Lights On, Lights Off: Why Is The Light Switch Not Working?

Posted on: 5 July 2017

When you flip the light switch up, the light is supposed to go on. But what if it doesn't? Living in a dark house is no fun at all, so follow these tips to troubleshoot what might be wrong with your light switch or the wires leading to it.

Step 1: Change the Bulb

If your light bulb is fairly new, you may assume it can't be the problem. However, there are sometimes errors made in the manufacturing process, so your bulb could have blown out prematurely. Always try a new light bulb before you assume there's something wrong with the light switch or electrical connection. If you have an oddly shaped bulb in the socket, you may even want to try switching to a different shape to see if that works. Sometimes, oddly shaped bulbs may look like they're screwed into a fixture properly when they really are not. 

Step 2: Check the Circuit Breaker

Are the other appliances in the room working, and do the outlets in that room have power? If not, you may have just tripped the circuit breaker when you turned on the light or plugged in another appliance. Find your circuit box, and re-set any switches that have tripped. This should restore power to your light.

If a circuit is tripping often, you may need to move one of the appliances on that circuit to a different circuit. Or, you can have an electrician upgrade your circuit breaker box so that it's better able to manage your electrical needs.

Step 3: Check the Switch Wire Connections

If your light bulb is functional and fits properly and your circuit has not been tripped, then there's probably a problem with the wiring connections in your light switch. This is a problem you can address yourself with a few basic tools and a little DIY know-how. 

Start by turning power off to the light switch in question by flipping the circuit breaker. Do not skip this step — you'll be putting yourself at risk for a deadly electrical shock. Next, unscrew the switch plate cover. Once the cover is off, unscrew the screws that are holding the metal switch apparatus to the wall.

Once these screws are undone, you should be able to gently pull the metal switch apparatus partially away from the wall. You should see three wires. One is white, another is black, and a third is either green or bare copper. Make sure all of these wires are connected firmly to the respective screws on the switch. The white wire should be connected to a silver screw, the black wire to a brass screw, and the green or copper wire to the green screw. 

If any of the wires seem loose around the screw, use a screwdriver to tighten the screw. This should draw the wire in closer to the screw, securing it. If a wire has come completely disconnected from its screw, wrap it around the screw in a clockwise direction, and then tighten the screw. This should wind the wire around the screw as you tighten it.

When you're done adjusting the wires, place the metal switch apparatus back into its place in the wall, and put the screws that hold it in place back in. Re-attach the switch plate cover, flip the circuit back on, and then try your light switch. With any luck, your light should now turn on.

If following these instructions does not result in a functional light switch, then contact an electrical contractor at a company like Conway Electric. You may have a problem with loose or damaged wires within the wall or where they connect to the breaker.