Trying a Three-Way

Moe’s Tavern: Now with electricity!

– The Simpsons

Because the regulations about such things are much more restrictive in the UK, the first major electrical wiring project I did was when we remodeled our kitchen. I had a great time doing it and learned a lot. I learned much of it from a book.

Many things can be learned from books.

Many things can be learned from books.

To be specific, The Black and Decker Complete Guide to Home Wiring. One of the nice things about this book is that there is a whole section of wiring diagrams. All you have to do is find the appropriate diagram for what you want to do, and away you go.

There are three doors in our kitchen, and we thought it would be most convenient to have a light switch for the overhead light next to each door. So I found the diagram that explained how to configure the wires for the light. Three switches for one light means using four-way switches. (That didn’t make sense to me either.)

Wiring diagram for four-way switches and light fixture.

Wiring diagram for four-way switches and light fixture from the Black and Decker book.

Well, everything went great. I wired the light and switches in the way shown in the diagram, and it all works fine.

But here’s the thing. I have no idea how this works. I have studied this diagram for ages trying to work out why it works, but I still have no clue. I use these switches every day, and I still marvel at the fact that they work.

I think the thing to take away from this is that it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to understand it to follow a wiring diagram, as long as you can accurately follow it. Just like I don’t really know how this computer works.

But if anyone can explain it to me, I’d be very interested.

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