I am in NJ, USA and I am trying to convert the wiring of an outside
light from 2-way to one-way.
The light was previously controlled from inside the kitchen and also
from the garage but the garage switch is now completely isolated and
What I have is black, white and red wires (plus unsheathed earth)
coming out of the box for the wall-light and the same coloured wires
coming out of the switch-plate. Near-miss accidents have confirmed
that the black and red wites going to the switch box are live, I have
no idea about the white wire.
I believe that the red wire probably needs to be either dead-ended or
combined with one of the other wires but have no idea which.
The little electrical knowledge I have was acquired in the UK where
the wiring conventions are different in terms of colour-coding though
I will admit to having been baffled by 2-way switches there also.
I just need to know what the combinations should be in the light
fitting and in the switch for simple one-way operation.
Thanks in advance for any help.....
In the US, White is (almost) always the "Neutral" or Grounded
conductor. Not the Ground wire, but a Grounded/current carrying
Black and Red may be Hot (120V to the White wire) or might be
What I don't understand is where the power is originating in
your scheme. IOW, how are Blk and Red becoming Hot?
Or perhaps Blk,Red,Wh do *not* simply go from one box to the
other; there may be an intermediate box supplying power.
It's a two way switch. The black and red are _probably_ the travellers.
The easiest way to turn a two way switch into a one way is to not use
the second switch. Beyond that, it starts requiring you intimately
understand how the light, switches and power are arranged.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Neil Ralley) wrote in
The method that a 2-way (oft called 3-way) switch works is:
you have a black power in
you have a white neutral in
the neutral connects directly to the load (the light)
the black, will connect either in the switch box, or in the light box, to
the single-side terminal of one of the light switches.
The wire from the other single side terminal on the OTHER switch, goes
back to the HOT side of the load (the light).
The double side terminals on the switch....run ONLY between the switches.
The way i've always wired these is:
black to power the first switch, red and white are the 'runners' between
the switches' and black goes back from the second switch to the light.
This keeps the color code in shape at the light, in that you have a black
and a white at the load, with black being hot...and white being neutral.
The switches work like:
Switch 1 = position 1, power thru black, to red, to red terminal on other
switch, which is at position 1 also, thru black to the light.
flip either switch to position 2, and the circuit is broken. flip either
switch to another position from here, the circuit is restored, either via
the red wire, or the white wire that runs between the switches.
You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
What you call 2-way is really called 3-way. You will be changing from 3-way
to 2-way. 2-way means "off" and "on".
If red is live without being connected to the kitchen switch, the garage
switch is not isolated like you think.
I hesitate to give you the answer because you don't know exactly what you
have and I don't want to kill you.
The first step is to shut off the power at the breaker, disconnect all wires
at the kitchen switch, and figure out which black and white and bare wires
are coming from the breaker, and which black and white and red and bare
wires go to the garage. The supercondensed answer is that, in the kitchen,
you will end up connecting white to white, putting the switch between the
blacks, abandoning the red, and connecting the grounds to each other and to
the green screw. Get a book.
May the "force" be not with you.
I think that Jim may be correct about an intermediate box in the
basement from which one red/black/white cable goes to the light
fitting (and before I dismantled it, on to the garage) and another
red/black/white cable goes to the switch.
Unfortunately the box which I suspect to be the one is in a location
which is not easy to access.
There has to be some combination of these wires which will work but I
have yet to figure it out.
Thanks for the input so far, it is helpful.
I managed to access and open up the box in the basement and I am 98%
sure that it is connecting the switch and the light fixture to the
The connections appear to be as follows:
Coming in from breaker panel - one pair - Black and white
Black from main connects to black on switch
White from main connects to white in light fixture
White from switch connects to black in light fixture
red from switch connects to red in light fixture.
I still have not figured out why the red sparked when it touched the
metal switch-box, I guess that the whole switch must have been live
from the black feed.
So, how do I simplify this so that I just have a simple on/off switch?
Well, it was obviously the correct box - it is a spur from a power
point which also accomodates a washer, a dryer and a dehuminifier
which is not great but one lamp shouldn't make a big difference.
I finished up dead-ending the two red cables and am using the white
running from the switch to the box as the other half of the black
circuit. The white in the lamp fixture now goes back to the board.
Having been through this I now feel like taking a run at the 3-way
switch for the basement light which defeated me a year or two back and
which has meant us taping the switch at the basement end of the
equation because the circuit breaker kept going off after I had
rewired it when we replaced the upstairs half of the 3-way set-up.
I realise that this is horribly basic stuff but the colours and wiring
protocols are different from what I grew up with in the UK. The upside
is that over here shocks are less likely to be fatal with 110V vs
240V. Even in the UK I can recall an afternoon trying out all of the
combinations to get a 3-way switch wired when I was rewiring a house.
The power was dead easy - an upsatairs ring, a downstairs ring, a
cooker-point and some electric storage radiators - and the lighting
was fine too except for that one 3-way switch....
To those who responded thankyou for your input. Books are OK but there
are times when human input is quicker and more effective and this was
one of them.
Neil: Just to help confuse you some more? :-)
Suggest this; find out which hot black wire comes from the fuse/breaker
panel (called in the UK the CU or consumer unit). That's the 'feed'.
Make sure that black goes through the on/off switch to another black which
goes directly to the light fixture, or by continuing it through the other
box (presumably using black) and then to the black wire to the light
fixture. (You could draw it out on a piece of paper?).
The white neutral should be continuous through to the light fixture, not
switched, in the same manner. Ignore the red, disconnect it. Also all
grounds should be continuous through and connected to all boxes and metal
frame of light fixture.
You may end up with the second box entirely dead /disconnected or merely
used as a through connecting point for black (live), white (neutral) and
ground (earth). You can leave the switch out there disconnected or remove it
and put a blank plate over the box for neatness and safety..
Terry in Canada. Ex Liverpool UK!
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