Help with changing a bad light switch

Electrical problems can be a big inconvenience, and if it’s something simple, calling an electrician can run into a lot of money in a short time.

     Changing a bad light switch can turn into a major ordeal if you aren’t sure of what to do, so here’s a little help for you.

     First things first; let’s cut the power. Assuming you don’t have the fancy tools to detect which circuit breaker runs the switch, we’ll have to flip the main power switch at the breaker box so we can safely proceed.

     Since the switch is bad, you just can’t be 100 percent sure which individual breaker controls it, so turn the power off to the entire house. That way you’ll be safe. To be extra safe, if you have a simple multi-meter, test it afterward to make sure the power is out. In most cases, for a simple switch, the main breaker will be sufficient.

     Now the fun part — let’s take it apart. Just a couple of screws and the cover plate removes, and then we’ve got two more screws that attached the switch to the wall. Once removed, you can pull the switch out of the wall so you can get to the wires.

     Each single light switch should have three wires: black, which is the power wire; the white one, a neutral or a common wire; and the copper wire, which is our ground.

     With a screwdriver, unscrew the terminals and remove the wire. Make a note of the position that the wires are on the old switch. They’re also marked on the back of the new switch, but I’m sure you’ll want to be extra cautious to do this right the first time.

     Since we had to change the switch, I decided to get a new one that automatically comes on as you get near it. It still has just a three-wire connection, so it won’t get complicated — and it’s really cool.

     Now, we simply work in reverse. Attach the wires just as you had removed them, and make sure your connections are very tight. Push the wires back into the wall and secure the switch with the two screws you used to remove it. Put the cover back on, and you’re home free.

     Yeahhhh buddy.     

     Changing a switch is a simple project that can save you money, and as you’ve seen is very simple to do. Always be extra careful when working around electricity, and you’ll keep yourself healthy and safe.

      Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan, a WJBK-TV Fox2 Detroit news contributor and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.