Four-way switches are used in conjunction with a three-way switch circuit. Three-way switches are used for turning electrical devices like lights or ceiling fans on and off from two locations. The term three-way refers to the number of terminals or screws on the switch itself. A four-way switch has four terminals or screws on the switch body. Two are located at the top of the switch and two at the bottom. The four-way switch is physically wired between the two three-way switches for an additional option in controlling the device.
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Things you need
- Switch box
- (2) wires with ground Romex or type NM cable (14-gauge or larger)
- Wire strippers
- Four-way switch
- Switch cover plate
- Plastic wire nuts
Remove all electrical power from the circuit. Position the four-way switch in the location of your choice. Install the switch box on the nearest wood stud for proper support.
Run separate 14-gauge or larger Romex or type MN cables from each three-way switch into the new four-way switch. Romex cable consists of two insulated conductors, one black wire and one white wire. A third bare copper wire is included in the cable assembly for the ground safety circuit.
Use the pocketknife to remove six inches of the outer plastic jacket on the cable assembly. This will expose the two insulated wires and the bare ground wire. Strip back one inch of the insulation on the wires, revealing the copper underneath.
Terminate the four-way switch first. Connect one pair of wires, one cable, to the top two screws on the four-way switch using the screwdriver. Terminate the other pair of wires from the other cable to the lower set of screws on the switch. Twist the two bare copper ground wires together leaving a 2-inch pigtail to the end of the twisted pair. Connect the bare copper ground wire to the green screw on the metal frame of the four-way switch. Secure the switch inside the box using the vendor-provided screws. Attach the switch cover plate.
Terminate the three-way switches by removing the old switch leg wiring from the switches. The switch leg wiring is connected to the top two screws on the three-way switch. These screws are identified by their silver colour. There is also a copper coloured or dark coloured screw on the switch--do not remove the wiring from this screw terminal. Pull the old wiring from the switch and cover the bare copper end with a plastic wire nut. Fold the wire back into the box. Install the two new wires from the four-way switch in its place. Be sure to install the bare ground wire on the green screw of the three-way switch frame. The order or placement of the wires does not matter for this type of circuit. Perform the same wiring technique on the other three-way switch.
Energise the electrical power. The device can now be controlled from three locations.
Tips and warnings
- You can add any number of four-way switches into this type of circuit for additional control locations.
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