How to wire a 3 way switch with video

| December 30, 2010 | 18 Comments

Before you begin anything with a three way, you must understand that in order for you to have a three way circute you must have three way switches. They are not the same as a regular switch at all. And a four way is very different again. But that’s on a different page.

When most Diyer’s think of installing a 3 way their brain starts to melt. The fact is it’s very easy. You just need to over come all those extra wires. Look at the diagram below. You’ll notice we now have travelers. These are the extra ones. But wait, your 3 way switch has two extra screws. So basically you just need to add those wires to those screws and both switches. Yea it’s that simple.

 

3way-switch

 

However on each 3 way switch you have a black screw, this is the special one. On the power coming in from the panel you would connect that black wire to the one black screw. And on the other switch you would connect the black wire coming from the light to that black screw. The the black and red wires in that 14/3 wire would connect to the other two screws.

 

You connect all white wires together in each box. But of course the light it self will need that white wire (neutral) to power up. All grounds are tide together and connected to each switch in the box it is in.

 

Very simple, don’t you agree now.

 

 

3 way wire diagram

3 way switch wiring diagram

 

This is very easy and common how to wire a 3 way switch

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How to wire a 3 way switch with video 4.75/5 (95.00%) 4 votes

Dominick

Residential and commercial contractor for over 30 years. Created askmediy.com 6 years ago. Making home improvement videos. Over 20k subscribers with more than 11 million views on Youtube.com Started contracting in 1987 Built over 300 homes. Licensed electrician in NY, cabinet maker, with fine wood working skills, Very versed in all phases of home improvements. From foundations to a sink faucet.

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Category: Electrical

Comments

  1. ria says

    thanks Dominick for all your videos once apon a time i did no ab electrical cud of do it on my own i study it gain my certificate with no job just home i forget about how much i did love electrical , i just want to learn it over but i don't want to learn from scratch and I'm glad i see your website now i no i could go on youtube and watch listen understand and remember

  2. Jay says

    Hello Dominick:

    I enjoy watching your videos and reading your installation instructions but wish you had a video on installing a lighted ceiling fan with a dimmer switch.

    I would like to replace my current light in the ceiling with a ceiling fan that has a light.
    I have 1 switch on the wall that control the currently installed light but I would like to replace that switch with one that would independently control the new fan with light. Further, I would like to install a dimmer switch for the light.

    What is the best way to go about this, please?

    Thank you!

    Jay

  3. dominick says

    That is a great idea for a video. As soon as I can I make one. Thank you for your input. The easiest way to do what you want would be to install a remote control in the light. Otherwise you'll have to run a new wire from the switch to the light with a extra hot, known as a /3 wire.

  4. Ed says

    Hey Dominic! – Quick question about your 3way switch wiring – I don't understand where the grounds go? Do ya take both of them and screw both to the green grounding screw on the switch or do ya wire nut them together and put them somewhere else? Can you help me out? BTW, thanks for youtubing! I've done SOOOO much around my house because of what you taught me through your videos. Saved a TON of money. Thanks again boss! Ed (edmilosz@gmail.com)

  5. dominick says

    Hi Ed. Thank you so much. It's always nice to hear.
    Yes all grounds get terminated together and then grounded to the ground screw of the switch and the outlet or light fixture.

  6. kevin says

    hey thanks for ur demonstration really help me alote ! im in trade school here in hawaii learning wana become an electrician but sometimes i dont get these instructors , but ur website and ur demonstrantion really help me alote . hope i can get some help from u to apply it in this field thanks .

  7. Gary says

    Hello Dominick,
    I was wondering if you can display a 2 way switch but add an add'l light off the switch. I currently have a 2 way switch in my hall with one light now but want to add add'l light , getting power off the one of the light switch. Thanks

  8. dominick says

    I need more detail on what you're asking. If you're only looking to add a additional light then you would just connect your wires from the existing light and not the switch. If I have you right here.

  9. Rob Bruce says

    ok so im just changing switches with new ones. did it one wire at a time so i didnt get wires mixed up. didnt work. i found your video. big help. now i see what my problem is. i have a 2 wire and a 3 wire in the first box like you said. black and white coming in. black white and red going to the other box. but no other wires going to the light? in the first box they have the incoming white and outgoing red together? incoming black to black screw. outgoing black and white as jumpers? how does that work? only thing i can think of is they either have a junction box in the attic or it works off the light somehow. i just had surgery so i cant get my ladder out to look. any ideas?

  10. dominick says

    Hi I wouldn't think you'll find a junction box. I would start all over again and trace out each wire to see what they are and where they are coming from.

  11. Mike says

    Hey Dominick,

    Great videos, you give very good explanations in a simple manner easy to understand. I'm wondering if you could help me with something. In my bedroom, I have a light at the ceiling. Now, I have a first switch by the door that can turn the light on or off. I also have a second switch located by the bed that can also turn the light on or off, so that you could turn the light on as you walk in the room and turn it off once you're in bed. Only here's the weird part, when the switch by the bed is off, you can't turn the light on with the switch by the door. I wonder if it's a three way switch wired wrong or simple switches. I admit that I haven't opened the switches to see how it was wired. But in the case that those are normal switched, is it possible to replace them with 3 way switches with the existing wiring or do 3 way switches have to be thought of when the wiring to the light is done? Cause I really don't want to open my wall and do new electrical wiring.

    Thanks and great job on the videos!

  12. BobO says

    Wondering what the difference would be when power source enters the middle switch. I understand the source and three wires using travelers as detailed in your video. So, I have three cables, two 14/2 and one three wire. I’ve connected source to the black and travelers as instructed as well as connecting the two white wires to each other. Now I have the two remaining wires from the cable going to the light. Where do I connect those? Do I connect the white with the other whites? Where would black be connected? Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge in an excellent video!

    • says

      Thank you. When you have wires in a box that I have no idea what they’re for it’s real hard to figure this out via these post. However, take both switches out. What wires do you have in the other box ? Let’s try this. Besides for travelers the whites / neutrals get tied together. The black screw would be one for power and the other switch for power out to the light. Or this could be all done from one switch having just the 3 wire running to the other switch.

      So lets say the wires you have in box one are all of them. A 14/2 is power in, 14/2 is to the light and the three wire of course is to the other 3 way. Take the black wire from the other 3 way and connect that to the black wire to the light. And the wire from the light to the white from the power and the black from the power to the 3 way in the box with all the wires.

      This should do the trick. Hard to explain without seeing it. Let me know

  13. Joseph Carroll says

    I enjoy your movies, and the way you explain things. I have a 12/2 wire running to my out building and I want to hook up a three way switch to my light,could you tell me how to do this, thanks.

  14. richinnc says

    Enjoyed your video on the three way switch.
    Where I am still confused is…..isnt the wiring done differently depending on where the light is in relation to the switches?
    I mean, if there is the switch…then the light….then the switch….( light is between the two switches) isnt that wired differently than…..

    if there is the switch…..then the next switch……then the light…(light is at the end of the line)

    Hope that makes sense.
    thanks
    rich

    • says

      Yeah sure it makes sense. However it will stilled be wire from the switches the same way. But in this video I only show one of the ways to wire a 3 way. Check my other video “How to wire a 3 way to existing one way” That may help clean things up a little.

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