Hi again, if any of you remember the last help you gave me, - it was
great. All it really took was for me to sit down and draw a picture
with red black white and green lines between all the switches and what
they lead to. Thanks so much.
The other side of this house seems to be newer. This bunch of light
switches is almost exactly like the ones in the front of the house (two
units of a 3 way on top with an off/on on each bottom of each of the
two) except that there's a different (newer?) formation of them. On the
right hand side there are two brass screws on top and bottom. On the
left hand side of each there are two screws (iron color) in the middle
of the unit (top and bottom) Am I making sense? They're like
brass <-3-way switch-> brass
brass <-simple on/off
I've been trying to look them up from Google but haven't found a unit
like that, let alone one diagrammed with a red black white and green
schematic. If someone could point me to a web page that spells out how
it's supposed to work, I'd be grateful.
Now there's one thing more - Is there a way that those two units are
themselves connected together with a short wire? Stuffed in the back of
the switch box was a short (2² +/-) wire with the ends stripped and
curled just like all connecting wires are. It's like someone didn't
know what to do with it and so just crammed it in with all the others.
Or maybe it was left over from a different setup and wasn't necessary
with them this way? Just curious.
Any and all hints are appreciated lots, honest,
I'm not sure that I understand your situation. I'm guessing that you have
two combination devices that are three way switches on the upper and lower
sections, but you have too many (8) screw terminals for that. Is it
possible that you have a combination device with two four way switches?
What is the problem? Did the lights stop working? Or have they never
worked at all? I hope that you didn't take all the wires off of the
Pictures would help a lot.
im not sure what is where here. when you say top bottom are you talking
about upstairs vs downstairs or what exactly?
I have see 2 sets of nuts once. It was on a GFCI outlet. Surprised to
see that on a light switch though. Kitchen?
"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
Let me try the diagram again please. There are two switches. They
control 4 lights. The screws on them, are like:
brass (for a 3-way switch) brass
brass (simple on/off) brass
Gosh it's hard to put a diagram of a light switch that makes sense - I
hope one of you can read minds :-)
You are still showing eight screws and we still don't know what your problem
with this is. Are the four lights no longer working? My only guess at this
point is that you have two four way switches or two double pole switches.
My first guess is that you have a 4 way switch. There are lots of wiring
diagrams on the web for 4-way switches. But your description is confusing.
It looks like you have 8 lugs (screws) on a single switch. Never seen
anything like that. A 4-way switch has 5 lugs, one of them being the ground.
How many wire screws are on a single switch? And when you say a "bunch of
light switches" do you mean a set of 3 switches in a single electrical box
(known as a 3-gang box) or a group of switches in one part of the house?
OK, let me try it again BPŠ
There are two identical switches, side by side, in the same metal box.
Here's an attempt to describe one of them:
It is 2.5 inches tall, 1.25 inches wide, and 1.25 inches deep. It
has 2 switches, one atop the other, both are on/offs, each of those two
operate horizontally, to the right is ON, to the left is OFF. AS to the
screws (lugs?) there are only 4 total, let me try baseball - (guys like
that) - On the right hand side there are 2 brass lugs one on home plate
the other on first base. On the left side there are 2 black lugs, one
at shortstop, the other between shortstop and 2nd base, like maybe a
rundown between 2nd and 3rd (like the kind you miss seeing because your
heads in the frig looking for another beer.;-)) The upper switch
(between 2 nd and 1st) is a 3 way (it turns on or off the overhead
light from both sides of the room.). The lower switch (between 3rd base
and Home Plate) is a 2 way because it's only supposed to turn or off
the back porch light.
You know, it very well could be a 4-way switch because no 3-way
switches I've ever found through Google ever look like that. Is a 3-way
switch atop a two-way switch really that unique? Is it possible that
the previous owner stuffed the wrong switch into that box and was just
tolerant that it only worked sometimes and let it go at that? To me
So BP, or someone reading this, what would a combination switch
like that be called, and maybe point me towards a web page with 2 of
those in one box and red black white and green wires showing how it's
supposed to function?
Thanks for listening, all help truly is appreciated.
