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Replacing a 3-Way Switch

Materials List
3-way switch
Switch plate
Electrical tape
Tools List (click item to shop)
Needle nose pliers
Utility knife
Installing a GFCI Outlet
Mapping Electrical Circuits
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IMPORTANT: Read this before you start

Versatility and convenience - two of the greatest watchwords for a comfortable home. Fortunately, installing a 3-way switch can add versatility and convenience to your home's lighting system.

There are many reasons to replace a light switch. For example, your current switch may not match the décor in your room or the color of your walls. Maybe it is old and unreliable. Either way, it is a relatively quick, inexpensive and simple project. A 3-way switch allows you to control one or more light fixtures from 2 locations. The basic principles of a 3-way switch are shown in the figure below.

Electrical basics are easy to understand, but working on electrical projects can be hazardous. You should always take the proper precautions - turn off the circuit you are working on and use tools with insulated handles.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
• Beginner - 30 to 45 minutes
• Intermediate - 20 to 30 minutes
• Advanced - 15 to 20 minutes

Make sure you turn off the circuit you will be working on. Locate the breaker or fuse and properly disable it.

Use insulated tools as an extra safety measure.

Common Mistakes
Make sure you connect the wiring to the correct terminals on your new switch. Use the same relative connections from the old switch. If this doesn't work, you may need to use "trial and error" until the wires are connected correctly.

1. The first and most important step is to turn off the circuit that you will be working on. Find the right breaker in the breaker box and flip it to the "Off" position. If you have a fuse box, find the right fuse and remove it completely from the panel. You can verify that the correct circuit has been turned off if the light controlled by the switch no longer works.
2. Remove the old switch plate and then remove the old switch from the workbox.
3. Unscrew the wiring from the old switch. Be sure to note the position of the wires as you remove them. It will help when you connect the new switch.
4. There are 4 wires that you will need to connect to the new switch - the common terminal that goes to the light or comes from the breaker box, the two hot wires and the ground wire. The neutral wire will not be connected to the switch.
5. Attach the 4 wires to the new switch. Figure 1 will help you understand the basics involved. Refer to wiring diagram that came with the new switch to make sure you are using the proper terminals. Loop each wire so that it wraps around the screw in a clockwise direction.
6. This will keep the wire from slipping off as you tighten the screw. The neutral wire should be spliced to the wiring that continues on to the next switch or to the light workbox.
7. Wrap electrical tape around the switch so that it covers all of the screw heads on both sides. Bend the wires in a zigzag pattern so that they easily fold into the workbox.
8. Push the switch into place. Adjust the switch so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Tighten the two screws that hold it in position. Install the new switch plate over the switch. Switch the breaker back on (or reinstall the fuse). Test the new switch to make sure the installation was successful. Make sure you test the other switch used for this light. This will ensure that the new switch is properly wired.



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