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By Glenda Taylor. Things get a bit trickier with 3-way switch wiring, in which there are two switches and one light. However, when you understand how electricity travels in this type of circuit, it all starts to make sense. While installing new electrical wiring should almost always be done by a d electrician, DIYers can often successfully replace old switches with new switches —if local codes allow. Anyone preparing to replace a 3-way switch should have a working knowledge of switch wiring.
Safety is always the top consideration when doing any wiring. A 3-way switch setup will even work with a dimmer switchas long as the dimmer switch is deed for 3-way wiring. Individual 3-way switches resemble single-pole switches. In essence, a 3-way switch is a toggle switch. The 14 stands for the gauge of wire rated for amp circuits and the following2 or 3, represents the of conductor wires in the cable. The of conductor wires in the different cables are important, because an extra wire is required in one section of the 3-way switch setup.
Some homes may have gauge wire rather than gauge wire, which just means the wire is rated to Hook up two light switches one power source more amps. The gauge can carry 20 amps. Houses built since the mids likely contain non-metallic sheathed cable NMcommonly called Romex, after a popular brand of wire. It also contains a third, bare copper wire. The cable runs from the power source to the first switch box in the typical 3-way setup described here, but other wiring configurations also are possible see below.
The following wire colors are standard, but different wire brands can use different colored wires. A standard 3-way switch features four terminals, each represented by a colored screw. The screw location is often similar from switch to switch. Some manufacturers locate the screw terminals in different spots, so be sure to study the diagram that comes with the switch. In a typical 3-way switch, the white neutral wires do not connect to the actual switches. Instead, they connect to one another.
This creates an uninterrupted return circuit to the power source, which is generally a bus bar terminal on the breaker panel. For a 3-way switch setup to work, electricity must be routed through either one traveler wire or the other, and the route depends on whether the toggle switch is in the up or down position. When the first switch turns the light on, the electrical current runs through one of the traveler wires. However, if the second switch is used to turn the light off, then the current will run through the other traveler wire when the first switch turns the light on.
The configuration is determined by where the power enters the circuit at a switch or at the light fixture. Alternate wiring configurations should only be done by Hook up two light switches one power source electrician. If the DIYer opens a switch box to find a white wire with black tape on it—the white wire is hot. Disclosure: BobVila. You agree that BobVila. All rights reserved. Expert advice from Bob Vila, the most trusted name in home improvement, home remodeling, home repair, and DIY. Major Systems 7 Things to Know About 3-Way Switch Wiring A 3-way switch makes it easy to turn on a light fixture from two separate locations in the home.
Wiring one is slightly different from wiring a single-pole switch. We recommend a pro for this job. Connect with trusted electricians in your area and compare multiple quotes. Talk with a pro. More From Bob Vila. How To: Install a Dimmer Switch. Newsletter up: You agree that BobVila.Hook up two light switches one power source
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Light Switch Wiring Diagrams