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I have a dimmer switch that I need to convert to a conventional on/off switch. I have checked this link for guidance already: How do I replace this dimmer switch to a conventional switch?

It seems like I will need a 3-way switch do replace this. I am having very hard time understanding the wiring and how to connect this to a 3-way switch.

This is what I have:

  1. Green from dimmer -> connected to 3 white wires in the outlet box
  2. One black -> connected to one black in the outlet box
  3. Other black -> connected to two black wires in the outlet box

Circuit Diagram

I had an electrician convert a similar dimmer switch to a conventional on/off switch in the past and this is what he did.

Simple Switch

Basically, in this he has done this:

  1. One black going to the bottom hole
  2. Second black going to the bottom screw
  3. Third black going to the top hole
  4. Nothing on the top screw

Can someone please help me make sense of this and help me with:

  1. Confirm the switch type I need
  2. The circuit and connections needed

Solution Pics (solution provided by Ed and Carl in the comments):

Wire Connection (I did not use the pigtail connection, in the lower screw with 2 wires together, although that is what everybody is recommending):

This is the WRONG way of attaching the wires (although it works). This causes fire hazard and should be avoided. Wire Connection for the solution in wrong way

The good way is to use the hole at the back. Note this uses backstabs which is not recommended. Check the update after the pic for a better way.

Good way for Wire Connection

Update (8th Sept 2019) - Better way: I followed Harper's suggestion to avoid backstabs as there are considered risky. I instead ended up using a Pigtail connection to connect the live wires as he recommended in the comments below.

I also added a copper wire to create a ground connection with the back of the electrical box. I could see copper wire connected to the screws in the back of the box. I added the copper wire for ground to these screws.

Below are the detailed steps on how I did the pigtail connection.

Pigtail connection Step 1: I took a black wire from another electrical wire and stripped it on two ends. Pigtail Step 1

Pigtail connection Step 2: I connected the two live wires coming in with this new wire and twisted the three wires using a plier. Then I used a wire nut and twisted it on. Give a good tug and ensure that the wires don't come out of the wire nut and have a good grip inside. Pigtail connection Step 2

Pigtail connection Step 3: I used electrical tape over the wire nut to enhance the security and twisted the other end to ready to put it on the switch screw. Pigtail connection Step 3

Pigtail connection Step 4: Finally I tucked the wires in the electrical box and screwed the switch onto the box. Pigtail connection Step 4

  • 6
    Backstabs are unreliable, but your "solution" pic is unsafe. What are you thinking, two wires on a screw like that? It works, good enough, button it up? It may "work" but it's an arc-fault fire waiting to happen... You need to go back and arrange it properly. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 10 at 0:01
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    The correct tools and supplies are a wire stripper, some black THHN solid #12 wire to make pigtails, the wire nuts you had before, and a bit of research on how to properly attach to a side screw. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 10 at 0:27
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    @Alexander pay attention: the green wire is hard-mounted to the original dimmer switch. It probably was intended to go to ground as a reference for internal electronics, but I would prefer to see the original manufacturer's data sheet to know what the green wire was intended for. – Carl Witthoft Aug 12 at 14:39
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    When Jack said "Harper's gonna love the backstabs" he was being sarcastic. Like most experts, I have observed that backstabs cause arcing problems down the road, and are wise to avoid altogether. It can be be said that this backstab use is better than the previous thing, in that backstabs are legal and nominally safe... However to avoid arcing problems in the future, either a) pigtail or b) a $3 screw-to-clamp switch which allows 2 back wires per screw (and you tighten the screw to clamp the wires). – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 13 at 21:18
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    I see! I'm glad my information was helpful. Great job! Couple minor suggestions, #1 improve the upper screw attachment so it's as good as the lower (might help to strip an extra 1/4" of wire off), and taping wire nuts doesn't hurt, just make sure the nuts don't need the tape to stay together. If they don't survive a pull test without the tape, that'll be a potential arc fault later. Lastly, since it's good, I'd suggest cut-and-pasting the whole last part of your message into an answer -- that way it can be upvoted etc. Answering your own question is routine here. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 9 at 3:48
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You do not need the green wire that is going to the neutral(s) remove that. There is a ground connected to the box in the back so on your new switches remove the paper “nut” or screw retainers prior to installing the switch. The last part is put the single wire on 1 lug of your new switch then the 2 blacks pigtail to the other lug. You only need a standard switch SPST single pole single throw. You could use a double pole switch but one of the screws would be not used I have done that when I had a extra 3 way and not enough single poles it will work fine and would not violate code, switch down when on turn it over or swap to the other traveler.

  • Thanks Ed that worked for me. I have added a solution pic as well. – Aman Sharma Aug 9 at 21:21
  • I would pig tail the 2 blacks so you only have 1 wire under that screw possibly back the screw off and straighten the wires so one goes on each side ( it looks like a back and side that can take 2 wires under 1 screw but not wrapped that way,other than that it looks great. – Ed Beal Aug 10 at 1:35
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Wires that are green, yellow/green stripe, or bare, are always and only Protective Earth aka Equipment Safety Ground*. They must only be connected to each other and never anything else. That makes the green-white splice WRONG, and it should be removed immediately and attached to real ground where it belongs.

Protective Earth is always a safety shield, and never figures into the actual wiring, so it is excluded from your thinking about how to arrange wires.

Now, voilà! Things are simple. The two remaining black wires must be the wires to the switch.


* on mains equipment which is legal to use in the US, i.e. Has a non-counterfeit stamp and file number from a Nationally Recognized Testing Lab. If you acquire equipment from Alibaba, Aliexpress, EBay or Amazon, all bets are off...

  • I would be very wary of making blanket statements about equipment produced by manufacturers who might have failed to follow current standards. – Carl Witthoft Aug 12 at 14:34
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    @CarlWitthoft Heh, good point. Green and yellow/green mean ground worldwide, even the former Soviet Bloc harmonized to this... But our most wonderful WWII ally who is definitely not a currency manipulator may not have gotten the memo on that. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 13 at 21:28
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It appears that this is a common situation where the switch is "tapping" a run of source 120V. The bundle of black wires includes the source, a connection to your switch, and a connection downstream to other items. Ditto for the bundle of white return wires.

The single pair of black wires is almost certainly the connection to the hot side of the light fixture. The green feed from the dimmer, which is connected to the returns, is there so that the circuitry in the dimmer itself has a return path. The new non-dimmer switch is simply a "make/break" in the hot (black) line, so it doesn't need that return. It should, however, have a screw somewhere on the side to connect to a ground lead in your box. However, I don't see any ground wiring in either of your photos.

  • Thanks Carl for your response! It definitely helped! – Aman Sharma Aug 9 at 21:22

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