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Residential Wiring -  The Right Way!

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Fan / Light Combination Switch Wiring

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3 Way SwitchFan Light Combination Fixture3 Way SwitchBasic Switch Power at Switch
Light 3 way Switches
Fan at one Location only

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Power at Switch light 3way fan one location

Power at Switch light 3way fan one location

Connections Instructions:
(as depicted in the diagrams above)

At the Fixture box...

One  cable entering this box coming from switch.

* a) using an insulated wire nut connect / join the white wire coming from 'circuit power supply' cable + the grounded conductor [neutral] of fixture.
* c) using and insulated wire nut connect / join the black wire coming from switch + the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) from light (shown as black in diagram)
* d) using an insulated wire nut connect / join the red wire coming from switch + the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) from fan (shown as red in diagram)
* e) please see under important notes in regards to the equipment grounding conductor (bare wire).

At switch box 1...

Three cables entering this box, one coming from fixture, one is the 'circuit power supply' cable and one coming switch box 2.

* a) using an insulated wire nut connect / join the white wire coming from 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) connect the black wire coming from fixture to the common screw of 3 way switch.
* c) connect the red wire coming from fixture to the on of the main screws of the fan switch.
* d) connect the red wire coming from switch box 2 to one of the remaining main screws of the 3 way switch.
* e) connect the white wire coming from switch box 2 to the last remaining main screws of the 3 way switch
* f) using an insulated wire nut connect / join the black wire from 'circuit power supply' cable + the black wire going to the remaining main screw of fan switch + the black wire coming from switch box 2.
* g) please see under important notes in regards to the equipment grounding conductor (bare wire). 

At switch box 2...

One cable entering this box coming from switch box 1.

* a) connect the black wire coming from switch box 1 to the common screw of 3 way switch.
* b) connect the red wire coming from switch box 1 to one of the remaining main screws of the 3 way switch.
* c) connect the white wire coming from switch box 1 to the last remaining main screws of the 3 way switch
* d) please see under important notes in regards to the equipment grounding conductor (bare wire).

Important Notes:

By electrical codes you MUST have at least 6 inches of wire in the electrical box itself, and also the wire must be able to reach at least 3 inches outside the box, it can fail an electrical inspection if the required min. wire length is not met.  You may have the wires a bit longer (within reason) but they cannot be shorter. Also see the note on box fill further down in this article.

You are allowed to re-designate a white wire  to be used as a hot (ungrounded conductor) in switch circuits but in those cases where a white wire is used in this manner, you must wrap a piece of black electrical tape around that white wire inside the box  to signify that is being used as an ungrounded (hot) conductor.

You cannot re-designate a white wire that is actually connected to the light fixture itself. At the fixture itself, the white wire must be the grounded conductor (neutral) coming from the circuit power supply cable. 

In the configuration depicted on this page,  the white wire on the wire cable going between switch 1 box & switch 2 box has been re-designated and used as a switched ungrounded conductor and therefore requires a piece of black electrical tape around both ends of the white wire on that cable, the remaining white wire from the 'circuit power supply' cable and the white wire going to fixture (grounded conductor [neutral]) is not  re-designated therefore NO black tape on the ends of that wire.

Use wire nuts of the correct size to join wires together. For fan / light combination fixtures, most likely it will have wire connections, the white wire is the grounded conductor (neutral) and connects to the white wire coming from switch, any green wires are equipment grounding conductors, then there will be two other wires one will be the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) for the light, and one will be the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) for the fan.. If you are confused please post to our forums for further clarification.

What is not shown in the drawings to avoid confusion, is that each wire cable also has a bare equipment grounding wire included. This wire is connected to a grounding screw in each electrical box (if the box is metal),  joined either through the grounding screws in the box itself or via a wire nut to the bare wire of the next cable entering / exiting the box, it is also connected to any grounding screw (if there is one) on the switch itself, as well as any grounding screw at the fixture (green wires that attach to the fixture are grounds).  Now if using a plastic box, it is made of a material that is non conductive, however some plastic boxes have a metal strip inside that can still be used to connect equipment grounding wires, in the event that it does not use wire nuts to join the bare grounding wires together. The equipment grounding wire (bare in most cables) must be electrical conductively joined throughout the circuit.  Green wires are also equipment grounding conductors.

At the switch itself there are 3 main electrical screws, one of these 3 screws is distinctly different in color (perhaps darker) than the other 2. This screw connection is called the common screw. It is very important that in order for the 2 switches to work as they are intended to that the correct wire is attached to the common screw.  Basically as depicted in the drawings one switch has the ungrounded conductor (hot) from the circuit power supply cable attached to the common screw, where the other switch had the ungrounded conductor (hot) feed to the light fixture itself.

