Staircase switches allow homeowners to control electrical appliances or fixtures from two different locations, such as the top and bottom of a stairway. They also provide greater convenience and safety than standard single-pole switches. However, wiring a staircase switch can be tricky and is not a task for the faint of heart.
To wire a 2-way switch, start by removing the old switch and replacing it with the new one. Compare the switch to your existing fixture to find the same-colored screw connections and make sure you connect them properly.
You’ll need to install the new switch into an electrical box, as well as replace its mounting plate with a matching replacement. This can be a challenge for beginners, so if you’re not comfortable doing this job, consider hiring a professional.
First, determine if the switch is a standard two-way switch or a three-way switch. This will help you determine the number of wires needed and whether you need 12-3 or 14-3 cables to complete your installation.
The typical two-way switch features two terminal screws and a ground screw. In this configuration, the black hot wire is connected to the common screw while the white neutral wire and the bare copper grounding wire are attached to the switch.
Normally, the black wire comes from the service panel and runs down to the light fixture box. This feed wire must be spliced at the fixture box so it can travel to both switches and then to the light.
Next, connect the spliced wire to the switch’s common terminal. This connection is referred to as a “break before make” design, as the first connection must be broken before making the second.
To ensure that the circuit is complete, check that the switch is in the “ON” position and the light bulb is on. This is done by testing the flow of current using a non-contact voltage tester.
If the current is flowing in the right direction, it will come from the switch into the electrical box first. It will then run to the light, and then from the light back to the switch.
Once the circuit is complete, test the circuit from each switch to make sure it is working correctly. This will confirm that each switch is able to make and break the connection to the light.
You can use a circuit tester or an ohmmeter to verify that the connection is working properly. If it is not, you need to reconnect the wires or upgrade to a larger switch box.
A 3-way switch is a special type of light switch that allows you to control the lighting in your home from multiple locations. They are typically used in stairwells and long hallways where getting to a switch at either end of the stairway in the dark is inconvenient or dangerous.
These switches appear externally similar to standard single-pole, single-throw switches. They have extra connections that enable them to connect and disconnect a circuit from several locations, and they may be operated by toggling the switch between “traveler” terminals on both ends of the circuit.