Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just Call Me Electric Woman

My daughter has been complaining that the kitchen table light is too bright and please could I put a dimmer on it so she doesn't get a headache from the bright lights? Why yes, dear daughter, I can get a dimmer switch and install it for you. And I get to play with electric. Sounds like fun to me.

Here's a handy tip for you. Don't try to do this at night. Since you must turn off the power at the circuit breaker box, you would be left trying to work in the dark. And no, I wouldn't know about that from personal experience. Really. *Whistles innocently*

Here is the light that will be getting the dimmer switch. Oh, and I also had installed this light fixture a few years ago. You see, I really am Electric Woman.

And here is the VERY IMPORTANT first step. Locate the proper circuit breaker and turn it off! DO NOT skip this step.

And here is the light switch I will be installing.

This little thing in the foreground is a very handy piece of equipment. A circuit tester will let you know if any electrical current is flowing through the switch or wires. As a bonus, this is a rather inexpensive tool to buy. If you are planning on doing any electrical work, I heartily recommend that you get one.

Don't be alarmed by all the wires in the electric box. You only need to worry about three wires with a single pole switch: the ground wire (usually a bare copper wire), the wire coming into the switch (the "hot" wire) and the wire coming out of the switch (which goes to the fixture).

Now is a good time to use the circuit tester to make sure that the wires are not hot. The light has not lit up, so we are good to go.

Since both wires are the same color, I used a piece of electric tape to mark the lower wire. I'd hate it if I wired the switch 'upside-down'.

Safety first: Let's test the wires again. Still safe.

On a switch like this you can either shape the wire into a hook and tighten them on the screws, or you can use the fast connect option. Since that is the way the old switch was wired, I used the fast connects on the new switch. The ground is hooked around the ground screw on the switch.

And it is that simple. Before I tightened everything down and replaced the face plate, I turned the circuit breaker back on and made sure everything was working properly. Happily everything worked right the first time.

I ended up needing a pair of needle nose pliers to unhook and hook the ground wire and a small straight screwdriver to release the wires from the fast connects on the old switch.

Now let's see the dimmer switch in action.

Oh yes, I'm good.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Damn. You ARE the smartest thing on the block.

Marilyn said...

We just won't tell anyone that it's a very short block.

Wonder Schwermin said...

Good On You! I hate the helpless woman approach to life, and we SO are the smartest things on the block.