Electrical switches are usually reliable, but when there are problems, they can be shocking! Most electrical work done around the house is fairly easy in a technical sense. Bend a wire, tighten a screw or wrap a little electrical tape around something. Always remember to shut the power off before doing any type of electrical work.
Switch problems fall into two categories either they stop working or they spark when you use them. If a switch stops working, first make sure it s the switch and not the light or appliance it controls. An easy test to tell if there is a problem with the switch is to plug in an appliance that you know works.
If a switch sparks when you use it, then it might be best to call in a professional. It is important to be aware of local laws regarding electric repairs. Some cities have limitations on what work an unlicensed person can do, even if you own the home. And in some cases, doing it yourself can affect your homeowners insurance.
You need to ensure that the fuse and breaker for your current circuit can handle the load. Older wiring and new appliances really don t mix. If you are thinking about updating your wiring, consider the kinds of appliances you have around the house. Certain things, like computers, might be better off having a dedicated circuit.
Sometimes the contact points in the switch become worn. You can replace switches easily, and it s cheaper than trying to repair them. Make sure, though, that if you replace a switch, you use one that has the same number of wires. Also check the amps and voltage rating on the old switch and use a new one with the same ratings.
You can also replace one kind of switch with a different one, such as a dimmer switch, to save energy and personalize your room. First remove the old switch and disconnect its wires. If there s a terminal screw on the new switch, loop the wires around the screws in a clockwise direction. If the new switch has short wires coming out of it, connect the bare ends to the wires in the wall and use wire nuts to secure them. Make sure you test the bare wire ends again before installing the new switch to make sure they re not live. Push the switch and wires into the wall box, use the top and bottom screws to secure it to the wall, and then install the faceplate of your choice.
Always meet or exceed any code standards for the kind of work you are doing. Educate yourself, read and get advice from a local building inspector. If you have any doubts about what you are doing, hire a licensed electrician. It s not worth putting the lives of your family in danger just to save a few bucks, is it? Don t cut corners.