How to Install a Dimmer Switch

A hand turning a switch

Installing a dimmer switch in your home can prove difficult. However, it is possible for you to accomplish if you follow certain steps and use the right tools. Every task involving electricity includes risks, so make sure to take great care when taking on projects like these.

Choosing the Right Dimmer Switch

Before you get started, make sure to determine what kind of dimmer switch you need. There are three basic types of dimmer switches:

  • Slide dimmer: The slide dimmer has a slider that you can use to adjust your lights to the desired brightness.

  • Toggle dimmer: A toggle dimmer has a traditional light switch next to a small slider. The light switch turns the light on and off and the slider adjusts the brightness, as with a slide dimmer.

  • Electronic dimmer: Electronic dimmers use a device called a Triac that is used to turn the power off and on up to 120 times per second. This is imperceptible to the naked eye and helps save energy.

Once you have selected your dimmer switch, you will gather the following tools to complete the job:

  • Tape measure

  • Voltage tester

  • 2-lead wire type

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver

  • Wire stripper/cutter

  • Needle-nose pliers


Before you begin, assemble your tools and the dimmer switch and turn off the power to the light. To complete installation, follow the steps below.

  1. Perform Check for Hot Wires. Use a non-contact voltage detector to see if there is any current coming from any of the wires. You absolutely must perform this step before you attempt to install a dimmer switch.

  2. Use the Right Box. The National Electrical Code specifies certain box sizes. The number of devices or wires in any box can create dangerous electrical conditions. If you are not sure what box to use, consult a professional.

  3. Before Connecting your Ground Test it. Most new dimmer switches contain a green grounding wire or a green screw. Before connecting your ground, you have to test the ground with a neon voltage tester. Making sure that the ground is properly attached is crucial.

  4. Install the Dimmer Switch. You may have to attach a metal grounding clip to the box in order to properly ground the switch.

  5. Pinch over the Ground Wire End. If you are connecting the ground wire to a metal grounding clip, you have to pinch the ground wire over on top of the metal grounding clip to assure a solid connection.

  6. Connect Wires. Connect the two positive and negative wires and use plastic wire connectors the cover the ends. This prevents future possible electrical shock. Make sure you also connect the grounding wire using a plastic wire connector for that as well.

  7. Attach the Cover Plate. The final step in the installation process involves attaching the cover plate and screwing the dimmer switch into the box. After everything is installed, you should be able to turn the power back on and use the dimmer switch.


These are the basic steps and tools you need to perform a dimmer switch installation. Due to the electrical hazards of installing a dimmer switch you may want to have a professional install your dimmer switch to be on the safe side. Our professional team can install a dimmer switch quickly and easily in any home.

If you are interested in having a dimmer switch installed in your home, contact Ryan Electrical Services at (845) 513-3344 to schedule an appointment.
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