I have a light switch that won't stay in the off position. It's not a
wiring problem; it's the switch itself. I have a white, flat panel switch,
not the black one that you push up or down to turn the light on/off. Is
this something I can change myself? I have no electrical knowledge
Well, it is almost that simple. There might be more than 2 wires, so make
careful note of where wires go before you disconnect anything.
I have started taking digital photos of stuff before I take it apart, just
in case. It is has been a waste of time so far, but one day...
This is usually really easy. There are books in your local library on
home repair with lots of picture that may help you.
Turn off the power to that light at the breaker box or fuse box. Remove
the screws that hold on the cover plate at the switch. Remove the cover
plate. Remove the screws that hold the switch to the junction box. Pull the
switch out of the junction box. Look at the wires attached to the switch
(often black, white, green). Draw a diagram of these wires and the switch
and then disconnect them. Take the switch to the hardware store. Find one
like it. Reverse the above to install the new switch.
There will be instructions on the package of the new switch which may
help you. If you can't find the same type then you can substitute another
type. The wiring will be essentially the same but you must buy a cover plate
to fit the new type of switch. Note that the color of the switch and plate
should match and should match the rest of the room's cover plates (white,
ivory, brass, et c.). After you attach the wires to the switch neatly fold
the wires into the junction box so that the switch will fit.
You'll need a flat head screw driver and maybe a set of needle nosed
True enough, and your advice to the OP is sound. But...
...sometimes it's not so easy.
If his existing wiring was competently done, and not too old, he
should be OK. But in my 1949 vintage house, I have found examples of
incompetence and excessive age. The most common problem is that the
people who wired this house didn't much believe in slack. One switch I
had to replace actually would not come out of the box AT ALL. I can't
figure out how they installed it in the first place. Although that one
was the extreme, none of the other fixtures I've tackled had anything
like the proper amount of slack either. This can make the wiring
trickier than it ought to be. I've extended the wires in each box I've
Age has also reared its ugly superannuated head. The insulation on
some of my wires was very fragile. I suppose if no one had touched
them, they might have remained safe for another few decades, but the
slightest rough treatment damages them. That's a harder problem to
I'm not trying to scare the OP. I think that replacing a switch ought
to be within the skills of the average homeowner; It's an awfully
small thing to pay an electrician for. I would say that if he can pull
the switch entirely out of the box and the wire looks to be in good
shape he should go for it.
A word or warning. Normally it is easy and the instructions provided
are all you will need. However be aware that if there are more than two
wires (or three if one is bare copper) in there, some may be hot (dangerous)
even if you turned off the power to the light. This will not happen often,
but it can happen. Turning off all the power to the house will assure you
When working with electricity...
One more word of advice and this is not meant to scare you, but a good
idea no matter what your skill level is...
Have someone else around in the house just in case something
IMHO, if you are unsure about doing any electrical work, get qualifed,
or get a qualified person to do the work.
No need to save a few bucks, and hurt or damage your home.
tom @ www.medicaljoblist.com
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