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10 Easy Steps to Installing a Dimmer Switch

Lighting is an important part of your home's décor. You can use lighting to make a room look larger or more intimate, to provide focused light for reading or working, or for safety and security. One way to change the appearance of a room is to alter the lighting for different moods. Installing a dimmer switch gives you control over the amount of light you want in a room at any given time. And installing a dimmer switch is one of the simplest electrical tasks. You can do it with a few simple tools in as little as half an hour.

1. Assuming you have already purchased your new dimmer switch and switch plate, assemble the tools and materials you will need: wire strippers, long-nose pliers, a screwdriver, a voltage tester, wire nuts, and electrical tape.

2. Turn off the power to the circuit you are working on at the breaker box. For added safety, tape down the breaker switch to make sure no one turns it on while you are installing your dimmer switch.

3. Unscrew the faceplate on the existing switch.

4. Unscrew the existing switch and gently pull it out of the switch box. Use the voltage tester to make sure that there is no electrical power to the switch.

5. Remove the wires from the old switch by either unscrewing the terminals or clipping the wires.

6. Cut off the exposed portion of the wire, and then use your wire strippers to strip 3/8" of insulation off the end of the wire.

7. Most dimmer switches come with pre-stripped wires on the back. Holding the switch wire and the wire from the box parallel to each other twist the wires together, then screw a wire nut onto them and tighten. Then repeat with the second pair of wires. To prevent an accidental short circuit, wrap the wire nut with electrical tape where it meets the wire.

8. Fold the wires back into the circuit box carefully. The dimmer switch is probably larger than the switch you removed, so it may take a bit of finesse. Then screw the dimmer switch into place.

9. Screw the new switch plate on, and make sure the dimmer switch is off.

10. Turn on the electrical power at the circuit breaker and test the dimmer switch for proper operation.

Now you can create a party mood, a candle-lit ambience, and other effects with your room's lighting.