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inspectator 08-05-2007 08:11 PM

Basic Switch wiring question; Dimmer to Toggle switch (Pictures included)
OK, I’ve been meaning to fix my dining room light switch for quite a few years now since the dimmer on it is barley functional, I just never got around to it until today. I want to replace the dimmer switch with a basic toggle switch (an old spare I had just laying around in my basement - the one shown in the 1st picture below.)

But I just want to make sure that I’m going about this the correct way before I start fiddling with anything.

Since there are 3 wires (a red and 2 blacks – with the blacks connected to each other) and there are only 2 screws on my toggle switch - I just wanted to ask what should connect to what?
Is it as simple as replicating the exact same way the dimmer switch is connected now(meaning as long as I cut the thin wires coming directly from the dimmer switch at the mid way point and leave them long enough to let me reattach the ends to the toggle switch screws– should I be ok???? I have extra wire in the garage if need be as well.)

Essentially, what precautions/ steps do I need to take in order for this whole transition to work correctly?

Here are the pictures of the light switch situation in question (some of the pics are basically redundant views taken from different angles/ zooms just to ensure that all wires can be seen clearly):

The Toggle Switch I want to use to replace the dimmer switch (front, side and back views.):

The Dimmer Switch I want to remove (view from original position with the wall cover removed, then 3 different angles/ zooms with the dimmer switch hanging down, providing views of the wiring.):

The Dimmer Switch (Various closer views of the wiring.):

The Dimmer Switch (More close- ups with the wiring slightly repositioned to allow for different/ better view points.):

SecretSquirrel 08-05-2007 08:38 PM

First of all... welcome to the forum! :rockon:

Secondly... thanks for the pictures! I wish more folks would attach a few simple pics as it makes life a lot easier to interpret the issue.

You are on the correct track as all you need to do is replicate the same wiring scheme as the dimmer. Although I would suggest not using the pigtails off the dimmer but finding a small piece of #14 black wire to go under the wirenut with the two blacks. If the red wire is long enough to reach the switch, then connect it directly, else make another pigtail similar to the other. Be sure to turn off the breaker or unscrew the fuse prior to doing any of this.

Now let's talk about your switch. Where did you find that thing??? In a jar of molasses? Ditch it and spend a $1.25 on a new one and life will be good.

Post more questions if ya got 'em.

inspectator 08-05-2007 09:17 PM

Thanks for the quick reply and welcome. I figured it was as easy as it seemed, but I didn't want to take any chances.

Haha, yeah my old toggle switch has seen better days (I think I got it from someone’s reno waste during a job a few years ago?). I should probably get a new one, but being the "use things until they disintegrate/ avoid buying new unless absolutely necessary" kind of person that I am- I tend to make do with things that most people wouldn't think twice about throwing away.

I'll give this switch a shot - and if it turns out to be "shot" then I'll probably go ahead and spend the buck or two it costs for a new one (after I try to fix it first, that is . )

Thanks again.

Stubbie 08-05-2007 11:24 PM

If your connecting aluminum wiring as it looks like you are then you can not use this switch as it is rated for copper only. It's hard for me to tell if the red and black wires are aluminum or copper connected to the dimmer... can you verify? And can you tell us if any aluminum is connected to copper wire in those wire nuts?


inspectator 08-06-2007 05:22 AM

Ah, you're right, both the red and the blacks are Aluminum wire, and my switch is not rated to accept aluminum wiring.

I read over the basics given on this site: and it seems that the dimmer switch was connected according to one of the suggestions given on that site as far as how to deal with existing aluminum wiring (except it seems there was no special bonding crimp used in the case of my switch though):

(" pig tail a small piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire and terminate the copper wire portion of the cable to the device. In order to pig tail the two different wires together you have to use an appropriate connector (dual rated) and it must be approved for use in Canada (ie: marked with a CSA, cUL, cENTELA, cMET, Warnock Hersey, cTUV, or cQAI - *NOTE* the small 'c' is required in front of some of those listed for them to be allowed in Nova Scotia.) Typically, this connection is done using twist-on connectors called marrettes.

The use of marrettes, even those properly approved, is considered by many not to eliminate the possibility of future problems occurring.

It is therefore considered by many that for proper pig tailing to occur between copper and aluminum wire, a high pressure bonding crimp type connector be used. One that is recognized and used extensively is a connector by AMP called COPALUM.")

So, I guess if I tried that same half-assed method used on the original installation of the dimmer switch, I’d be taking a risk – but it would still probably be no worse than it is now with the dimmer switch connected that way........ but then again -that may not be a risk I should be willing to take ?

SecretSquirrel 08-06-2007 06:00 AM

Good catch Stubbie. When I first glanced at the photo I thought "how nice, someone soldered the connections", but looking in the background I see the ground wires are aluminum.

Can inspectator do the pigtail concept using Noalox, the antioxidizing compound?

JohnJ0906 08-06-2007 05:31 PM

Buy an aluminum rated switch. Only a few bucks, you can get them at any big-box or electrical supply, and you don't need to worry about pigtailing copper to aluminum.

inspectator 08-06-2007 10:35 PM

Yeah, I'll go tomorrow to pick up an Aluminum rated switch. I actually attached the old toggle switch using the copper pigtailing method - and it works fine (seems to at least), but I'll take it off when I get the new switch.

Thanks guys

Stubbie 08-07-2007 01:19 AM

Johns advice is by far the simplest solution....get a alr switch.

Noalox would not be the correct way to terminate copper to aluminum. It is applied to aluminum stranded wire in most cases when terminating service equipment or panelboard feeders for aluminum wire to aluminum lug connections. Noalox is an anti-oxident to help prevent al from corroding., the aluminum we use today is much less likely to corrode than the al of 20 years ago.


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