How To Install a Dimmer Switch

Here at the Volt Doctors we know there are many customers in our service area who want to know how to install a dimmer switch themselves.

There are a lot of good reasons for installing dimmer light switches. They allow you to create romantic lighting anywhere in your home and they’re energy efficient, too.

If you want the ultimate in high-tech homes you can even get dimmer switches that have remote controls, which means giving yourself the ability to, say, lower the living room lights for your movie without ever leaving the couch.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A screwdriver.
  • A circuit tester.
  • Wire strippers.
  • Wire connectors.
  • Electrical tape.
  • The dimmer switch.

Before you begin be sure that you’ve purchased a dimmer switch that goes with your type of lighting, and that your lighting is equipped to handle it. CFL bulbs, for example, need to be specially rated for dimmer switches before you can use them.

Next, you’ll need to figure out how many lights are on the circuit. If you’re not sure you could always turn on all of the lights in the house and then flip the circuit breaker to the specific light you’re targeting. See how many shut off.

Once you’ve figured out how many lights you are working with you’ll need to add up the watts on each light to make sure that you are buying a dimmer switch capable of handling the power that will be flowing through it. You’ll have two choices: 600 W or 1000 W.

Don’t buy the higher watt rating just because you want to skip this step. When working with electricity it’s very important to be precise.

Before you head to the hardware store you’ll also need to know how many switches control the light that you’re targeting. If there’s just one switch then you can get a single pole dimmer. If two or more switches control it you will need multi-location dimmers that match the number of those switches.

Once you’ve bought the proper items it’s time to get down to the business of installing the dimmer switch. As always you’re going to start by cutting the power to the circuit and testing the switch to make absolutely sure that no electricity is flowing to the wires where you’ll be working.

You’ll have to remove the light switch face plate to test the switch, but you were going to do that anyway! After you test the switch you’ll unscrew the wires from the old switch and gently detach them.

Next, read the instructions to find out how much insulation to strip from the wires in the switch. Connect those wires to the dimmer.

Usually the dimmer will have lead wires, which means you’re going to connect them with the wire connectors. These look like little caps that fit over the wires. Secure those with electrical tape.

The wires will be color coded so you know where to put them. Connect the ground wire last.

Tuck the wires into the box and attach the dimmer with the mounting screws. Add your face plate.

Now, restore the power to your switch. You should be able to adjust the lights to your liking with no problems at all.

You can review the process on how to install a dimmer switch in the Lowes video below:

As with any electrical project if you’re feeling uncomfortable with the scope of the project you should stop and let a professional electrician do the job for you. If you’re in the Raleigh-Durham area you can always call us for a free estimate. We’ve got over 20 years of experience to draw on and we’ll be happy to help you with all of your electrical service needs.

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