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How To Install A Silent Switch

Mar 17, 2008
A mercury-type light switch is easily installed as a replacement for noisy controls - it's perfect for bedroom or bath.

The baby has finally fallen asleep, and with an inward sigh of relief you tiptoe out of the nursery. You go into your own bedroom, which is probably adjacent, and turn on the light so that you won't trip over the furniture. That does it.

"Yahhhh!" The click of the switch, sounding like the report of a .22 in the quiet of the house, has awakened the little darling, and you have to spend another five minutes quieting him/her down again.

There's really no need at all to suffer this sort of thing. For less than a dollar apiece you can buy absolutely silent toggle switches of the mercury type. These are regarded by some parents as the greatest boon since disposable diapers. Removing an old switch and installing a silent one is a simple screwdriver operation. It will take you about ten minutes to do the first switch and probably five for the second.

The utility of mercury switches is not restricted to households with children, of course. Plenty of adults of all ages are light sleepers and are disturbed by the short but sharp snap of ordinary switches. An especially important location for a silent switch is the bathroom. It enables a person to make a nocturnal visit to the latter without awakening another occupant of the same bedroom.

1: Wait! Before you reach for that screwdriver to open up the old switch, remember to pull the fuse that controls the circuit. If this darkens the room, have a flashlight handy, or do the job during daylight when you can see well.

2: With the switch cover plate off, two more screws come into sight. These hold the "plaster ears" of the switch body to the wall box. They are often corroded, and may require a drop of penetrating oil before they come out.

3: To make sure wires are dead after removing fuse, apply leads of a Lightester to switch terminals and from the metal wall box to each of the terminals in turn. Safety first will pay off.

4: Pull switch out slowly (connecting wires are usually fairly stiff) and remove leads from under terminal screws; save switch for possible future use as a replacement in the basement or kitchen.

5: The wall box invariably has lots of dirt and bits of plaster in it. Clean this out with a brush while you're at it. By the way, an old paint brush will come in handy as a useful odd-job cleaning tool.

6: Clean the bared ends of the wires with the back edge of a pocket knife or use a small piece of emery cloth. A clean and bare wire is easiest to work with and assures you proper contact.

7: The next step is to fasten the cleaned ends of the wires to the terminals of the mercury switch; at this point be sure the end marked TOP is positioned that way before attaching the switch.

8: With wires attached to the mercury switch, push wires carefully back into box and press new switch gently into position. Then pass screws through "ears" of switch, center vertically, and tighten.

9: Using the plate from the previous switch, reassemble with the original screws; a plastic shield overlapping the plate helps keep fingerprints off the wall; it's a good investment.

10: Easy does it. The light goes on and off almost magically as mercury switch is flipped up or down. With no springs to wear out, this type of switch will last indefinitely; they're tops for bedrooms, bath.

Now you will never be woken by a noisy light switch again!
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