One of the greatest improvements you can make for your space is in the lighting department. Sure you can always add a few lamps — but just as easy is making your overhead lights work on a dimmer switch. Your eyes will thank you and chances are your landlord will as well!

If you're like me, you're able to wield a hammer or screwdriver, but the idea of lighting and wires is intimidating. Luckily for all of us, they really aren't and installing a dimmer switch is a great project for anyone looking to get your feet wet in the world of wiring (although taken literally, that's a quite horrible idea).

From turning off your breaker to turning it back on, there's only 5 steps in between when installing a dimmer. There's wires to match up and ends to tape up, but all in all you can tackle it in less time than it takes to read about it!  Just think of it as mood lighting for Valentine's Day!


STEP 1: Locate and turn off the Fuse or Circuit Breaker that controls electricity to the light switch you are changing out.
If the fuse or breaker is not labeled, you can locate the proper fuse/breaker by turning the light switch on and flipping each fuse/breaker off and then on again, one at a time. When the light controlled by the switch you are replacing goes off, you have found the right one. Leave that fuse/breaker turned off and make sure the rest are turned on. *tip, if you tripped a few breakers before locating the appropriate one, be sure to check if your alarm clock needs to be reprogrammed.

STEP 2: Remove the wall plate and pull the switch from wall.
Unscrew the two small screws holding the cover plate to the wall and remove the plate. Next, remove the screws that hold the switch to the electrical box in the wall. Gently pull the switch out of the box so that you have access to the terminals on the switch and the wires in the wall.

STEP 3: Determine your switch type.
This step is very important. You need to take note of how the switch you are removing is wired, in order to correctly install the new one. The wiring will be either a single pole configuration or a 3-way configuration. A 3-way configuration is used when more than one switch is used to control the same light source. Even if your light source is controlled by a solitary switch (more common) you should still check the wiring configuration.

A single pole switch will have two insulated wires connected to two screws of the same color and should be replaced with a single pole dimmer.

A 3-way switch will have three insulated wires connected to three screws. One of these wires is connected to a screw of a different color or labeled COMMON. Label the wire in order to identify it when wiring the new switch. Replace with a 3-WAY dimmer.

STEP 4: Remove the wires from the switch in the wall.
Simply unscrew the terminals and remove the wires.

STEP 5: Wire in your new dimmer.
Connect the green ground wire (fig. 1 a.) to the green wire in the wall box or to the grounding screw inside the box. Next, connect one of the black wires on the dimmer to either of the wires you removed from the switch. Connect the other black wire on the dimmer to the remaining wire you removed from the switch. If you are installing a 3-way dimmer, attach the black dimmer wire to the wire you labeled, and attach the red wires as described above for the single pole installation.

STEP 6: Attach dimmer to wall and install cover plate.
Make sure that all the wires in the wall are taped and or covered with wire nuts (provided with dimmer). If any wires are left exposed, it will likely cause a short. Carefully tuck the wires inside the box so there is room for the dimmer. Screw the dimmer to the wall box. After the dimmer is screwed in place, attach the cover plate.

STEP 7: Turn power back on.
Go back to your apartment's electrical source and turn the breaker/fuse back on. If you don't smell smoke, your new dimmer is ready for use!

Now that your home is equipped with light dimmers, cook a romantic dinner for your beloved and set the proper mood by dimming the lights.

Article brought to you by Apartment Therapy