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The Right Way to Wire Three Way Light Switches

My outside light will not work unless the inside light is on, is this right? Lets review the Right Way of Wiring Three Way Light Switches, and discover a key factor that will help you.


Wire Three Way Switches
Electrical Question: My outside light will not work unless the inside light is on, is this right?

I have a 3 way switch for inside lights and an outside light switch in the same box. However, the outside light will not work unless the inside lights (on the 3 way is on) – either of the 3 way switches can be on, as long as the lights are on.
Questions, is this standard? And, should there be a way inside the box to change the wiring to allow the light switches to work independently of each other. I have 4 sets of wires coming in or going out of the box. ( I would think 1 to the other 3 way, a second to the outside light, third would be power, and 4th may go to the inside lights.) Thanks.

This electrical question came from: Tom, a Homeowner from Butler, Pennsylvania.
See more about Home Wiring for Pennsylvania

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Tom.

How to Wire 3-Way Switches

There are Many Ways to Wire Three Way Light Switches. Lets review the Right Way of  Wiring Three Way Light Switches, and discover a key factor that will help you.

The Key to Wiring 3-Way Switches

Tom, the key to wiring three way light switches is to identify where the power enters the switching circuit and identify where the wiring leave to feed the light fixtures that are being controlled. Once this is understood then the wiring connections will be crystal clear as outlined in my exhaustive full color three way switch e book which is available below.

More about Wiring Three Way Switches

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Wiring Diagrams

Fully Explained Light Switch Wiring Diagrams. Detailed Electrical Wiring Diagrams and Pictures assist your Home Electrical Projects.
3 Way Switch Diagram
3 Way Switch Diagram

3 Way Switch Diagram

In response to the requests for this information, I have developed a comprehensive,step-by-step guide designed to walk you through the identification and wiring of your 3-way switches.


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Here's How to Do It:
Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book

Great for any Home Wiring Project.


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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

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Includes:
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
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Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.


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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “The Right Way to Wire Three Way Light Switches”
  1. Bruce Murphy says:

    I have a light in the dining room which is in the middle between the kitchen and the family room with only one switch. I would like to turn the light off at either end.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Bruce,
      Converting a Single Switch to Two 3-Way Switches
      The typical process to wire two three way switches is to install a 3-wire cable from the existing single switch to the desired location for the second switch, then replace the single switch with a 3-way switch and install a 3-way switch at the new location. Refer to the 3-way switch wiring diagrams provided in the wiring diagrams section of this website for wiring the new 3-way switches. Be sure to get a permit, use methods and materials that are compliant with local and national codes, and have the additional wiring inspected.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

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