Wiring 3 and 4 Way Switches
Wiring 3 and 4 Way Switches TIPS
- Connect the wires to the right screws and magic happens
- 3-way switches have a very important BLACK screw
- WATCH the 3 and 4-way switch videos BELOW
- 4-way switches go in between two 3-way switches
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DEAR TIM: I have two interior hallway lights that are controlled by three separate electrical switches. My husband tried to install new decorative switches and now the lights come on only part of the time. What in the world do you think he did wrong? I need an aspirin! R.L.
DEAR R. L.: In all fairness, he may have done nothing wrong.
Defective Switch? - Nah, Husband Goofed Up
You possibly have a defective switch. However, the smart money is on your husband. Sounds like another weekend warrior who was not prepared for battle.
Your problem is a fairly common one. It involves what are known as 3-way and 4-way electrical switches. These simple devices create more problems than they deserve.
There are special wires called travelers that pass between the two switches. These wires must connect to the bright brass screws on each 3-way switch.
The continuous hot wire from the electric panel and the wire going to the light fixture need to be connected to specific screws on the switches for everything to work properly. Your husband just has one or more wires connected wrong and it's not hard to troubleshoot.
Your headache will vanish with a little effort on your part if you just watch my popular videos that explain common electrical switches.
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Common Single Pole Switch Video
Watch this video. This is the most common switch in any home. You have one switch that turns on an overhead light, possibly controls a table lamp or causes a fan to operate.
I need you to understand how power passes through this basic switch before we move onto the 3-way and 4-way switches.
3-Way Switch Video
Now that you understand how current is controlled by a simple switch, let's look at the 3-way switch.
Why Use A 3-Way?
Three way switches are used to control a light or other electrical device from two different points. Common locations where you'd find these useful are:
- large rooms with two entry/exit doors
4-Way Switch Video
Watch this video to see how to properly install a 4-way switch. Here's what's fascinating. You can put in many of these between two 3-way switches!
Four way switches are used in conjunction with two 3-way switches to control devices from three or more points.
Switch Placement Critical
The placement of the switches is critical. The 4-way switches must be in between the 3-way switches.
In other words, the power from your circuit panel must first enter the 3-way switch before it goes to the 4-way switch. From that 4-way switch it then travels to an additional 4-way switch or, in your case, to the final 3-way switch.
The path that the electricity follows as it passes between the switches is not unlike a railroad switching yard.
Three way and 4 way switches are easy to distinguish.
A 3 way switch has three screws plus the green grounding screw. Remember, the one screw will be painted BLACK. Go back and watch the video to see what wires go to what screws.
A 4-way switch will have four screws plus the green grounding screw. Just watch the 4-way switch video once more to see how easy it is to connect the wires to the correct screws.
Your lights will work perfectly in just a few minutes.