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Install Light Dimmers and Fan Controls

Dimmer and Fan Control

Installing a dimmer or fan control is really quite easy. These simple step-by-step instructions will have you on your way to enjoying the perfect ambiance in no time.

Install Your Dimmer Switch or Fan Control

Even though they look alike, dimmer switches and fan controls have different functions. Always use the proper switch for your application. Check the packaging to see whether the switch is for a light or a fan motor, and follow the instructions included with your particular switch.

When working with electricity always:

  • Turn OFF electricity at the main fuse box (or circuit breaker box) that controls the power to the fixture or the room you're working on.
  • Test the wires to ensure the power is OFF.
  • Place the wall switch in the OFF position.
  • All electrical connections must be in agreement with local codes. Check with local authorities to see if a permit is required.
  • If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.
  • Do not use bulbs with wattage greater than specified for this fixture (if applicable).
Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for safety, warning and caution information.
Make sure the dimmer switch you've chosen is compatible with Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs.

Step 1
Remove the wall plate and switch mounting screws.
  • Remove the wall plate and switch mounting screws so the switch can be pulled from the wall and the wires exposed. Don't touch any of the wires until you've confirmed they aren't carrying electrical current.

      Step 2
      Disconnect the old switch.
      • Use masking tape to mark the wires that are connected to the switch. These are the wires you need to connect to your new dimmer. If you have a digital camera handy, take a picture of the existing wiring in case you need to refer to it when installing the new switch.
      • If you’re replacing a three-way switch, use masking tape to mark the common wire. This is usually connected to a darker terminal (than the other two wires) on the switch.
      • Disconnect all wires from the old switch by loosening the screws and unhooking the wires.

      Step 3
      Connect the new switch.
      • For a single-pole application of a dimmer switch, which means the light is only controlled by the switch you're replacing, connect the green dimmer wire to the bare copper ground wire in the box using a supplied connector. Twist clockwise to tighten.
      • For a three-way application of a dimmer switch, which means the light is controlled from this switch and another switch location, connect the common wire from the dimmer, which is typically black, to the common house wire that you marked off earlier with masking tape. Connect the other two house wires, called traveler wires, to the other two dimmer wires, as with a standard switch. In a typical three-way switch configuration, the traveler wires will be red or white with black markings.

      Step 4
      Replace the wall plate.
      • Carefully tuck the wires back into the electrical box.
      • Mount your switch to the wall. Align the switch and tighten the screws.
      • Mount the wall plate to the switch. Secure it with the wall plate screws.
      • Turn the power back on at the circuit breaker panel or the fuse box.