How to Change a Light Switch Without Turning Off the Power

Electric outlets are sealed off so that you won’t get shocked every time you plug in a power brick. It is designed to keep the current out. They work with heavy loads of electricity so it is natural that they will need repair work. Maybe the switch has turned faulty or broken. There may be a lot of circumstances where you cannot turn off the power before working on these outlets or switches. The power switch could be stuck, or the circuit breaker is inaccessible. 

In any case, if the situation arises you might consider fixing it yourself. This means you must repair a switch or replace a cover plate while the power is on. This guide can help you understand how to change a light switch without turning off the power. The same rule mostly applies to electrical outlets as well.

How to Change a Light Switch Without Turning Off the Power

Before continuing, prioritize shutting down the main power before working on a live circuit by yourself. Stop immediately if you aren’t confident in connecting or disconnecting the live wire. Live wires can carry up to 110 Volts. If the hot wire touches any grounded surface, it will cause a spark in that location. Human bodies are conductors so you may be electrocuted if you aren’t careful. So, even though the job itself is not that complex, proceed with caution.

Can You Change a Light Switch Without Shutting Off the Power?

When asked how to change a light switch or power outlet without turning off the power, everyone expects it to be a very complex process. It is possible to completely replace a switch without shutting down the main power. It is quite simple even. We listed the steps below.

Required Materials

Working on a live wire requires you to have a decent understanding of what you are doing. You will need some equipment to safely change a light switch without turning off the power.

  • Well insulated Gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • Power sensor
  • Pliers
  •  Insulated Wire Caps

A Step by Step Guide On How to Change a Light Switch Without Turning Off the Power

How to change a light switch without turning off the power? Follow our step by step guide and you will have a good idea on the procedure and precautions as well

Step 1:

Unscrew the cover plate of the switch you will be working on. Use a sharp edge to peel off the cut off the paint attaching the wall to the socket. Otherwise, the drywall may be pulled out as well. Pull out the cover plate and you will see the screws attaching the switch to the wall. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws and pull out the switch.

Unscrew the Cover Plate

Step 2:

Use the Tester to find the hot wire. It should show a red light and give out a beeping sound when connected with the hot wire. The hot wire carries the current and will electrocute you if you are not careful. Make sure it does not touch a grounded surface because it will cause a shock.

Step 3:

Locate the green screw around the switch device. This is the ground wire screw. Unscrew it first to remove the ground wire. Keep the shape of the wire intact. It is shaped to tighten as the screw itself tightens. This will be important in ensuring proper earthing. 

Step 4:

 Use Pliers to handle the wires. Remove the ends of the load wire and hot wire from the outlet. You may need to cut them if you are unable to pull them out. If so, use your tools and do not directly touch the wire. You can place a wire cap on the open ends for more safety.

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Step 5:

Replace the old switch with your replacement one Make sure that your replacement switch has all the necessary components pre-built. They should come with all the screws attached so you don’t have to replace them with the old light switch. Now it is time to reinstall the switches.

Replace the Old Switch

Step 6:

If you don’t have to cut the wires, you can put the curled ends of the black & live wires in the openings around the brass screw. Place the curled ends in the space under the brass screws. Tighten the screws and the wire will fit under it.

Step 7:

If you had to cut the wires, remove the coating of the wires first. Shape the open ends of the exposed wire using tools so that the new ends can wrap around the brass screws on the switchboard. Tighten the screws and make sure the wires stay in place and do not poke out onto the plastic.

Step 8:

Reattach the ground wire with the green screw. Similarly, make sure that the wire is pressed under the screw. It should tighten as you tighten the screw itself. 

Step 9:

Turn the switch on to check if the connection is complete. If everything checks out, Attach the screw back to the wall carefully. Reattach the wall screws and install a new cover plate as well. Use the screws given with the new switch rather than recycling your old ones. Durability will matter.

Turn the Switch on

Just like that, you have successfully learned how to change a light switch without turning off the power!

Warnings

You’ve learned the process of how to change a light switch without turning off the power. However, there are few things that you should be concerned about. 

  • The live wire should not be handled without proper equipment. Refrain from touching it with your bare hands
  • Do not use any of the screws from the previous switch in your new installation.
  • Ensure that the ground wire is properly in place. The switch should not electrocute you or any conductors around the switch.

Can You Wire a Light Switch with The Power On? 

Yes. It is possible to rewire a light switch with the power on. The current-carrying wire must be carefully handled. If the hot wire comes in contact with a grounded surface, you may be electrocuted. The wiring change itself is the same process whether the power is turned on or off.

Is It Safe to Replace an Outlet Without Shutting Off the Power?

Circuits are designed to keep the current within the wires. Any outside conductor like a human touch will release the current through the body as if it were another wire connected to the circuit. A live outlet has a risk of electrocuting you if you are not careful with how you handle it. So, it is not fully safe to replace an outlet or a light switch without turning off the power.

Be Careful When Use It

How Do You Change the Wall Outlet Without Turning Off the Power?

A wall outlet is not that different from a switch in terms of the process. There will be a hot wire and a load wire that you will need to unscrew. Isolate the hot wire and replace the outlet with a new one. Similarly, reinstall the wires and ground wire and put the outlet back in its place. Make sure the hot wire does not touch a grounded surface.

Frequently Asked Question

Do I Need an Electrician to Replace a Light Switch? 

Hiring an electrician is the safest option available. A professional fully knows how to change a light switch without turning on the power. They will be able to handle the live circuit without much issue. The work itself is not complex, the safety concerns make it a bit difficult for regular people. If you aren’t experienced or confident in maintaining safety, it is best to call an electrician.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Light Switch?

Replacing a switch requires you to buy a replacement switch at the very least. Considering you have the rest of the equipment like pliers on you, the switch itself should cost at least $20. The price may vary depending on the brand and design you want to get.

How Long Does It Take to Change a Light Switch?

Swapping a light switch is a very simple task. Changing a light switch without turning off the power is more difficult because you can be electrocuted if you’re not careful. If you understand the work, it should not take more than 10 minutes. In case you are a beginner, take your time to unplug and screw in the wires. Even if it takes more than 15 minutes. You can never be too careful.

Can You Touch the Black Wire Without Getting Shocked?

There are usually three distinct wires. The black wire is the hot wire. This one carries the current. The white wire is the load or neutral wire. This wire carries the current back to the mainboard. The final is the ground wire that completes the connection. In the case of working on a live circuit, the black wire cannot be touched without getting shocked. 

 In case of having two black wires, use the power sensor after unplugging the wires from the device to identify the hot wire and work accordingly.

Conclusion

Now you know how to change a light switch without turning off the power. It’s a simple procedure that requires a bit of knowledge. Basic works like this can in turn save you some money. It is a good idea to have basic knowledge about this for your benefit. Remember that when you call for an electrician, you are paying for his expertise more than the work itself. Besides, servicing yourself is more satisfying anyway!

Electricity is not unpredictable. It is logical and simple. If you understand the forces behind the current, it isn’t a force to be scared of. Rather, you can easily take over small electrical works in your own home just like how you can replace a switch. There are no unknowns in a circuit. Unless the line itself is faulty, the circuit will not behave unpredictably. 

Still, it is better to leave some work to the experts. Outside of basic replacements, complex wiring should be left alone. Especially if the power is still on. Some workers also prefer to keep the power on as it forces them to respect the circuit and always be on guard. Do not attempt to replicate that if you have the option to close off the circuit and work safely.

You can also check it out: How to Change a Light Bulb in a Stairwell