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A normal light switch offers only two choices: on and off. But a dimmer switch allows you to control how bright you want the room to be. Simply turning a knob or sliding a lever lets you adjust light levels.
Now if you’re ready to make the switch, so to speak, Doug Cornwell, chief operating officer of Alure Home Improvements, is ready to shed some light on the subject.
Here, in this installment of Alure Home Improvement’s “60-Second Fix: How To Change Your Light Switch To A Dimmer,” he shows how to swap a toggle switch in the bathroom with a dimmer switch.
Why would you ever want to do this? Because you might have some “high hat” lights in the ceiling that would provide better lighting more suitable to your mood at the moment if you could lower the intensity of the overall illumination.
Though there is an assortment of dimmer switches to choose from, the concept is essentially the same: cutting down the AC current to reduce the total energy empowering the light bulb.
Now that you understand the idea, Cornwell stresses the serious nature of what you’re about to do. You certainly want to play it safe, so don’t ignore this:
“First, and foremost, the most important thing is to make sure the power is off!” he advises.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Never start fooling around with anything electrical until you safeguard your action by defusing the situation. Go to the fuse box or circuit breaker and make sure no power is going to that bathroom switch. If it means that you end up working in the dark, then get a flashlight or do the work by daylight. Moonlight is best left for serenades.
So, once your working condition is guaranteed to be safe from any unwanted shocking experiences, remove the switch plates holding the switch against the wall in order to expose the switch’s inner mechanism and allow yourself some flexible movement. In this example, two toggle switches are lined up side by side, but Cornwell intends only to remove the right one and replace it with a dimmer switch.
Cornwell points out the two screws, one on the top and the other on the bottom, holding this toggle switch in place. Loosen the top one first, he recommends. Once you remove the screws, the toggle switch assembly will slightly protrude from the wall. Grab it firmly and pull it out just far enough so you can clearly see where the wires are attached in back.
Now, before continuing, he demonstrates what the back of the dimmer switch looks like so you’ll understand which wire goes where. This is important advice. If you connect the wires wrongly, the switch won’t work. And even more seriously, you could risk a short circuit or even a fire.
“If you look at the dimmer switch,” Cornwell explains, “you’ll see it comes with three wires: two black wires and one green wire. The green wire is the traditional ground. Always remember that: ‘the green ground.’”
Next, he undoes the three wires connecting the toggle switch, which you’ll see also consist of two black and one green wires.
As he shows, these wires don’t require their own terminals on the dimmer switch. As Cornwell illustrates, you can use a wire connecter nut to connect the dimmer switch’s wires with your house’s wires. Here, Cornwell is using a blue wire connector, but the connector’s color isn’t as important as the colors of the wires.
Cornwell demonstrates how you grab the wires with a pair of pliers and straighten the exposed leads—the inner copper ends that are surrounded by the wire’s insulation. Carefully prepare them. Then just connect black to black; it doesn’t matter which black wire goes with which. You put both ends of the wire from the wall and the wire from the dimmer switch into each connector nut.
“Twist it on,” he says.
One, two, three, twist! And they’re connected.
“What I like to do once it’s done,” adds Cornwell, “is take black vinyl electrical tape and wrap it firmly around the connector nut.”
Make sure you do all three wires! Then you can simply push the wires back into the wall. Take the wall plate’s attachment screws and screw the switch back into the wall box.
“Put the plate back on and you’re all set to go,” says Cornwell.
With the last screw in, you now have a toggle switch and a dimmer switch.
The mood lighting awaits. So remember, you don’t have to curse the darkness; Alure Home Improvements teaches you how to usher in a little bit of light!