I want to replace the dimmer switch in my kitchen with a conventional light switch. However I could use a little guidance.

I understand the two black wires are the hot wires, and the green is ground. I understand how to wire those into the regular switch, but in all the videos I have watch online no one ever seems to have the red (I believe it is the neutral wire). How do I go about wiring this?

The new light switch I have only has 3 screws.

light switch wiring

  • Red is often a switched hot when you need to also run a normal hot to a fixture. White is the neutral. Black is hot. And green or bare is your ground. What I can't tell is why you have two hots going to this switch, is it running two devices today (e.g. fan and light)?
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:08
  • The switch is controlling one fixtures. Though the fixture has two bulbs, I wouldn't expect that to make a difference. Sep 14 '12 at 2:16
  • Red is also used for 3 or 4 way switches, 220 wiring where you need a second hot, and multi-wire branch circuits where you have two circuits running through an area like a kitchen.
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:18
  • Would it help if I was able to get a better picture? I am positive there is not another switch that controls this fixture. Sep 14 '12 at 2:22
  • A photo, drawing, or even ascii art of where each wire is coming and going might help. If you have a non-contact tester, identify which wires are hot when the switch is on and off. And if you disconnect the switch, identify which wires have continuity to each other in each switch position.
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:31

That is a 3-way dimmer, so you'll have to replace it with a 3-way switch. The new 3-way switch will have 4 terminals (screws), 1 black (Common), 2 brass (Travelers), 1 green (Ground).

When working with 3-way switches, the Common terminal will always be the odd color (odd man out). For example, on your current switch the Red wire is the Common. On a regular 3-way, the black (odd color) screw is the Common.

Labeled wires

To prevent confusion, it's often a good idea to work with one wire at a time. Rather than disconnecting all the wires from the old switch, then trying to remember what went where.

  • Start By turning off the power at the breaker, and verifying it's off with a non-contact voltage tester.
  • Disconnect the bare copper wire from the old switch, and connect it to the green terminal on the new switch.
  • Disconnect the black wire (the one connected to the red wire on the old switch), then connect it to the black (Common) terminal on the new switch.
  • Disconnect the black and red travelers, and connect one to each brass terminal on the new switch.
  • Turn the breaker on, and verify proper operation.
  • Turn the breaker back off, and mount the switch in the box.
  • Turn the breaker back on, and again verify proper operation.
  • replaced it yesterday everything is working fine. your picture was extremely helpful. Thank you. Sep 15 '12 at 14:02

Did you dimmer have a light/LED on it? If so this is the neutral. Some dimmers require a neutral so that they can be powered even when the fixture is not.

If this is the case, to replace it, you just disconnect the neutral wire. The switch should only switch the two hot wires for your light.

I can't see what the red wire connects to - if it's a white wire its most likely a neutral.

The other possibility is that it's a 3-way switch - do you know of other switches that work on this fixture?

If you can't confirm this or are unsure, best to consult an electrician.

  • It looks like the red on the switch is going to a hot. The neutrals are connected in the back of the box and I can't see any neutral connecting to the switch.
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:11
  • +1 for 3-way switch, that's looks like the appropriate wiring.
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:15
  • I have to check, but I'm pretty sure I have a non 3-way dimmer that has 2 blacks and 1 red just like this one, but the red is indeed neutral in this case. It wouldn't be the first time that the wrong color wire was used or was otherwise not marked properly.
    – Steven
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:17
  • 1
    So you are correct sir. It is a 3 way switch. My wife just showed me the other switch I didn't even know existed. I learned something new today. I guess I will go do my research on replacing a 3-way switch. Sep 14 '12 at 2:30
  • @SamPlusPlus You'll need to replace it with a 3-way dimmer if you want that other switch to work. Otherwise, you could cap the red going to the black on the switch.
    – BMitch
    Sep 14 '12 at 2:33

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