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Better way to Wire a light with Two 3-way Switches

I wanted to turn on/off a light from both ends of a hallway. My contractor would charge more than $100 for it. Being a cheap guy (and love to learn new stuff), I decided to wire it myself.

Standard 3-way switch wiring:
I knew the theory from middle school that I would need three wires between switches. I purchased 20 ft of 14/3 quick pull cable from Homedepot, two 3-way switches and a light. I knew the standard way to wire the light. It is shown in figure 1. However, the more I thought about it, the more I did not like it. It wasted the middle section of the 14/3 cable.

Standard 3 way switch wiring

Standard 3 way switch wiring

Standard 3 way switch wiring

Improved 3-way switch with one light wiring:
After a little thinking, I came out with diagram 2. In this method, I did not waste any wire in the 14/3 cable. I used the white wire in the first section of the 14/3 cable as neutral; the second section as the power to light. This is extremely handy when the light is in the middle of the run. You run the 14/3 cable through the light fixture with a 1″ loop. Cut a section of the cable shield out. Then you cross cut the white wire¬† into two sections. The white wire in first section (from power) is neutral. The white wire in second section is the power to the light.

Improved 3 Way Switch Wiring with one Light

Improved 3 Way Switch Wiring with one Light

Improved 3 Way Switch Wiring with one Light

Limitations:

  1. Be sure to label the white wire from second section to the light on both ends of the wire so people would not mistake it as neutral in the future.
  2. If you need to wire up more than one lights, you need another 14/2 cable between lights. The advantage of the improved wiring diminishes.  The standard wiring is better.

2 comments to Better way to Wire a light with Two 3-way Switches

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  • Ron Badour

    This will not pass code. While the light will operate and you will save wire, the light must always be connected using a one white and one black wire. There are safety reasons for standards. Think about some future electrician entering these boxes. He is going to go “What the ****”. If you look further there are some schematics for alternative ways to wire a 3-way available. Checkout http://www.electrical-online.com/wiringdiagrams.htm for the safe(code)way to do this.