3 and 4 Way Switch Wiring – A Caveman Can Do It
3 and 4 Way Switch Wiring for Dummies - You're Not One!
QUESTION #1: Tim, I need you to mediate a dispute between my husband and me. We’re building a new home and there are quite a few places where two, or more, switches can be used to control lights. I like the convenience but my husband has had nothing but problems trying to troubleshoot these three and four-way switches. He wants nothing to do with these ‘wretched switches’ as he refers to them. Your vote will decide the issue. I have to add that pecan pie and moist pumpkin bread are two of the favorite things I like to bake. Veronica B., Lakeland, FL
There’s no need for Veronica to bribe me with two of my favorite desserts as I’m a huge fan of three and four-way switches. I wish I could meet the engineer who many years ago figured out how to make these magnificent switches that allow you to control a light, or group of lights, from multiple locations.
Wire a 3 Way Switch - Watch
Where Do You Find 3 Way Switches?
The most common uses for these switches are at the top and bottom of staircases or at the ends of a long hallway. When you use one in a finished home, you might think it’s magic that’s making it all work. In reality, you just need special switches that are readily available. You also need to have a special cable with one extra wire that runs between the two switches.
What is the Simplest Wiring Diagram?
The simplest setup is to have just two three-way switches control one light. A three-way switch has three screws on it plus the green grounding screw. A standard single-pole switch only has two screws on it plus the green grounding screw.
What Wire Connects to the Third Screw?
That extra screw on a three-way switch confounds almost all homeowners and apprentice electricians as I get their emails each and every week asking for help. There are a few ways to connect two three-way switches together, but I prefer the method where you use a cable that has an extra red wire in it. It’s called three wire with a ground.
When Do You Need a 4 Way Switch?
The real fun and magic of these switches is when you have a situation where you want to control some lights or an appliance from three, or more, points. My daughter is building a new home right now and she’s got at least five sets of lights in here home that are controlled by four different switches.
Wire a 4 Way Switch
To achieve this higher level of electrical wizardry, you install four-way switches in between the two three-way switches in the circuit. A four-way switch has four screws on it plus the green grounding screw.
Should I Use 3 Wire Between the Switches?
To make the wiring work flawlessly so your husband becomes a lover of these switches you install the same special three-wire cable in between all the three and four-way switches in the circuit. That lovely red wire along with the black wire in the cable will do all the heavy lifting and your husband will think that all the switches in your new home were sprinkled with pixie dust.
I have three helpful videos here on my AsktheBuilder.com website showing you how fast and easy it is to wire up and troubleshoot three and four-way switches. Just type 3 way switch or 4-way switch into the search engine at my website to find them. Collectively these videos have been watched by over 2,400,000 (2019 Total - More Since Then) people saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars on electrician and divorce attorney fees!
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