Can you operate a pair of scissors? Yes? PERFECT. That means you have the skills to install a switch on a lamp cord. Today we're installing a wheel switch.
There's really no good reason you wouldn't want to install a wheel switch. It's like having a tiny wizard in your cord.
Anyone can do this. ANYONE.
Because with a handy little wheel switch there's no wiring.
THE FIRST REASON (other than the wizard thing) you'll want to try this is because you can get almost immediate satisfaction from it. It takes like, 5 minutes, but you'll feel ... smug. Smart. Handy.
THE SECOND REASON is if you have a lamp that has no switch (as is the case with the picture light I'm working on here). There are archaic lights out there that you need to plug in to turn on and unplug to turn off.
THE THIRD REASON is if the lamp's switch is inconvenient to reach, like under a lampshade or in a bucket of spiders.
So everybody just calm down. You've got this. It's a piece of cake
THERE'S ONLY ONE IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW: which is the hot and which is the neutral wire.
The narrow (brass) prong is the HOT conductor which connects to the hot wire.
The wide (silver) prong is the NEUTRAL conductor which connects to the neutral wire.
All polarized plugs (with a wide & a narrow prong) are the same.
ONLY add an inline wheel switch to a cord with a polarized plug.
The side with the smooth sheathing is the HOT wire.
The side with the ridged sheathing is the NEUTRAL wire.
Narrow terminal side - Smooth insulation = HOT conductor
Wide terminal side - Ridged insulation = NEUTRAL conductor
You'll probably have to look back to reference those things, and that's fine. Just make sure that you're always paying attention to which wire it is you're cutting and/or dealing with.
YOU'RE CONFUSED. I understand.
All you need to remember is that you are cutting the smooth wire. (the one that goes to the narrow terminal)
What You Need
- SMALL SCREWDRIVER
- BOX CUTTER or sharp blade
- CORD WHEEL SWITCH - (inline switch, interrupter switch)
Step by step this is how to install your light switch.
1. Get your stuff together.
2. Decide where you want the switch to go. You get to decide where it's most convenient for you.
3. Admire your switch. You're about to become an electricianish.
4. Your switch might look slightly different. That's O.K.
5. Remove the screw to open the switch up. Don't lose the tiny nut from the other side of the screw head.
6. Using a sharp blade split the electrical cord to separate it.
7. Cut the HOT, smooth insulated wire in the middle. (this is where you get to show off your scissor skills)
8. Press the NEUTRAL, ridged, wire into the bottom channel then press the cut HOT, smooth wires above it.
9. Note the points on the other half of the switch. They will pierce the HOT smooth wires to finish the broken circuit.
10. Line the top part of the switch over the bottom, and press together firmly.
11. Make sure the tiny nut is in place and screw together to tighten.
12. You're done Bob Vila. You just have to test it out.
Look at you, you switched it up.
If you have bigger lamp problems, I can also show you how to rewire an entire lamp.
And then of course there's the option of using smart plugs and smart bulbs. I use Philips Hue bulbs in my living room and Kasa smart plugs around the house, plus I added some to my mom's house.
Betty claimed she didn't need them, but now that I've set them up for her she loves walking into the living room and saying "Hey Google" turn the lights on." Then the neighbourhood takes a drink.
I’m not sure I understand the neighborhood having a drink reference. Nonetheless I’ve never been more entertained while being educated. Congrats and thanks.
Well, the first most important thing is that the lamp or whatever is to UNPLUG it before cutting any wires. Thanks for the instructions.
I have used these in the past and they are quite simple to install - one caveat is to use them on low amp draw things, like a single bulb light ( I've converted to all LEDs wherever possible) for the lower electical consumption and long life. I would not use those wheel switches in things like small electric heaters, fans, tools or anything with higher amp use. The switch mechanism is not very 'stout' and could cause problems.
I should of course mention that most people are shocked when they discover what a bad electrician I am.
A quick Googling says these type switches are rated for just 2-3 amps. Amps = Watts/Volts
Or GET shocked?
Nice tutorial. Yup, add to the instructions that the cord must not be plugged in while completing this procedure!
Loved the tutorial. Putting it in a safe spot should I need it in the future. I too love my smart plugs. I can climb into bed, or go into a dark room, etc., and have (she who shall not be named otherwise she will awake) turn them on and off for me. I also have them set to go on and off at certain times, so my house is lit up at night as I get home from work, looks like someone is there when I am out of town, etc.
What is sheathing? I understand narrow and wide but how do I know what wire goes to which side? Seems I'd have to cut the original cord where the wheel is going to be inserted into the cord. That means I don't know which wire went to narrow plugger and which wire went to fatter plugger. What does the ridging look like? I can't sleep so got up 3 hours early and now I'm as smart as a box of rocks. Obviously I should just go work a puzzle. But hey, you got me hooked up to that also. Thanks.
You just changed my life Karen! Need I say more?
You do not need to say more. I'm good with that. ;) ~ karen!
Your tutes always seem to be timely for something I'm debating what to do about! I have to bend over the arm of my couch to plug in (and unplug) a hanging lamp in my living room. Perfect solution - and quite easily accomplished even! Thank you.
You're welcome! There are other switches, like toggle switches you can install as well, but those involve removing the sheathing from the wire and wrapping the wire around a screw terminal. They aren't difficult, they just aren't cut and paste easy like the wheel switch. ~ karen!
Oh my god, you can ADD these to lamps?! This is going to be a game changer at my house, thanks, Karen!
You can! These are the most basic, easiest version. Others like toggle switches can be added, you just have to do some wiring instead of just cutting one wire. ~ karen!
Now I'm looking around the house looking for lights to add wheel switches onto. Great tutorial!
Thanks Jody! Let me know if you're successful in finding something.😆 ~ karen!
That's kind of a homely baby in the picture you're illuminating. Would make me want to look directly at Lip to get a better image in my minds eye.
I LOVE my blue dressed baby. That frame and print is one of the first things I bought for this house. And I'm still not sick of it. I have a thing for creepyish portraits. ~ karen!
Thanks for this tutorial, but when I ran around the house looking for lights to add this to (obviously), I only found one light. It doesn't have the two cords, and instead has one of those fabric wrapped all in one cords.
Theoretically there are those smooth and ridged wires in there, but cutting through seems a 50/50 chance I kill the lamp. I am now disappointed. Guess I'll just throw it on a timer.
Thank You once again for teaching me something I did not know that I needed to Know!
You're welcome! That's what I'm here for. That and to supply my neighbours with dehydrated sourdough starter. ~ karen!
wait did I miss this in a post, you can dehydrate sourdough starter instead of keeping it like a weird pet?! *goes to search box*
In a weird coincidence, I set out to do this exact task last weekend. Luckily, I don't have a blog, because I managed to totally FAIL.
It turns out that my lamp's cord was just a tich too big around to fit into the openings on each end of the switch, no matter what swear words I tried. It wasn't a fat cord, either. So be sure to check that!