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Electrical: Replacing a 3-Way Switch

Switches that control lights from two locations are known as “3-Way” switches. Common in most homes built in the past few decades, 3-way switches add the convenience of being able to control the lights in a room from two points of entry.

3-Way switches have 4 connections: a green grounding screw, a black or dark colored screw, and two brass or gold screws. The dark colored screw is called the common, and receives the “hot” side coming from the electrical panel or sends the “hot” side of the circuit to the fixture. The switch’s location in the circuit determines this connection.

The two brass screws are called the “traveler” connection, and will have either black or red wires connected to them. These screws allow for the connection between the two switches. The green or ground screw is connected to the bare or green wire in the circuit.

Before removing a defective 3-Way switch, make a note of the location of each wire on the switch and then connect the new switch in the same points. While switch styles vary, all have the same components.


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