The Handbook

The Instant Home Upgrade

Single pole dimmer switch, by Lutron

Lighting is a crucial aspect when creating atmosphere in your home, but guys usually overlook the importance of it. The key to good lighting is often turning it down. Of course, there are times you need it brighter. The living room requires functional lighting for reading, but it should be softer for entertaining. Your bedroom needs a flattering glow. A dimmer allows you to change your lighting appropriately. Even if you're in a rental, replacing a standard light switch with a single dimmer is a pretty simple do-it-yourself project. In about 15 minutes, you'll have the ability to smoothly adjust your lighting. What's more, a dimmer actually saves energy too.

1. Turn Off the Power

Whenever you're doing any electrical work, the circuit breaker is always your first step. Be sure to cut the power to the circuit you'll be working on and double check that the power is off by flipping the light switch on and off to make sure there isn't a current flowing through the line.

2. Remove the Switch

Take off your existing wall plate with a screwdriver. Then remove the switch by unscrewing the top and bottom screw in the outlet box. Pull out the switch and wires. Take a picture of which wires are connected to the switch (for your reference), then disconnect the wires from the switch by unscrewing the wire connector nuts. Unscrew the grounding wire last (often the green one).

3. Attach the Dimmer

Connect the ground wire from your dimmer to a green or bare copper wire in the wall box. Grip the wire ends with a pair of pliers and twist the ends together clockwise, then cap them using a wire connector nut. Connect each dimmer wire to a house wire in the same way using your pliers. The wires from the dimmer will typically be black. The two house wires may be black, red or white with black marking. Tighten a wire nut over each pair of wire ends. If there is bare wire exposed, unscrew the wire connector, remove the wires, trim the ends of the wires with scissors or wire cutters and then re-cap the wires. Tuck the wires back into the electrical box, screw the dimmer to the box and replace the wall plate.

Visual Trick


Use paint to give the illusion of a bigger room by painting one wall a color, and the others a lighter shade of that color. This tricks the eye into believing the space is larger.


Some ceiling fan lighting fixtures may not work well with a dimmer. Check the manufacture's specifications before installing a dimmer switch for your fan.