How to wire a one way light switch

Written by k.k. lowell
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How to wire a one way light switch
(Photos by KKLowell)

Any lamp in your home, office, or shop that is turned on and off from a single location is controlled by a one-way switch. These switches are by far the most commonly used switch in the home. They are also the simplest switch to use when adding a new light, such as a wall-mounted or ceiling light, in your home.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Switch
  • 14-gauge wire with ground
  • Wire nuts

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  1. 1

    Shut off the electrical power at the main circuit breaker.

  2. 2

    Run a 14-gauge 2-wire with ground cable from the breaker box to your switch location. From the same location, run a second 14-gauge cable and connect it to the screw terminals on the new light.

  3. 3

    Mount a switch box to the wall or stud. Mounting the box in an existing wall is easiest with an "old work box," available at home supply and hardware stores. An old work box has spring loaded ears that are folded in when the box is pushed through the hole cut for it in the wall. These ears pop out, trapping the box in the hole. A screw is then tightened, and that clamps the wall firmly between the ear and a flange on the box.

  4. 4

    Pull the 14-gauge cable through one of the holes in the box, leaving about six inches exposed. Do the same with the cable connected to the light.

  5. 5

    Twist the bare copper ground wires together. To ensure a tight fit, you can twist them together with a wire nut.

  6. 6

    Strip about one-half inch of insulation from both white wires and join using a wire nut.

  7. 7

    Strip about one-half inch of insulation from both black wires. Connect one to each screw terminal on the switch.

  8. 8

    Mount the switch to the box using the included screws, then install a switch cover to complete the job.

  9. 9

    Turn the main breaker back on.

Tips and warnings

  • Working with the electricity on can result in electric shock, which can result in injury or death. Always switch the main breaker off before starting electrical work.

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