How To Choose And Properly Connect A Three-Way Switch

In an effort to increase the convenience of controlling electrical appliances, manufacturers create new types of functional devices. One of these is the triple switch.

What is the construction of the three-key switch and what nuances to consider when connecting the device, let's consider in more detail.

The contents of the article:

  • The construction of the three-key switch
  • The main types of closing devices
  • Criteria for a competent choice
  • The technology of connecting the device
    • Taking preparatory work
    • Assembling wires in the junction box
    • Mounting the sub-socket in the niche
    •   Wiring diagram for 3 push-button switches
  • Suitable installation details for combined models
  • Conclusions and useful video on the subject

Design of the 3 push-button switch

Switches of this type feature three push buttons which are arranged right next to each other in the standard device dimensions. Their main function is to allow control of up to three groups of lights simultaneously from a single access point.

The most common application is in rooms with complex shapes: combined bathrooms, long corridors, living rooms in combination with kitchens.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

The 3 push-button switch is suitable for controlling both main and auxiliary light fixtures such as ceiling/wall/floor LED lighting schemes

The 3 push-button switch is ideal for multiple chandeliers. They can be switched in three steps to produce three versions of saturated light in which one lamp lights up first and then the next two.

The undeniable advantages of three-loop devices include:

  1. A cost-effective appearance.
  2. Saving of space.
  3. Easy installation.

Simplification of the 3 push-button installation procedure is obtained by reducing the labor cost for creating a common technological niche for the device core and for the wiring.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

With the right electrical data and the correct operation of a 3 push-button, even a low cost model can guarantee many decades of problem-free operation

The 3 push-button is quite simply constructed with two components:

  • The internal mechanism is the moving part where the compression/expansion spring closes/opens the circuit.
  • External part, which is a box with a switch-button to which the contacts are permanently attached.

Since the load on such devices is somewhat higher compared to simple types of models, the internal parts and the external housing are made only of quality materials.

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The installation of a three-way switch allows a rational organization of space, increases user convenience and minimizes the number of devices on the wall

Triple switches have many uses. One of them is the control of three or more horn chandeliers

Most often triple switches are used in the control of different lighting zones. In this case, the three devices are combined in one frame, connect them separately

At the back of the triple switch caliper, the manufacturers responsible provide schemes and connection options

The construction of the triple switch has four contacts. Three of them go to different light bulbs or lines, the fourth is for the input. Depending on the wiring scheme to the device leads or one supply line, or three - for each branch of lighting

In the case of bringing to the device three different lines in one frame have essentially three single-key switch. Many variations in functionality, for example, one of the devices may be with a timer

If in the device besides the three buttons, by which activate and deactivate the light, there is also a dimmer, then the owner has the opportunity to adjust the intensity of the light flux

The design is an important factor for choosing the triple switch. In addition, the degree of protection against moisture is also important for installation in kitchens and bathrooms

Switch for smart space planning

Display for controlling the chandelier light bulbs

Triple switch with radio control

Switch diagram Three-key switch

Contact connection in series

Three-key switch with timer

Three-key switch with dimmer three-key switch with dimmer

Design of the electrical installation product

Basic types of closing devices

Switches, including triple switches, depending on the method of operation, are of the push-button and touch-button type. The former are actuated by pressing a key, the latter by touching a panel in a certain place.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

Most models of touch switches are equipped with a dimmer - a device for continuous 6 or 7 stage regulation right up to turning the light off

When choosing a dimmer it is important to consider the total load of the switch. Specialists recommend buying devices with extra power. For example: For a three-arm chandelier with lamps of 100 Watts to choose a dimmer that has a 300 W mark.

For more information about what a dimmer is and how to choose it, read this material.

Depending on the type of installation, triple switches are available in three types:

  • outdoor;
  • interior, suggesting burial in a wall cavity;
  • combined models featuring a common enclosure with a socket.

The combined models equipped with a socket have a narrower scope  applications. This is because they cannot be installed without rewiring.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

When installing a combined model, two separate wires for the socket must be led to the same point and the phase wires for the light

The triple switch combined with the socket in a common case is justified in situations where open wiring is intended. Electrical safety rules strictly regulate the height of switches and sockets: 150 cm above the floor.

For this reason, these models are installed in places where sockets are used rather frequently, provided that it is convenient to use switches at this height.