Please also note that there are a variety of manufactures out there that make 3 way switches so it is possible that the switch you buy may have the common screw located in a different spot or side of the switch then depicted in the drawings in this article, just make sure that the wire depicted to go to the common screw of each of the switches is actually connected to the common screw of the 3 way switch you bought. The other 2 wires going between the remaining screws of one switch to the other switch does not matter as long as one wire of the 2 remaining wires go on each of the remaining 2 screws of the screw.

If there is an equipment grounding screw on the 3 way switch it may be green in color and be separated away from the main connections of the switch and likely part of the metal frame that is also part of the mounting structure of the switch.


Extensions to this Switch circuit...

Be Aware that there is a limit by code on how many wires can be in a given size electrical box, when adding more wires to the same box you may have to install a larger and / or deeper box to allow space for more wires coming and out of the box.

Here is an article / explanation in regards to box fill calculations 'Box Fill Calculation'

The instructions here are based on the fact that the circuit has already been wired to the configuration shown in this article and we are now making the wiring changes for onward power.

From the switch locations....

No onward power is possible from switch box 2 any because there is no grounded conductor (neutral) present at this location.

From the Switch 1 Box...
(Both switched and always on onward power is available at the switch 1 box)
(showing bellow the switch box one portion of the circuit)

Option 1 - Onward Always on power..

Extending Circuit with always on power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (always on)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + black wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the black wire connected to fan switch + the black wire coming from switch box 2.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  ungrounded conductor (hot) always on
White - grounded conductor (neutral)

**************************************

Option 2 - Onward switched power controlled by light switches...

Extending Circuit with switched (from light switch)  power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from light switches)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire connected to the common screw of 3 way switch + the black wire coming from fixture.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by 3 way light switches.
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option 3 - Onward switched power controlled by fan switch...

Extending Circuit with switched (from fan switch) power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from fan switch)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the red wire connected to one of the main screws of fan switch + the red wire coming from fixture.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by fan switch.
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option 4 - Onward Always on and switched power controlled by light switches..

Extending Circuit with always on and switched (from light switch) power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from light switches)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire connected to one of the main screws of fan switch + the black wire coming from switch box 2.
* c) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the red wire of onward cable  + the black wire coming from fixture + the black wire connected to the common screw of 3 way switch.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Red -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switches.
Black - ungrounded conductor (hot) always on
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option 5 - Onward Always on and switched power controlled by fan switch...

Extending Circuit with always on and switched (from fan switch) power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from fan switch)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire connected to one of the main screws of fan switch + the black wire coming from switch box 2.
* c) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the red wire of onward cable  + the red wire coming from fixture + the red wire connected to one of the main screws of fan switch.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Red -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by fan switch.
Black - ungrounded conductor (hot) always on
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option 6 - Onward two switched power feeds...

Extending Circuit with switched (from light and fan switches) power from switch 1

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the switch box 1 electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from fan & light switches)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply' cable + the white wire coming from fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire connected to the common screw of 3 way switch + the black wire coming from fixture.
* c) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the red wire of onward cable  + the red wire coming from fixture + the red wire connected to one of the main screws of fan switch.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Red -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by fan switch.
Black - switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switches
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

From the fixture location....
(only switched power is available at the fixture location)
(showing bellow the fixture portion of the circuit)

Option 1 - Onward switched power controlled by light switches...

Extending Circuit with  switched (from light switch) power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from light switches)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from switch box 1 + the white wire connected to grounded conductor (neutral) of fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire from switch box 1 + the black wire connected to switched ungrounded conductor (hot) of light at fixture.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black - switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switches
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option 2 - Onward switched power controlled by fan switch...

Extending Circuit with  switched (from fan switch) power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from fan switch)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from switch box 1 + the white wire connected to grounded conductor (neutral) of fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the red wire from switch box 1 + the red wire connected to switched ungrounded conductor (hot) of fan at fixture.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black - switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by fan switch.
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

**************************************

Option3 - Onward two switched power feeds...

Extending Circuit with  switched (from light and fan  switch) power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched from fan & light switches)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from switch box 1 + the white wire connected to grounded conductor (neutral) of fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire from switch box 1 + the black wire connected to switched ungrounded conductor (hot) of light at fixture.
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the red wire of onward cable  + the red wire from switch box 1 + the red wire connected to switched ungrounded conductor (hot) of fan at fixture.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black - switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switches.
Red - switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by fan switch.
White - grounded conductor (neutral).


Foreign Users:

The colors of the wires depicted are based on the standards and code requirements / configuration in the United States and Canada. If you are viewing this site from a foreign country, your wiring standards and color of wires may be different but the principal and sequence of wiring will still remain the same. Therefore the information in this article may still be of use to you regardless of what country you may be in. Just translate the colors used here to the color of wires used in your country in regards to ungrounded (hot) conductors  / grounded conductors (neutral) and equipment grounding conductors as well know applicable code requirements in your country.


By: Donald Kerr

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