Completing Your Upgrade To CFLs - Installing Dimmer Switches

27 July 2015
 Categories: , Blog

You're slowly changing over your home lighting from the old incandescent light bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFL). This looks simple enough, as the CFLs screw into the old light bulb sockets with no modifications needed. One problem exists, though: the dimmer switches you used for the old bulbs aren't safe to use with CFLs. If you want to keep certain lights on a dimmer switch, you'll need to replace those dimmers with CFL-compatible switches. This is a simple DIY project if you're comfortable working with electricity. If you aren't, contact an electrical contractor to do the job. If you're up to the task, here are the steps to get this done with a few tools and a couple hours of your time.

What You'll Need to Do This Project

  • flat-blade screwdriver
  • wire cutter/stripper
  • circuit tester
  • CFL-compatible dimmer switch from a home improvement store

Replacing the Dimmer Switch

Use the following steps for each dimmer switch you need to replace.

  1. Turn the power off to the switch at the circuit breaker box for the house.
  2. Use your circuit tester to make sure there is no power at the switch before working on it.
  3. Remove the cover plate around the switch and set aside to reuse later.
  4. Remove the screws at the top and bottom of the switch holding it in the electrical box.
  5. Pull the switch and wires out of the box far enough to work on the back of the switch.
  6. Unscrew the green or copper wire from the side of the switch.
  7. Cut off the black and white wires as close to the back of the switch as possible.
  8. Remove the old dimmer switch.
  9. Strip about a half inch of insulation from the black and white wires.
  10. Screw the green or copper ground wire onto the green screw on the side of the new dimmer switch.
  11. Push the black wire into the hole on the back of the switch next to the brass screw.
  12. Push the white wire into the hole on the back of the switch next to the silver screw.
  13. Push the wires into the electrical box followed by the new dimmer switch.
  14. Secure the switch in the box with the screws on the top and bottom of the switch.
  15. Replace the cover plate on the new dimmer switch.
  16. Turn the power back on to the switch at the circuit breaker box.
  17. Test your new dimmer switch.

Problems You May Encounter

If you have a home with old wiring, the wires you see may not match these instructions. Have a professional electrician, like those at Attaboy Electric Service LLC, sort out the wiring for you and replace the switch.