Electrical, Lighting

How to Replace a Light Switch with a Dimmer Switch?

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Hubert Miles

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Dimmers are used to increase and decrease the intensity of your lights to create a variety of lighting effects in your home or apartment. You can control dimmers with remotes, switches, and even with the help of apps on your smartphone. Plus, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a nice night in with some dimly lit lights?

Replacing your standard switch with a dimmer switch can be tricky for some people. Although installing a dimmer is as simple as replacing a standard light switch and requires no specialized tools or training. With the help of a clear step-by-step guide, anyone with basic electrical knowledge can replace a light switch with a dimmer switch. 

This article is your best how-to guide for replacing your ordinary switch with a dimmer switch!

Moreover, we will also be listing down some of the most prevalent dimmer switches so our readers can choose from the best!

Can I replace a regular switch with a dimmer switch?

A dimmer switch can be an excellent replacement for a regular light switch. It helps conserve energy and makes your home look cozy, which is precisely why many people want to use them.

There is no doubt that lighting has a big impact on our home’s ambiance and feel. Besides making a home look more comfortable and pleasant, efficient lighting also conserves energy. And as a result, this helps save more money too.

However, electricity can be an expensive necessity if it is not installed and used correctly. 

What dimmer lighting does is reduce the light bulbs’ brightness and allow the lights to function in a milder, less bright fashion. However, for many people around the world, hiring an electrician can be difficult or expensive. Although an electrician will not charge much for replacing a light switch with a dimmer switch, many people might still prefer to do it themselves.

If you are someone who’s looking to do this, you’re in luck! Fortunately, this is a relatively simple process.

10 Steps in Installing a Dimmer Light Switch


Before starting the process, please prepare the following tools:

  • A voltage tester
  • A wire stripper
  • Tape measure
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers

After preparing the things you need, follow these steps in order to replace your light switches successfully. You should see an in-depth guide on how each step each done as you read on.

  1. Turn Off the Power
  2. Check for Hot Wires
  3. Remove the screws of the switch
  4. Check Box Volume
  5. Pay Attention to the Gauge of Wire
  6. Test the Ground
  7. Turn the Power Off
  8. Add your new dimmer
  9. Connecting the Wires
  10. Put the Cover Plate back on

It is essential to understand this guide and follow it closely. When working with electrical components, your top priority should be your safety. At any point you feel unsure of the process and doubt your ability to execute the conversion, you should stop and call a licensed electrician to have a look at your lights and do the replacement for you. 

Step 1: Turn Off the Power

When dealing with wires and electricity, the first step should always be to ensure your safety. It might seem very obvious, but it can lead to a hazardous situation if one forgets this crucial step. 

Therefore, it is necessary to make sure the power is off. I recommend that you double-check by turning the light on at the switch, so there is no room left for any accident.

Step 2: Check for Hot Wires

The second step would be checking for hot wires. For this, remove the plate of the switch by unscrewing it. Now, with the help of a non-contact voltage tester, check for hot wires. 

This type of voyage tester will help ensure that there are no wires carrying voltage. This is also one way to determine whether the power is off. By holding the tip of the voltage tester around each screw terminal, simply check for hot wires.

Step 3: Remove the screws of the switch

Do so by loosening the screws on the plate and then remove them from the box. To keep a record, I recommend taking a picture of the wiring with your cell phone. 

You will find a red/brown wire for life in the box and a black/blue one for neutral. There will be another wire colored either green or yellow, including the earth wire. Keep in mind that if the wires that your switch is attached to are white or aluminum, you should always have an electrician look at it.

Step 4: Check Box Volume

For this step, please refer to the National Electrical Code Article 314 to help you understand the volume you will need inside your steel box. Having too many wires inside a box can lead to hazards such as short-circuiting, fires, and over-heating. Hence, it is essential to adhere to the boxes’ size to ensure you and other people stay safe. 

Step 5: Pay Attention to the Gauge of Wire

Choose the gauge of your wiring accordingly. Usually, 20-amp circuits are wired with 12-gauge wires, and 15-amp circuits are wired with 14-gauge wires.

Step 6: Test the Ground

There’s either a green ground screw or a green grounding wire when it comes to modern dimmers. Either one of these needs to be connected to a grounding source (if there is a grounding source present).

If your wiring has a plastic casing, you will have copper wires requiring getting hooked up with the dimmer switch. In some cases, metal conduits are present for this purpose.

Check for grounding with a neon voltage tester. If there is ground present, pop a short ground wire to the metal box or use a grounding clip. Now, connect this to the dimmer.

Ensure that there is no ground present in cases, utilize a plastic cover plate and make sure there are no metal parts exposed. Now, test again and turn the power back on. Your box is grounded if the tester lights up by popping your voltage tester leads between the screw terminals and the box.

Step 7: Turn the Power Off

After you’re done checking for grounding, TURN THE POWER OFF.

Step 8: Add your new dimmer

For this step, with the help of a screwdriver, you will have to press 6 inches of copper wire along with a grounding clip onto the box.

To give the clip a little clearance, you will have to cut away some drywall. Bend the wire back onto the clip by using a needle-nose plier. To make sure there is no interference with the dimmer switch, pinch it down tightly. 

With the help of your wire cutters, cut the ends of the wire off. Strip around 3/8-inch of insulation off the ends so you can proceed to connect the wires.

