Tools and Materials Needed:
Screwdriver (Common flat-tip and Phillips)
Wire cutters (with stripper feature)
UL approved electrical tape
One of the many pleasures of a home is its lighting. Accessory lighting such as table and floor lamps cast a pleasant glow throughout any room. Many of these units are plugged directly into a wall receptacle and rely on their own integral switches for operation. Other varieties are connected to a switchable power outlet which allows the lamp to operate from a wall switch.
A further configuration involves lights that can be operated from two or more locations within a room. The focus of this article is the latter. Specifically, we will discuss a practical and affordable method of converting a fixture that currently operates from a single pole switch (one location only), to one that will operate from two locations.
Hard-wiring (using wire conductors in electrical circuitry) a three-way switch arrangement in and of itself is not as complex as it may initially appear. The difficulty with this method of operation exists when walls and woodwork are already in place. This task can not only be costly in terms of materials and labor, but can also be disruptive to the household in its daily affairs.
So the question is what can one do to achieve the convenience of a three-way switch without breaking the bank or your back? The answer is to install a remote-controlled three-way switch. This procedure is as simple as changing an existing light switch and practically as fast. Several companies market these devices in varying price ranges which are usually based on the wattage parameters the unit is designed to work within, something you will need to consider before purchasing.
Having considered this, begin by locating the proper fuse or circuit breaker that operates the fixture and ensure it has been removed or switched “off” respectfully. With a screwdriver, remove the existing switch wall plate and switch. All of the wires should be removed with care and spread enough to facilitate the cleaning of any dust or debris that may be in electrical box.
Note: At this point, direct your attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations in order to preserve any warranty stipulations.
At times, you will find that the wire conductors have been looped around the switch terminals. It is a good practice to snip these distorted ends off as opposed to straightening them as the stress involved in the process may weaken the copper conductors. The new wires from the remote unit will likely attach with wire nut terminations supplied as accessories. This step will be addressed fully in product instructions.
Note: Pay special attention to wire terminations. It is a good practice to wrap wire nuts with UL approved electrical tape to aid in securing them to the conductors.
Having completed the tasks as outlined by the manufacturer, carefully tuck wires into the box followed by the switch unit and attach with screws. The switch plate cover can be installed at this time, and the power can be restored to the circuit.
Many of the remote units available on the market can operate up to 50 feet from the “home unit.” This allows great flexibility in choosing the location for your new alternate switch. Room lighting fixtures that can be operated from two separate locations are practical and can be achieved for mere pennies on the dollar when compared to the alternatives, plus you get the satisfaction of a job well done by doing it yourself!
Remember, always work safely.