flip of a switch. Lets look at a few DIY lighting projects that can add some cheer into your home, office or work area (besides, a diy project always puts people into a good mood). But first, read our article about preventing home electrical fires.

Before you get started on installing lighting of any sort, there are a few things to consider:

1. Know what kind of lighting is good for this particular room/area: Are you looking for mood lighting, accent lighting, task lighting, or general overhead lighting? And is that what this room really needs? Accent lights are nice, but if you are looking to enhance the quality of light in a room, these small and primarily decorative lighting fixtures will not do the trick. Decide what project you are embarking on before you get to the store.

2. Safety first: After you've decided on and purchased the necessary equipment, make sure you are working safely and responsibly. Always switch off the electricity before starting any sort of electrical work. Even if you think you're fairly certain about where the wires are situated etc., it is better to play it safe and turn off the power (not just the switch/fixture that you are working with). You can get a good flashlight, spotlight or light cap if additional lighting is necessary during the project.

3. Recessed vs. exterior lighting: Are you installing lighting that will be recessed into the ceiling, or will the fixture be exposed? These are two different processes and you should be certain of which project you are doing. Recessed lighting takes a little more work, but creates a wonderful end result. They are elegant and relatively maintenance-free, so they may be worth the little extra initial work.

Now that you know the basics, we can move on to our first lighting installation segment:

Installing a light switch

There are two very different jobs a person can be talking about when you say "installing a light switch". You can be referring to a very simple replacement job in which one light switch replaces another (for example, if you wanted to install a dimmer switch). This is just a question of turning off the power, removing the old switch, connecting the new switch and putting it all back together. This could take all of fifteen minutes. The other more complicated lighting installation project refers to installing a new light switch that will require you to run wires from a circuit to the new location. For example, let's say you rearranged a room in your home and now the light switch is inaccessible or inconvenient. A new light switch may be required to run an existing light fixture. This may or may not be complicated depending on how accessible your cables are.

Step by step:

1. Locate the circuit wires that this light fixture is associated with. You will need to run these wires from this point to the location of the new switch box. This can either be done simply through a connecting open space (if the ceiling directly connects to the attic a basement, for example), or by fishing the wires through the wall. This is a bit more complicated and takes some maneuvering. If there are obstructions such as support beams, you may want to get a professional electrician in to ensure that you are doing things properly and safely.

2. Now you need a home for your new light switch. Use an old work electrical box (also known as a remodel box), as these are the easiest to work with. Cut out a hole in the drywall and stick the box into this hole (cut the hole by tracing the back of the box onto the wall and using a drywall saw or other similar tool). Then tighten the screws, releasing the clamps that will hold your box in place. IMPORTANT: Don't do this step until you have brought the wires through into the box, otherwise, you won't be able to remove the box to reach the necessary wires, invalidating the entire purpose of your handy dandy electric box. So…

3. Before inserting the old work box and tightening the clamps, run the cables from the electric box through the hole you've just cut.

4. Connect these wires to the switch box.

5. Attach the switch plate and you're done.

Tip: When connecting a wire to the terminal screw, turn the loop around the screw in the same direction that the screw tightens. Otherwise, when you tighten your screw, you will be loosening your wire loop.

Stay tuned for our other lighting installation articles.

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