Step 9: Connecting the Wires

Connecting the right dimmer is one of the most crucial steps of the entire process. If your dimmer has wires that are stranded, you will need to hold the wire tightener in such a way that the stranded wire stands up from the solid wire by about 1/8-inch. 

Match the sizes and number of wires to the connectors. By twisting the connector clockwise, fit the wires tightly. In case your dimmer has screw terminals, you will need to strip off 3/4-inch of insulation from each wire by forming a loop with the help of your needle-nose pliers. 

After popping this loop around the terminals, close it up using your pliers. Once you’re done, tighten up the screws.

Step 10: Put the Cover Plate back on.

The last step would be to neatly fold up the wires and putting them back in the box. After doing so, screw the dimmer onto the box and install the cover plate. Turn the power back on and test your newly installed dimmer!

Now you will be able to adjust the brightness of the lights in your home easily and reduce the amount of electricity you use. As a result, this will reduce your electric bill in the long run. 

What is the best dimmer switch to buy?

Now that you know how to replace your light switch with a dimmer switch, you probably wonder which type of dimmer should you buy.

Choosing and buying a dimmer switch can be tricky because there are many dimmers available on the market. Several companies offer dimmer switches in different price ranges as well as different qualities. 

As with any electric component, it is crucial to purchase a good quality dimmer to avoid risky situations in the future.

Here are 5 top-rated dimmers, which will be an excellent option for you to add to your house!

1. Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Switch

This one is perhaps one of our favorites because this is a modern-day unique dimmer switch. This Insteon dimmer switch allows you to access your home’s lighting through your phone, making it extremely easy to dim the lights whenever required.

The switch has a dedicated app, which allows you to access the dimmer’s controls from your smartphone and other smart devices such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home via the Insteon Hub. You can easily control several lights at once and reduce the brightness levels of lights or turn them off completely, even if you’re on a different floor.

A significant advantage to this particular dimmer switch is that it does not require a C-wire, which many houses with a more traditional wiring system lack. Installing this dimmer switch is relatively easy since you will not have to do any rewiring to replace your regular light switches. This dimmer gives you great value for money and allows you to customize your home lighting to your desire.

2. Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer Switch

Wi-Fi dimmer switches have grown in popularity over the recent years, and rightfully so, these switches make it super easy to control the lighting in our homes without much trouble at all. This dimmer is considered to be one of the most versatile switches available on the market. 

With the ability to access it using the Wemo app, it makes for an excellent option for anyone looking for a smart dimmer switch. 

The switch can also be accessed using Amazon Alexa or Google Home if you want to use voice commands to control the lights in your home. This dimmer’s capacity is 150W for dimmable LEDs or CFL, while it has a wattage capacity of 400W for dimmable incandescent light bulbs.

A unique feature offered by this dimmer switch is the ‘away mode scheduling.’ This mode essentially allows you to make it seem like your house is occupied even when you are away to increase your home’s security.

This feature can surely come in handy if you are a frequent traveler and want to ensure that your home will remain safe from thefts. If you want a smart dimmer switch to replace regular light switches, this a great option without a doubt.

3. Lutron Maestro Dual Dimmer and Switch

If you are looking for a dual-purpose dimmer and switch, this one the right pick for you. This classic dual dimmer switch can give you all the benefits of a dimmer while also serving as a regular on/off switch for your lights.

It also has LEDs, which can help when looking for light switches in the dark. Alongside this, the LEDs can also provide you with physical cues of your light’s set brightness levels with just one glance.

If you do not have a neutral wire running through your circuits, this is the right dimmer for you. Since it does not require a neutral wire, the installation of this switch is much easier, and you get the benefit of a combined light switch and a dimmer. 

4. GE Slide Dimmer Rocker Wall Switch

The GE slide dimmer is a classic and affordable yet effective dimmer switch.

The quality of this dimmer switch at the price point that it is offered is unbeatable. It is a standard rocker switch with a sliding dimmer that makes it extremely easy to use and gives you an easy, foolproof way to dim your lights without much trouble.

It can control dimmable LED bulbs up to 150W and control dimmable incandescent bulbs up to 600W.

5. Kasa Smart HS220 Dimmer Switch

The Kasa Smart dimmer switch is offered by TP-Link and is a great affordable smart dimmer switch. The best feature about this dimmer is that you can easily control your home’s lighting using Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or even the Microsoft Cortana devices. You can control your home’s lighting brightness level using the smart gadgets you already own.

This dimmer switch has a unique feature of turning off the lights with a slow fade when the switch is double-clicked, which can be quite handy as it makes it easier for your eyes to transition to the lights turning off. It’s a unique feature that impresses many, and the price point this dimmer is offered makes it a great option to be added to your home.

How To Replace a Light Switch With a Dimmer Switch? Now You Know

Dimmer switches help control the lighting within our homes, giving the desired ambiance for when you want to relax, have a party, or need to study or work.

The energy-conserving and waste-reducing nature of dimmer switches allows you to utilize electricity in a much more sustainable way and reduce your electrical bill in the long run.

Replacing regular light switches with modern-day dimmer switches can be tricky, but it can be easily done if you follow proper instructions.

Pick a dimmer switch that suits your needs, follow the instructions provided in this article to add dimmer switches to your home, and gain all the benefits that come alongside good quality dimmers without much hassle.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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