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The Three Way Switch - How It Is Different

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The Three Way Switch - How It Is Different

Three Way Switch

© Leviton 2007

Three Way Switch
The three way switch is always used in pairs and allows you to turn a light or receptacle on and off from two different locations. These switches have no "on" or "off" markings because the on and off positions will vary as the switches are used.

The three way switch has three terminal screws and here's where it can start getting confusing for most people (but it won't be for you, don't worry). The black "hot" wire is attached to the darkest screw terminal marked "COM" for "common." The other two terminals are used to wire up what are called "travelers" or leads for the switch. It makes no real difference which traveler wire goes to what traveler terminal on the switch. The switch will also come with a ground terminal (green screw).

The trick in replacing an old switch is to mark the COM or common wire off the old three way switch before you replace the old switch. Why? To make sure you properly connect the COM wire to the new 3-way switch's dark or bronze screw terminal identified as COM. Again, COM is the wire you have to install to a specific switch terminal screw. With the other two traveler wires it makes no real difference to which terminals they get fastened.

Please note, you cannot use any other type of switch in a three way application, and again, these switches must be used in pairs.

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