Replacing single pole light switch

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  #1  
Old 01-14-13, 05:00 PM
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Replacing single pole light switch

So, I know it's a relatively easy thing to do but I am having a hard time figuring out how to replace my light switch as there seem to be some things not exactly standard from what I've read.

It's a single pole switch for 4 pot lights. When I took the old one out of the wall it had 2 grounds to it, a black to each screw on the side and one black plugged into the back of it. I read that some contractors will plug the one into to the back to save space in the box instead of a splice with a wirenut. I assume this is the case here and it's ok to do so but I don't know for sure.

The new switch I bought doesn't have the screw for ground so I have to put the grounds directly to the box except those screws aren't there. If I replace the black wires exactly like the old switch and get 2 screws to attach the grounds to the box, it should work right?

Or should I have an electrician do it in case my contractor was not following the rules? We didn't have any inspections done to certify his work.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:09 PM
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Most new devices.....like 99.9% of them have ground screws.
More than likely if you had two ground wires on the old switch one of them came from a box connection. You may be able to remove them from the switch and wire nut them. If one doesn't come from the box then like you said.....add a screw and put them there.

That's pretty common to see with a wire pushed in the back while using the screw terminals. To correct it you would join those two together and bring out a single tail.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:10 PM
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If the box is a grounded metal box a self grounding switch is okay. Be sure you keep the two blacks on the same terminal together. When you install the new switch connect them to a pigtail.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:25 PM
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I have no idea if the box is grounded already. What I do know is there are 2 ground wires twisted together but I'm not sure exactly where they are coming from.

So what I get from both of you is that I should connect the 2 blacks with a wirenut instead of the way it was before? And if I join them together, where does the wire to the switch come from?
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:30 PM
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You connect the two wires together and add another short piece of wire as a tail.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:40 PM
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I think I might just have an electrician do it. My wife wants to put a dimmer switch anyway and I don't want to buy tools that I might only use once or twice. I'm not the handiest guy.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:51 PM
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If you put a dimmer in then you wont have to add a wire tail......dimmers come with wire tails attached.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 07:42 PM
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Not all dimmers have the wire leads. Lutrons have screw terminals.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 09:09 PM
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Of the hundreds of dimmers I've installed, maybe a dozen had wire leads. One in my present house does, and none in my old house did, and I have them literally everywhere.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 09:36 PM
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Ok then.....let me re-phrase my reply.

If you are thinking of putting in a dimmer......purchase one of the types that has the wire leads already attached.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 04:16 AM
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Lexmark, don't give up on this!! You have boiled to the top and are about to ski downhill. What the guys are saying, and I hate to repeat, take the two wires that are together on the switch (one under the screw and the one beside it in the stab back, add a short wire to them and cap all three together. Now you have a single wire to attach to your new switch, regardless of the type you decide to put in. Remember we are telling you this because of the rule.....one screw, one wire, no more.
Let us know how it goes.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 05:11 AM
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If you did need to pigtail you could use one of these.



Most basic wiring can be done with a screw driver a good pair of scissors and a sharp paring knife but I can't imagine anyone wanting to be without basic hand tools.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 04:24 PM
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Thanks for the advice so far. I'm going to elaborate a bit more as I am the king of overthinking and I hate doing any kind of home repair without knowing exactly what to do. Can't afford to mess up and make things worse.

I took a closer look at the switch box and here is what I saw: there are 3 "sets" of wires coming into the box. Each "set" has a black, white, and ground. The 3 whites are pigtailed together, 2 of the grounds are twisted together and running to ground screw on old switch along with 3rd ground. The 3 black are as described in original post.

Does this change anything? Also, to wrap the grounds on the box's ground screws, is it ok to leave alot of excess wire in the box or can I cut it to a more manageable length? I know it's better to have more than less but I can't see the ground needing to be longer "just in case", ya know? And if I do end up adding a dimmer, it'll be one that has everything with it(wirenut,leads,etc) along with detailed instructions.

Thanks again.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 05:29 PM
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No, that's what we assumed with the original description. If you had 3 blacks in the switches, we assumed there were 3 cables, and the neutrals would be tied together. You're cool.
You can cut the wires, although it is easier to neatly tuck it in the box in case you need to do more work later. Shorter makes it difficult to work on later.
After you get the dimmers, if you have questions, we're here.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:06 PM
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Ok, I'll just try to tuck the grounds the best I can. Should I wrap all 3 together and put them on one ground screw or should I just leave as is and use both?

The only thing that matters for the pigtail of the 2 blacks is that it's the same gauge, right?
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:10 PM
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Wrap all three grounds together, but leave two of the wires long enough to wrap around each switch grounding screw. The two blacks and their pigtail should be of the same gauge.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:39 PM
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Wrap all three grounds together, but leave two of the wires long enough to wrap around each switch grounding screw

Ok. Thanks. Does that mean I still connect to both screws? I'll have to give a shot tomorrow. And I picked a couple of short lengths of 14 and 16 gauge wire to see which one it is. I'm pretty sure it's 14 though. I found a spare light switch we have laying around at my work and the wire on it is 14.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:45 PM
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#14 is the smallest allowed in building wiring. Fixture wiring can be smaller.

You should have 6 inches of free conductor in the box.
 