The most common combined models are installed in bathrooms, near mirrors and in bedrooms in the bed-side tables.

A separate sub-species is the triple switch with wireless version that can be installed anywhere and can be placed on any surface.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

The wireless model is a different type of switch, which is structurally more similar to a remote control

Wireless devices are equipped with two modules:

  • Receptora relay type device built into the light source. On receiving the signal, it closes the electrical circuit of the light.
  • Signal transmitter is the switch itself, equipped with an energy generator. When a key is pressed, it converts the energy pulse into a radio signal.

Such high-tech devices are among the most expensive. Instead of the usual electrical wiring, they use infrared or radio waves.

Switches with light are also available. They are convenient in the sense that in the darkness they create a light signal that serves as a good guide to quickly find the device.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

The light on the switches additionally serves as a pointer that signals a failure in the lighting state, because it switches on when the voltage is not supplied

When choosing these models, pay attention to the type of light source. The illuminated switches are only trouble-free when connected to a circuit with ordinary incandescent lamps or their halogen counterparts.

If a circuit with such a device involves fluorescent lamps or LED strips, they will continue to emit a slight pulsating glow even when they are switched off.

Criteria for good selection

Buying a triple switch, carefully inspect it, study the physical values, check the wiring diagram.

Core points to look for when choosing the product:

  1. The product bodyIt must be free from any kind of defects: burrs, dents and chips.
  2. Button actuation - should be easy and without jamming.
  3. Sound effects - a characteristic click should be heard when each button is activated.
  4. Core - should also be free of burrs and its terminals should work properly.

When planning to install a switch in a room with high humidity, a device with protection must be chosen.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

The operating elements of a weatherproof switch have an additional rubber or plastic cover that protects the mechanism from direct contact with water

To make installation easier and yet ensure a long life, models with screw or clamp-type terminals are preferred.

Installation of imported triple switches, especially Korean and Chinese products, may present difficulties that should be considered beforehand:

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Chinese switch brand Livolo

Mounting box of the same manufacturer

Cut the cylindrical tabs for fixing

Sockets made in Belarus

Techniques for connecting the device

The connection of the three-way switches is almost the same as the one-way and two-key counterparts.

The point is that one of the supply cables is connected to the input of the switch, and the cables of the lighting fixtures are connected to the input contacts of the connection blocks. The only difference is the total number of contacts of the switching groups involved, placed in the body of the device.

Preparation work

The first thing to do before connecting or dismantling a 3-button switch is to temporarily disconnect the breaker and make sure that the mains is de-energized. Before beginning work, it is necessary to understand the wiring to which the device box is to be mounted.

How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

According to this wiring diagram, when installing the combination model, a neutral conductor must be laid separately from the junction box to allow the socket to function

Wiring the switch without the following tools is impossible:

  • Voltage indicator;
  • Isolation tool;
  • Cross and flat screwdriver;
  • Hole punch equipped with drill bit;
  • Building level;
  • Tape.

Interior installation of the switch will require a sub-socket and a small portion of plaster or alabaster to accommodate the heart of the device. To assemble the wires and connect the contacts inside the junction box are self-clamping terminals.

Assembling the wires in the junction box

Two wires are led from the switchboard to the junction box.

The best way to identify which one is the \"zero\" colored blue;

  • \"phase\"which has a brown colored sheath.

    Testing is recommended for reliable identification.

    The lamps lead six wires into the junction box. The task of the wizard is to connect three of them together and then connect to the operating zero coming from the switchboard. The remaining three wires only need to be routed to the switch and docked to its outputs.

    How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

    Wires led to the junction box are interconnected by means of a self-gripping terminal block or by a simple twist connection

    Main points to consider when installing the wires in the junction box cavity:

    1. The neutral of the supply wire is connected to all \"zeros\" of the light fixtures to be supplied.
    2. The phase of the supply wire is connected to the common contact of the switch.
    3. The other three wires coming from the switch are connected to their corresponding three phase wires coming from each lighting fixture.

    Connecting one common phase to the breaker for all light sources creates a circuit in which one or the other bulb lights up when one of the switch contacts closes.

    Installation of a niche sub-circuit box

    The sub-circuit box is only used for the installation of internally mounted switches whose core goes halfway into the wall. The main requirement for the installation is that the edges are flush with the wall and do not protrude beyond the wall. Otherwise after inserting the core, the body of the switch will protrude from the wall.

