How-to wire light switches in a Basement

DIY How-to wire light switches

How to Wire Light Switches

Wiring a on/off light switch is one of the most basic wiring projects in your home. First we will learn how easy it is to install a single pole switch. Later we can cover 3-way switches, switched outlets and dimmers. First thing to remember on a single pole switch is that power comes into 1 side of switch and continues out the other. When you flip the switch, you are just breaking the connection, or interupting the flow of electricity. Photos and Wiring Diagrams below are for Wiring basic switches for general purpose circuits. These are standard single switches you will find all around your home.

Be Positive the Power's Off

When you're doing electrical work, don't assume that because you flicked a switch or flipped a circuit breaker the power is off. Always double-check! Buy a noncontact voltage tester and check all the wires in the box before you do any work.

Connect the "Ground" Wire

Always connect the green or bare ground wire to the switch and to the box if it is a steel box. FYI - Not all switches will have a ground screw. If your switch has one, it will usually be green and located at the bottom of the switch.

Connect the "Neutral" Wires

White wires should be neutral. The neutral current does not travel thru the switch. You should twist the two white wires together, screw on a wire nut, and push the neutral wires back into the box. Be sure there is no wire exposed when you put the wire nut on. You can wrap it with some electrical tape if needed just to keep the wire nut from twisting loose.

Connect the "Hot" Wires

Black wires will be your hot wires. It is important to note that with existing switches the hot wire is usually black or red, but it could also be any one of several other colors (Not white and not Green) Many electricians will use Yellow, Orange, or Purple for the hot wires coming from a switch. When wiring a light switch with the power coming to the switch and then going to the lights, you will usually notice two black wires. These are Hot. These wires hold the power. Connect one "hot" wire from the source to the bottom terminal of the switch and the other "hot" wire which goes to the light will connect to the top terminal on the switch.

How-to wire light switches

Push the switch back into the box. Make sure your screws do not touch the box and you have no bare wires from switch or inside the box. Make sure everything is secure, put your covers on and then turn the power back on and test your switch.

Don't Reverse Hot and Neutral Wires

Always be sure to connect the white wire to the neutral terminal of outlets and light fixtures. The neutral terminal is usually identified by a silver or light-colored screw. Connect the hot wire to the brass colored terminal on the opposite side of the outlet. If there's a green screw, that's the ground. Connect the ground to a green or bare ground wire or grounded box.

Cutting Wires Too Short

Cutting wires too short is a common mistake. Leave the wires long enough to protrude at least 5 in. from the box. Wires that are cut too short will make your connections difficult and dangerous. If you do cut your wires too short, there is an easy fix. You can add 6-in. extensions onto the existing wires or you can also purchase push on connectors found in the electrical dept. of your neighborhood home improvement store.
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How to Wire Light Switches

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