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How To Change Or Replace A Single Pole Light Switch In Your Storage Shed or House. (A light switch controlling a light or series of lights from one location only)

how to replace light switch

Changing or replacing a light switch in your storage shed may be necessary if the existing switch goes bad or you want to install a different style of switch. Learning how to replace a switch is a simple storage shed or home improvement project that will save you the cost of hiring an electrician to do the work for you.

Single pole light switches are very simple circuits. They have 3 screw "terminals" on them.

  • One for power coming in.
  • One for power going out to the light(s).
  • One for a ground.

 

The power comes into the switch and is either allowed to go out to the lights or stopped by the switch, depending on if the switch is on or off. It does not matter which terminal either of the power wires is connected to so you do not need to remember which wire is the power leg coming in or out when you take the switch off the wires and put the new one on.

Light Switch Wiring with power coming from the switch.

Light Switch Wiring with power coming from the switch.

Light Switch Wiring with power coming from the light

Light Switch Wiring with power coming from the light

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tools and materials

  • Proximity tester
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Wire Strippers
  • New Single Pole Light Switch

 

install electric outlet

step 1 Turn The Power Off To The Light Switch From The Breaker Box or Electrical Service Panel

The electricity will pass through a breaker or fuse before going to the light switch. The breaker or fuse will be in a metal breaker box or electrical service panel that is on one of the interior or exterior walls of the shed or house. Find the breaker or fuse that feeds power to the light switch and turn it off. Alternately you may turn the power off to the whole breaker box panel by going to the fuse or breaker that feeds electricity to the breaker box and shutting the main breaker off.

Remove light switch cover

step 2 Remove The Switch Cover

Use the flat head screwdrive to remove the two screws holding the cover on.

 

use proximity tester to see if power is on.

step 3 Test That The Power Is Off

Since one of the reasons that you may be replacing the switch is because of a faulty switch you may not be able to trust that the switch is working and therefore not know if the power is on or off by flipping the switch. Use a circuit or proximity tester to test that the power is off before removing the switch. Test the tester on a circuit that you know is live to make sure it is working properly.

 

remove light switch from handy box

step 4 Remove The Switch From The Box

The switch is held onto the "handy box" in the wall by two screws. Remove the two screws and pull the switch out of the "handy box".

NOTE When pulling the switch out of the box, never touch the screw terminals on the sides of the switch, these screw terminals hold the electrical wires and may or may not be energized. You should make it a practice to not touch the terminals with bare hands, even if you think the power is off.

 

remove wires from light switch

step 5 Remove The Wires From The Old Switch

Determine how the wires are attached to the old switch and remove them:

If the wires are attached to the old switch using the slip in connectors you will need to cut the wires to get them off the switch, or some switches have a little hole that you can push a piece of wire into and release the wires going into the switch.

If the wires are attached to the old switch using the screw terminals then remove the wires from the switch by unscrewing the three terminal screws holding the wires onto the switch.

connect electrical wires to light switch

 

step 6 Connect The Wires To The New Switch

Professional Electricians recommend attaching the wires to the switch by using the screw terminals on the side of the switch. The screw terminals are more secure at holding wires than the slide in connectors found on the backs of many light switches.

  1. Use a wire stripper to strip 3/4" of sheathing off the two power wires.
  2. Use the small hole on the side of the wire strippers or needle nose pliers to make a small "cane" shape on the ends of the two wires.
  3. Connect the power wires to the two terminals on the side of the switch. Hook the wire end "cane" loops over the screw terminals and tighten the screw terminals onto the wires. The screw terminals should be tight.
  4. Connect the ground wire to the switch. The ground wire will have no sheating on it. The ground terminal is typically marked by either a green color or a single screw that is a different color from the power terminal scress and in a spot closer to the top or bottom of the switch than the power terminals. (if you are in doubt as to which screw is the ground then stop the work and get professional electrical help)

 

install new light switch to handy box

 

 

step 7 Attach The Switch To The Handy Box

The switch will have marking on it designating "ON" and "OFF" positions.

  1. Make sure that they are oriented so they are readable, on is up and off is down.
  2. Holding the switch by the frame and not the sides where the terminals are, push the switch back into the handy box.
  3. Screw the switch to the handy box using the two screws that are permenantly attached to the switch.

 

replace light switch cover

step 8 Install The Cover Plate

Put the electrical switch cover plate using the two screws that held it on when you took it off. Be careful to not overtighten the face plate as they are prone to cracking when the screw is overtightened. Watch the face of the cover plate as you tighten the screws, stop tightening when you see the face start to bend.

switch electrical breaker panel on

step 9 Turn The Power On To The Light Switch From The Breaker Box or Electrical Service Panel

Return to the service panel or breaker box and turn the power back on. Once the power is on go to the switch and test that it is working properly.

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