    How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

    To deepen the core of the device into the recess, a hole deep enough to accommodate the \"cup\"

    Available wall sockets may vary in color, shape and the presence of side projections. Depending on the mode of assembly, the \"pop-ups\" are of two types:

    • Castings in concrete - solid units fixed in the wall by mortar or alabaster.
    • Castings in plasterboard - units fitted with special spacers that can be expanded into the wall.

    Independent on the version any slots have pressed holes through which the electrical cables are led into the cavity.

    We also recommend you read our other article where we explained in detail the mounting technology for slots in concrete and plasterboard. For details see the link.

    The \"cup\" with the cable in it is put into a previously made niche, levelled horizontally and vertically and fixed in the wall with a spirit level.

     3-button plug diagram

    To get access to the mechanism of the triple switch you remove the keys and the decorative frame. This work is easily done with a flathead screwdriver.

    In order to remove the key, it is only necessary to press it to the \"off\" position, and the edge protruding from the opposite side is gently, without applying excessive force, lifted with the tip of the screwdriver.

    How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

    From the back of the triple switch you can clearly see where the phase is led and where the wires from the lamps are connected - they are separated in separate terminals

    The four wires will be led to the installation place of the switch.

    These can be a 4-core cable or a combination of the following:

    • single core wire from the junction box;
    • three core wire which carries the phase to the light fittings to be connected via the distribution box.

    The neutral wire will run directly from the junction box to the fixtures, bypassing the switch.

    The incoming phase is connected to the input terminal marked with an arrow and the three outgoing terminals to the fixture output wires. Which output to which terminal doesn't make much difference. If you want a particular terminal to be responsible for that particular luminaire, reconnecting the wires should not be too difficult.

    The wires in the mechanism are fixed by means of clamping screws. Before inserting the bare ends, it is important to make sure that the rods of the screws are not completely screwed into the grooves. After inserting the bare wire ends into the mechanism, tighten the screws securely. When removing the wire ends, no backlash should form when checking.

    How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

    In the mechanism, first the common terminal for the phase wire is separated and only then the terminals for the voltage supply of the individual lightings

    The basic rule for the 3 push-button circuit is to insert the phase, not the neutral. The neutral network conductors are connected exclusively to the \"zeros\" of the lighting fixtures. This rule is strictly regulated by the current regulation - ПУЭ.

    Some craftsmen neglect this rule, directing the phase wire to the lamp, and \"zero\" by feeding through a switch to the gap. With this type of assembly, the network will still work. But this solution is dangerous for the operation of the electrical system, because even if the switch is turned off the wiring will still be live.

    This is dangerous because even if a light bulb is changed, a person will be exposed to the risk of electric shock every time. And if there is an insulation fault and the connected light fixture is not earthed, a voltage is induced on the housing.

    As a result, the slightest contact with the surface of the device causes an electric shock.

    Peculiarities of installation of combined models

    The circuit of the switch combined in a common housing with the socket is slightly different from the above described. And the main difference is the presence of an additional neutral wire routed from the junction box directly to the socket. In this case the output from the switch has two double wires.

    How to choose and properly connect a three-way switch

    When connecting the bare wires, to prevent the screw clamp pressure from breaking them, the bare wire ends are fitted with screw terminals

    To make the switch socket connection safe, the wire with a 2.5 mm² cross section is better. And to connect the light fittings to the switch, use a 1.5 square meter cable.

    In the final phase of installation, just check the wiring and fit the decorative frame. To check the correct wiring, it is necessary to turn on the breaker and apply voltage.

    If you turn on the first button of the device, one lamp should light up, if you turn on the second button, the next chandelier horn or connected appliance should light up.

    The frame is fixed by means of a clamping insert. You press it lightly and with a little effort click it in on the sides.

    For more details about the installation of the combination sockets see this article.

    Conclusions and a helpful video on the subject

    Triple switch wiring sequence:

    An assembly option for a three-way switch with socket:

    A sample device installation:

    You can be sure that your switch will work flawlessly for many years by following the wiring diagram and following safety procedures during installation.

    Maybe you have already installed a 3-button switch yourself and know the details that we did not take into account in this article? Or have questions about the topic? Please write your comments, share your tips, ask questions in the box below.

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