I wouldn’t call myself a DIY novice. I’ve been doing big DIY projects for years. But there are still some big aspects of DIY-ing that freak me out. One thing? Plumbing. Water can do a lot of damage, peeps. I don’t want leaks! But even more intimidating to me is anything electrical. And I’m not alone out there! Many of my friends have told me that they are afraid of electrical too. But, I am waaaay too cheap to hire someone to switch out light switches. So I have decided to put forth an effort to learn some basic stuff about electrical work in hopes of encouraging all of you that you can do it too. Because, let’s be honest, if I can do it… so can you! Today’s electrical 101 lesson? How-to replace old light switches!
First of all, do you see the condition of these light switches?? They are gross and dirty. Like… Miley dirty. I pulled out chunks of animal hair from every single light switch and outlet when we moved in. Plus, all the covers are cracked. Every switch in our house looks like this. Every.one. Scratch that. Some of them are creamy beige colored. I’m not sure if that is from dirt or if they are just originally that color. At first, I tried to clean them with a DRY, old toothbrush. That didn’t work. I spent about a millisecond contemplating getting the toothbrush a tiny bit wet. But that summoned images of myself sprawled out on the floor with burned clothing whimpering about how I just wanted clean light switches. Mmmm. Hard pass.
Okay. On to the tutorial. (Disclaimer: I am not an electrician. I do not claim to be a professional. These are general guidelines that I have learned through experience. If you feel unsafe at any point while working with electrical, stop and call a professional.)
First things first. SAFETY! No fried fingers, mmmkay? Take the cover plate off your switches and flip off the breaker that feeds electricity to your switches. Make sure that there is no electricity running by flipping on the switches and hopefully nothing will turn on. Plug a light into an outlet if one of the switches feeds an outlet and make sure it doesn’t turn on when you flip the switch. Then, to be even more sure, use a voltage tester to make sure there is no current running through the wires. Phew. Okay. That was the scariest part.
Now, unscrew the screws from the top and bottom of the switch and pull the switch away from the wall. There are 3 wires running to the switch. Some switches can be different but for all of mine there are 2 black wires running to the gold screws and one white wire running to the green screw. The 2 black wires to the gold screws are the wires that carry the electricity to the outlet. And the white wire to the green screw is the grounding wire (which is basically the fail safe if there was ever a power surge). Unscrew the gold and green screws and unwrap the wires from them.
All of the wires should now be separated from your old switch and just be sticking out from the wall.
Grab your new switch and start to reattach the wires to the same places that they were on your old switch. The 2 black wires went to the 2 gold screws. And the white wire went to the green screw. As you can see, on my new switches, the green screw is on the top of the switch as opposed to the bottom. That doesn’t matter. The black wires slid behind the gold plate behind the gold screws and the white grounding wire wrapped around the green screw. Basically, copy what your wires did on your old switch.
Push the wires back into the box and screw the top and bottom screws on the front of your new switch back into the box.
Change out the rest of your switches and put a new cover on. Turn the breaker back on and stand back and marvel at your awesomeness! You did it! (Obviously, I changed my type of switches but the process is exactly the same if you were just replacing it with a switch of the same style.)
So basically, I’m slowly going to be switching over my old switches to new switches (that is a lot of switches!). I counted 29 switches that need to be changed. Three down, 26 to go! HA! That doesn’t even count the number of outlets I need to replace as well.
How do you feel working with electrical? Are you a scaredy-cat like me or are feeling like a pro???