  #19  
Old 01-15-13, 06:54 PM
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I don't think I even have 6" before I start doing anything else.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 05:25 AM
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You have one of the grounding wires to a screw in the box. The two wires I referred to would attach to the green screws, one on each switch. I understand you have two switches in the box, is that correct?
 
  #21  
Old 01-16-13, 03:00 PM
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I don't think I even have 6" before I start doing anything else.
Then you shouldn't shorten any of the wires.

Should I wrap all 3 together and put them on one ground screw or should I just leave as is and use both?
I have never seen a switch, or any other electrical device, that had more than one ground screw. Having more than one risks interrupting the low-impedance path to ground that's required.

Can you post a picture of your switch showing the two ground screws? I'd just like to see the thing! See How To Include Pictures.

You should twist the three ground wires together. You should bond that set of wires to the box, if it's metal, and to the switch. You can do that by adding two pigtails to the bundle, or by adding one long one to go to both screws. Or, if the original wires are long enough, you can use one or two of them, extending past the twist or on the way to the twist, to make the bonding connections.
 
  #22  
Old 01-16-13, 04:20 PM
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Chandler, there is only 1 switch and it(the replacement one) doesn't have a ground screw on it which is why I wasn't sure what to do as far as grounding it directly to the box.

Nashkat1, as I stated before, the replacement switch doesn't have a ground screw but the old one did. When I was talking about 2 ground screws I was referring to attaching 2 to the metal box as it didn't have any.

The only grounding that I can do with the replacement switch that I bought is to the metal box in the wall. Sorry if I caused any confusion. It was inadvertent. Maybe the easiest thing to do would be to go back to the store and try to find a switch with a ground screw.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 04:46 PM
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Grounding to the box alone is code compliant. That said, I always use devices with ground screws and bond to the device in addition to the box.

If you're willing to trade the switch, I think that would be the better way to do it.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 04:51 PM
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Yeah, I'm thinking that would be the easiest thing with the least confusion. As I said before, I have 2 ground wires twisted together and one by itself. So it would be, say, the 2 twisted together to the box and the other to the switch or vice versa.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 05:11 PM
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So it would be, say, the 2 twisted together to the box and the other to the switch or vice versa.
All grounds must be connected together so if you have three ground wires all three must be connected together. As Nash wrote:
You should twist the three ground wires together. You should bond that set of wires to the box, if it's metal, and to the switch
 
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Old 01-16-13, 05:20 PM
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ok then, so all three grounds twisted together so only 1 wire actually gets connected to the box...or the switch if I get another one that has a ground screw.

Tired of me yet?
 
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Old 01-16-13, 05:31 PM
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Yes, that is correct.

.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 07:13 PM
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ok then, so all three grounds twisted together so only 1 wire actually gets connected to the box...or the switch if I get another one that has a ground screw.
Actually, one to the box and one to the switch if you get one with a ground screw - even if you have to add one or two pigtails to the set of ground wires to do that.

Tired of me yet?
Nope. Tired of us yet?
 
  #29  
Old 01-17-13, 05:11 PM
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Ok, so assuming I keep the switch without the ground screw, it's the 3 together with 1 to box or does it become 2 to box?
 
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Old 01-17-13, 06:30 PM
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One to the box if the switch is self grounding.
 
  #31  
Old 01-17-13, 06:49 PM
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Ok, one of the guys I work with(he does electrician type stuff) told me that since it doesn't have a ground screw, then I just twist the 3 grounds together, leaving enough on one to attach it to the box.

Or, do I need another short piece of bare wire to do a pigtail?
 
  #32  
Old 01-17-13, 07:30 PM
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You can use a green ground wire nut. It has a hole in the end for the long wire to go through.

 
  #33  
Old 01-17-13, 08:45 PM
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If you can ground the box without adding a pigtail and if the switch is self-grounding, that will work.
 
  #34  
Old 01-18-13, 06:09 PM
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The new switch I bought doesn't have the screw for ground
Self-grounding switches and receptacles I am familiar with still have a green grounding screw on them.

Leviton 15 Amp Self-Grounding Duplex Power Outlet - Light Almond R56-05320-00T at The Home Depot
 
  #35  
Old 01-18-13, 06:33 PM
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guy I work with says it's self-grounding. Can't see anything on it that says that though nor is there the copper tab that I've read about.

I don't have it with me but I know it's a cooper 15a, 120/277v switch with a blue back that has 2 terminals. Nothing for ground as far as I can see unless it looks nothing at all like what I'm expecting a green ground screw to look like.
 
  #36  
Old 01-18-13, 06:36 PM
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This seems to be the switch. What does "stippled ground screw" mean?

Decorator Switches - 7501, 7503, 7504
 
  #37  
Old 01-19-13, 05:29 AM
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It means the grounding screw (green) has ridges for the wire to grab into when the screw is tightened. That is a quality switch, so you didn't buy the cheapest, and that's good. One way to tell if it is self grounding or not is to see if the grounding screw is part of the yoke. If it is, and you have the metal box grounded, the switch will ground via direct contact with the screw into the metal box. You said you didn't see the copper flap thing in one of the screw holes? Normally that is the indicator.
 
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Old 01-19-13, 07:13 AM
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This seems to be the switch. What does "stippled ground screw" mean?

Decorator Switches - 7501, 7503, 7504
The 7500 series switches have a metal mounting strap and a grounding screw according to the brochure, you must have something else.
 
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