To my surprise the other day, I went to turn on my living room light switch, and it didn’t work. Well, it kind of worked. The light would turn on when tapped down and then turn off when tapped down again. It didn’t even click up and down anymore.
It was right before my daughter’s nap, so I was about to have a good window to fix it!
After nap commenced, I riffled through some of the old odds and ends in the basement (the treasure trove of abandoned tools), and I found a brand new light switch in the box. Score! I shut off the breaker and went to work.
Of course, what you should do is test to make sure whatever wiring you’re about to work on is completely off by connecting a multimeter, but I like to live dangerously. I just trust that the power is off when everything on the circuit shuts off. Call me crazy.
The previous switch plate had been painted over by yours truly, so to get the plate off without accidentally lifting up the wall paint, I took my handy dandy rusty utility knife (I should change the blade) and cut a separation between the wall and the plate.
After popping off the plate, I took a look at the switch.
THERE IS STRANGE MAGIC HERE
Okay, so I’ve mentioned it plenty of times. My house is really old. As such, the wiring in the house is really old. The wires in the wall are crazy stiff, and they are covered in cloth rather than plastic insulation. Again, that’s how they did it before plastics were available. My walls are also stuffed with newspaper instead of fiberglass, but that’s another story.
The old switch’s connections were on the left, but the new connections are on the right. I spent the next five minutes using a pair of pliers to reposition them, strip a little cloth away and curl them in such a way as to fit the screw connections on the new switch.
To install a switch, you wrap the two black wires around the screws on the switch. You then tighten the screws tight to make a circuit. There’s also a spot for a ground wire, but we don’t need no stinkin’ ground wires.
I turned on the breaker and it works!
To finish it off, I went to Home Depot today and got a decorative switch plate.
about 10-15 minutes
- Light switch: 69 cents for a toggle or $2.17 for a rocker switch, or free if you were me.
- Switch plate: $5.97 for the decorative plate – or – a plain plastic one will cost you a whopping 25 cents.
So, for less than a dollar and a little know-how, you can fix a busted light switch rather than call an electrician. I certainly fared better than that time I had to call a plumber.
But, please be sure that you shut off the breaker and make sure there’s no electricity running through it, even if you need to test it…after all a multimeter is only $9…
…maybe there’s one in my basement.