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How To Replace a Light Switch with a Dimmer Control

A dimmer control enables you to brighten or dim the light level in a room. Some higher-end models can be programmed with one or more light levels, allowing you to quickly jump to a preset level. Some models offer a remote control feature, particularly nice for integration into a home theater.

When replacing a dimmer or a switch, make certain you select a dimmer that is suitable for the power demands and type of lighting it will control. Low voltage lighting requires a dimmer designed specifically for that type of lighting, as do line voltage fixtures. Add up the total wattage of all lights that will be controlled by the dimmer, then select a simmer that is rated at or higher than that requirement. Most dimmers are rated for 600 watts, higher wattage dimmer controls are also available. Use of a dimmer to control wattage that exceeds it's rating is a fire risk.

Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any installation or repair.

Electrical work requires safe practices. Always turn off power at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Post a note that work is being done, to avoid someone turning the power back on. After turning off the power to the circuit, test the circuit to be certain that there is no power. Always use insulated tools for added safety. Check with your local building department for regulations and permit requirements before beginning work.

  1. Turn off the power. Test circuit for power.

  2. Remove the cover plate.

  3. Remove the retaining screws at the top and bottom of the switch.

  4. Pull the switch straight out from the box.

  5. Note the position of the wires and transfer them over to the corresponding terminals on the new dimmer control.

    • We recommend using the terminals instead of the slip connectors found on the back of some devices. If the dimmer has wire leads, then twist the leads to the corresponding wire from the switch box and secure it by screwing on a wire cap.

    • If the wire is stranded, twist the strands together.

    • Create a "U" shaped loop of bare wire about 3/4" long.

    • The screw tightens in the clockwise direction. Hook the loop under the terminal screw so that tightening the screw pulls the wire tightly under it, rather than pushing it out.

  6. Gently fold the wires into the box as you push in the dimmer.

  7. Secure the switch at the top and bottom with the retaining screws.

  8. Replace the cover plate.

  9. Turn on the power.

  10. Test the dimmer.

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