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Video:How to Test Light Switches

with Debbie Anderson

If you have an electrical project in your future, then it's best to practice safety first. Learn how to test an electrical switch before working on it.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Test Light Switches

Hi! I'm Debbie Anderson for About.com. If the thought of working on an electrical switch makes you cringe because the circuit may still be on or hot, then today I'm going to show you how to safely test an electrical switch before working on it.

How to Use a Circuit Tester

For this task, you will need a neon or tick-tracer circuit tester that can be purchased at your local hardware store. Neon and tick-tracer circuit testers consist of a neon light bulb that is attached to the leads used for checking a circuit. When you press the leads onto hot wires, the bulb will light if the circuit is hot or on. If it does not light, then the circuit is dead or off.

No matter which type of tester you use, it is always recommended that you check to see if the tester is working properly before using it on your primary project. This can be done by using the tester to check any outlet or switch in the home that you already know is working properly.

Test the Switch

Before working on any electrical switches, always make sure to turn off the power at the circuit box. To test the switch, remove the cover plate and place the tester lead on one of the screws on the side of the switch.

If using a neon tester with two leads, place one lead on the screw and the other lead on the bare copper wire, which is the ground wire, or on the metal box. If the light on the tester lights up, there is power to the switch. If the light does not light up, there switch is off or dead and it is okay to work on it now.

On a final note, when testing switches keep in mind that the box may not be grounded, and in such instances, using a tick-tracer circuit tester may be more beneficial for determining whether or not the switch is on or not.

With a few simple circuit-testing tips, you are sure to work on your next electrical switch with safety in mind. Thank you for watching! To learn more, please visit us on the Web at homegarden.about.com.
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