How to Replace a Single Pole Wall Switch

Single pole wall light switch

Replacing a standard, single pole, wall light switch is an easy DIY project that only requires a few tools and a little know how. Here how to go about it.

How Switches Work

Switches work by controlling the flow of electrical current in the hot wire, with power coming in through the wire attached to the bottom of the switch and going out to a light or other electrical device through the wire attached to the top.

Hot wires in a house are usually color coded black or red, with neutral wires white, and ground wires bare or green; but under certain conditions, the hot wire to a switch may be white as well. If the hot wire is white, it should be wrapped with black electrical tape to indicate that it’s functioning as a hot wire.

Read on to find out how to replace a wall switch.


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7 Comments on “How to Replace a Single Pole Wall Switch”

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  • Brenda Says:
    March 31st, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Scratch that question…Found another wall switch behind a cabinet in the garage I did not know about so will go with a double pole switch and sure it will work now. Thanks anyway.

  • Brenda Says:
    March 30th, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Hi, I am changing a wall switch that controls 2 balusters flourescent lights in the garage. I sued a single pole decorator off/on switch. One red wire on left and 2 black wires on right on original switch. . The screw on the left on the decorator switch is a ground and the original switch had the red on the ground screw also. Followed the same and not turning on. I did notice the switch originally was backwards meaning down for on and up for off. What am I doing wrong please?

  • JoeVanSumer Says:
    September 11th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Hi again. Just wanted to be thorough and accurate.

  • JoeVanSumer Says:
    September 11th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Hi, I submitted an explanation for replacing a single pole switch with a black white and bare ground wire, if there are additional wires in this same box additional information would be required to provide a more detailed response. Happy to help if I can. Joe

  • JoeVanSumer Says:
    September 11th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Replacing a single pole switch should be fairly straight forward. SAFETY FIRST. Turn the power off at the electrical panel where the power originates. With the power off it is safe to remove the switch from the box that it is mounted in and to disconnect the wires from the switch. The national
    elec.code art. 200.7(c) requires the white to be hot only when in a cable and only for switching. Idealy connect white to top terminal black to bottom terminal bare ground to green screw on switch, reinstall switch, restore power and test by turning switch on. The switch should be up when it is turned on also you will read on and off as opposed to no and ffo on the switch. Wrap wire on terminals in a clockwise direction. WORK SAFE.

  • Kathy Says:
    September 10th, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    How to Replace a Single Pole Light Switch in a mobile home? It has 3 sets (black, white & ground) of wires in it.


  • JoeVanSumer Says:
    August 9th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    It might have been a good idea to do a good lamp test first.This test is best accomplished by making sure the test lamp works in another socket. I might have noted that when the switch was removed from the wall the conductors were installed with the loop facing in the wrong direction, this might make clear the instruction to face the loop in what could be called a clock wise direction.
    thanks Joe vs

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How to Replace a Single Pole Wall Switch