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Three Way Switch Wiring

How to Wire 3 Way Switches

Summary: The key to three way switch wiring depends on two main factors. These wiring diagrams help you identify the power feed and the switch leg leading to the fixture.

Easy to Understand 3 Way Switch Diagrams

The Key to three way switch wiring

The Power Feed and the Switch Leg leading to the fixture(s) typically, one at each switch location, are attached to the screw terminal found at one end of the switch by itself. This terminal is usually identified by a darker colored screw.

The pair of screw terminals at the opposite end of the switch are for the pair of wires known as "travelers", (also known as "jockeys").

The "travelers" actually pass the electricity between the two 3-way switches, as well as the 4-way switches, shown in the 4-way switching wiring diagrams.

To illustrate the wiring of these 3-way switches, Switch Boxes and Fixture Boxes are not shown but are obviously required for every application. These diagrams are shown as using the Type-NM wiring method.

Electrical Wiring and the Ground Conductor
The ground conductor is required for all applications as well. The ground conductors are always bonded together to insure the integrity of the ground path.

If you are using metal boxes, the ground conductor must be attached to each box by using a threaded ground screw or provided attachment.

The frames of the switches which have a ground screw are to be attached to the ground conductor as required.

3-Way Switch Wiring

3-Way Switching provides switching from two locations
3-Way Switching Diagram

3-Way Switch Wiring Diagram #1 above, shows the electric circuit source power starting at the left 3-way switch.


3-Way Switch Wiring Diagram #2 above, shows the electric circuit source power starting starting at the fixture. The white wire of the romex going to the switch is attached to the black line in the fixture box using a wire nut. The white wire becomes the energized switch leg, as indicated by using black or red electrical tape.

3-way switch wiring diagram #3

3-Way Switch Wiring Diagram #3 above, shows the electric circuit source power starting starting at the right 3-way switch box, the same that has the romex wire going to the fixture.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Sal in New York asks about Wiring 3-Way Switches

Electrical Question:
Question on wiring, there are three switches in a 3 gang box. The switches control a ceiling fan (bathroom), a shower light and the last switch a main bathroom light. The black wires are connected to the switches, the white are all connected, the ground are all connected. There is a black wire that connects to the top screw pig tailed to each switch. Then from this box a 12/3 wire goes to a GFI outlet that has black and red connected to one GFI screw and a white to another screw. In the three gang box the original switch the red and black (pigtail) are connected together. Is this a correct way? As I am relocating the GFI and main 3 gang box to a four gang box. The four gang box will have the three switches and a GFI outlet. Do I still need the 12/3 wire as I note how it is now connected?

This electrical wiring question came from Sal, a Handyman, in Stony Point, New York.

Dave’s Answer:

Hi Sal, Great Question!

Yes, the 12/3 wire that goes to the GFCI outlet should be wired the same way inside the new 4 gang box.
All of the wiring remains the same, only the wiring will be contained inside one 4 gang box, therefore make sure to carefully mark the wires to ensure the same connections as originally found, and make sure the size of the new 4 gang box will have the space for all the wires.

More about Electrical Wiring Three Way Switches

Electrical Switches: 3way switch review
Electrician Reviews the Most Common Types and Styles of Three Way Light Switches.

Learn more about Wiring 3way Switches


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