Indoor light strings have become quite popular due to the ambient lighting they provide, but installing a dimmer switch for the lights you already have in your home built by Rockford contractors can be just as aesthetically pleasing.

Preparation

Determine whether you will need a standard, single-pole dimmer, or a three-way dimmer. If your light is controlled by only one switch, choose a single-pole dimmer; if your light or group of lights is controlled using two switches, buy a three-way dimmer. Ordinary dimmer switches are generally not meant to be used with florescent lights, so make sure your CFLs are marked “dimmable”. Dimmer switches are not to be used with ceiling fans.

You will need the following tools and materials:

  • Dimmer switch/wall plate
    Wire connector nuts
    Electrical tape
    Tape measure
    Needle-nose pliers
    Wire stripper/cutter
    Phillips head and slotted screwdrivers
    Voltage tester

Step 1 Cut the Power

Locate the power source for the switch you are replacing, and cut the power at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Test the power by turning the light on and off.

Step 2 Take Out the Old Switch

Unscrew the existing wall plate and carefully remove the plate, screws, and old switch from the wall. Leave any white wires at the back of the wall box in their place. It is imperative that you use a voltage tester to ensure that there is no electrical current in any wire you will be moving or maneuvering throughout the process. Test the wires and switch off circuit breakers/remove fuses as necessary until all live wires are without power.

When dealing with a three-way switch replacement, one of the wires should be connected to a screw either labeled “COMMON” or differently colored. (This is not the ground wire connected to the green screw.) Place a piece of electrical tape on the common wire to identify it later.

Ensure all wires are disconnected from the old switch.

Step 3 Install the Dimmer Switch

Single-Pole Dimmer

Use a wire stripper to remove house wires that are twisted or bent. It may be necessary to remove ¾ inch of casing from the ends. Locate the dimmer’s ground wire and connect it with the green or bare copper wire inside the wall box, then twist them together in a clockwise motion and finish with a wire connector nut to cap them off. Next, use pliers to twist each dimmer wire (usually black) and house wire (red, black, or white with black marks) together at the ends. Each pair of wire ends should be fastened with a wire nut. If bare wire is visible, remove the nut and trim the ends of the wires individually before recapping with a wire nut.

Three-Way Switch

Use a wire stripper to remove house wires that are twisted or bent. It may be necessary to remove ¾ inch of casing from house or dimmer wire ends. Locate the dimmer’s ground wire and connect it with the green or bare copper wire inside the wall box, then twist them together in a clockwise motion and finish with a wire connector nut to cap them off. The black dimmer wire should then be connected to the common wire; you can remove the electrical tape. The other dimmer wires, “traveler wires,” connect to the remaining wires in the wall box. Secure the dimmer to the wall using a screwdriver.

Step 4 Install the New Wall Plate

Make sure all wires are placed inside the electrical box and check the screws to ensure they are holding the dimmer securely to the box. For dimmers with a removable knob, remove the knob before securing the wall plate, and then push it back on. For dimmers with a separate wall plate, make sure the screws holding the wall plate to the switch are secure. For “screw less” wall plates, screw the wall plate adapter to the new dimmer, and snap the wall plate carefully onto it. Once the new dimmer is fully installed, turn the power back on and test the dimmer. You can now enjoy your home built by Rockford contractors in whatever light best suits your needs.