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Install a Dimmer Switch

Dimmer switches allow you to set the mood, help save on electricity and extend the life of your light bulbs. Learn how to install one in your home.

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Select a Dimmer Switch

First determine the type of light that will be connected to the dimmer. If you plan to use LED, CFL, xenon, halogen, HID or fluorescent bulbs, make sure the dimmer switch is rated for use with those specific bulbs. 

Next determine how many lights will be connected to the dimmer and add up their wattage. For example, if you have two 75-watt lights, your total load is 150. You will need a dimmer that's rated for at least 150 watts. Finally, take note of the kind of switch you have, as this will determine the type of dimmer you need. This article is for a single-pole dimmer switch.

Install Dimmer Switch


Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and safety. Check to see if you need a permit. Observe applicable building and electrical codes. Contact a licensed electrician if you have any doubts or questions about the connections, or if your home's wiring doesn't appear compatible with the changes you're making.

Step 1

Test for electrical current.

Turn off power to the light fixtures at the main fuse or circuit box and use a circuit tester to verify the power is off. Place the wall switches to the fixtures in the off position.

Watch our DIY Basics video: What's In My Breaker Box?

Step 2

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 3

Use masking tape to mark the wires that are connected to the switch, or take a picture with your phone. These are the wires you need to connect to your new dimmer.

Step 4

Disconnect the wires by loosening the screws and unhooking the wires.

Step 5

Stripping electrical wire/

Strip the wire insulation by 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch using a wire stripper. Double check the manufacturer's instructions to make sure you don't strip off too much insulation. Watch our video: How Do I Strip a Wire?

Step 6

Before installing the new dimmer, make note of which end is the top and which is the bottom of the dimmer switch.

Step 7

Connecting wires.

Connect the wires. If your switch has wires pre-attached, connect them to the house wires using wire connectors. Connect the green ground wire to the copper ground wire in the box using a wire connector. Twist the connectors clockwise to tighten. Except for the bare or green ground wire, no bare wire or wire filaments should be visible outside of the wire connector after connecting the wires. Wrap the connections with electrical tap. Watch our video: How Do I Connect Two Wires?  

Step 8

Carefully tuck the wires back into the electrical box and attach the dimmer to the electrical box with the mounting screws.

Step 9

Mount the wall plate to the switch and secure it with the wall plate screws.

Step 10

Turn the power back on and test the switch. If it fails to work, turn the power off again and test once more. Double check your work for incomplete connections.


Do not use bulbs with wattage greater than specified for the fixture.