My understanding is that you have 2 combination devices in a box, each
device with a 3-way switch on top and a single pole switch on the
bottom. Further that you replaced one (or both devices) and want to
check your wiring before you turn on the power.
The wires on top are for the top switch and the wires on the bottom are
for the bottom switch. Look at them as separate units. The exception is
that sometimes the terminals on one side are connected together with a
break-off tab so one wire can feed both devices. (Duplex receptacles
have this feature.) If you replaced an original device the new device
should have a tab -or not- to match the original, else repost.
Replacing a single pole switch is straightforward. It should have a
terminal on each side as you described.
A single pole switch will be labeled on/off; a 3-way won't.
A three-way should have one terminal on one side and 2 terminals on the
other side - what I understood from your description is there is one
terminal on each side, a problem. A three-way, as you probably know, has
two terminals the same color (probably on the same side of your switch)
and one terminal a different color. Also as you probably know, the wire
to the single-color-terminal on the old switch has to go to the
single-color-terminal on the new switch. The other 2 can be interchanged.
As someone else said, you probably can't misswire the device (if it is
on a single circuit) to produce smoke and flames (and if you did the
circuit breaker would trip). If the above sounds right I would suggest
powering it and seeing if everything works.
If the above doesn't match what you have try describing the difference.
If it doesn't work describe what does and doesn't work (and do you have
a meter or test light).
Sorry, I only do football analogies....
What you think you have is:
15 Amp, 120/277 Volt, Duplex Style Single-Pole / 3-Way AC Combination
Switch, Commercial Grade, Non-Grounding, Side Wired, - White Catalog #:
It has 5 screws.
For wiring it: what Bud said.
If there are only 4 screws then it must be a single-pole/single-pole duplex
switch. There can be no 2-way function without 3 screws for the individual
switch without creative wiring that would probably violate the electrical
The semantics here are getting garbled: If one of the switches on the duplex
device works a light along with another switch located somewhere else, that
is a 2-way function. A 1-way switch has two screws (poles, lugs). a 2-way
has 3 screws, a 3-or-more-way has 4 screws (all assuming only one switch on
the device, not duplex).
That is eminently reasonable but in the US 2 switches controlling a
light from 2 positions uses 3-way switches with, as you said, 3
Control from 3 or more positions uses 2 3-way switches plus as many
4-way switches as needed. As you said 4-way switches have 4 terminals.
1-way is not used - always heard them called single pole switches.
A recent post said that 3-way dates to Edison installations with $
charges for the number of openings - 2 switches was 2 switches plus a
light for 3 openings - a 3-way.
A good reason to learn and use the technical terms "pole" and "throw".
A pole is how many switch-arms a lever controls, and a throw is
how many different contacts that arm can reach.
So a SPST (SIngle-Pole-Single-throw) is 1 circut, either
open, or closed. a SPDT is what most people call a two-way,
where you have one in (or out) selecting between two outs
(or ins). A DPDT is the one that confuses people...
Many modern ones apparently only have four terminals
on them, and are straight-through if the switch is one way,
and crossover if it's the other. The ones I learned on
had six terminals, one at the base of each switch-arm,
and four more at the top and bottom, which means on one
hand that you can use them for anything, but on the other
hand, it always takes me 15 minutes with graph paper
to figure out how.
There is probably no area of construction where there is more confusion of
terminology than electrical. It is always amazing to hear the different
variations. And only in electrical terms can you have "ivory" be the darker
color, and "almond" be the lighter. Completely counter-intuitive.
As a builder I like to keep it simple: a one way switch switches one way:
from a single location. A two way switch switches two ways: from two
locations. How many poles are not my problem, man. That's the electricians
Yikes, I'm going to cut and paste this whole thread into a new page and
then me and my new Mac are, with the help of Mr. Google, see if I can
get a handle on the vocabulary and theory of how it's all supposed to
Did I mention that the upstairs room my computer is in, is on the same
circuit that the kitchen lights are on? Not the frig, stove, microwaveŠ
just the kitchen lighting and Mr. Mac's room. The same circuit breaker
controls them both. I'll be at Mom's for Sunday dinner tomorrow, but I
promise I'll let you know how it's all turning out. - The lighting, not
the dinner. :- )
Thank you all so much,
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