Fix-it Chick: Dimmer switch has many advantages

Along with creating a relaxed mood, installing a dimmer switch will also save money by reducing energy consumption and by extending the life of any dimmable light bulb. Not all light bulbs or light fixtures are compatible with dimmer switches. Most halogen bulbs, some fluorescent bulbs and many LED bulbs are dimmable.

Step 1 — Choose a dimmer switch that will work with the fixture and bulbs it will be controlling. Select a style of switch that suits the needs and preferences of the user. Switches are available in a variety of styles. Most will easily replace an existing light switch with no need for a new cover plate. Toggle-like dimmers give the appearance of a standard switch, but have a slider on the side of the switch to reduce or increase the brightness of the bulbs. Rotary knob dimmer switches that push on and off last longer than those that turn on and off when rotated.

Step 2 — Use the breaker or fuse in the service entrance panel to turn off the power to the switch being replaced. Remove the cover plate and loosen the mounting screws that hold the switch in place.

Step 3 — Use a voltage sensor to confirm the power is off before loosening the terminal screws on the old switch. Detach the wires and remove the switch.

Step 4 — If necessary, use wire strippers to expose three-fourths of an inch of bare copper at the tip of each wire. Make sure the ends are relatively straight before proceeding.

Step 5 — Gently twist the tip of each old wire to the tip of the corresponding wire located on the back of the dimmer switch. Typically this will be black to black, white to red and bare ground to green. Once the wires are twisted together push a wire nut over the top of each pair and twist the nut in place. Make sure no bare wire is exposed and wrap each nut and wire pair with electrical tape.

Step 6 — Position the wires back in the electrical box, leaving room for the dimmer switch. Push the new switch into the box, secure with mounting screws and replace the cover plate. If installing a rotary knob dimmer, you will need to remove the knob before replacing the cover plate. Push the knob back on once the plate is secure.