Ask Electrical Question
E Books

How Do I Wire a 3-Way Switch to Control a Light PLUS Keep a Duplex Receptacle Hot

This is a question from a site visitor who was wanting to know how to wire a specific 3-way configuration.  The twist comes with the addition of a new duplex receptacle which he wanted to keep ‘hot’ all of the time, while still controlling a light with the 3-way switch.  This article describes the possibilities of this scenario and the steps to take.

Q: How do you wire a new duplex receptacle from a 3-way switch so that the new receptacle is always hot and the 3-way switch continues to only control the light fixture?

A: You may not be able to accomplish this, depending on how this 3-way circuit is wired.

The only way this will work properly is if the power source for this 3-way network enters this box first.

If not, you might have switched ‘hot’ conductors only, or if you do have a neutral, any of the hot conductors that you attempt to splice in to will not be hot all the time (it will depend on the switch positions).

You need to determine how the circuit is wired. If the power source does enter this box, then you could add a receptacle providing the box is large enough (deep box) to accommodate these additional wires because a normal sized metal switch box can only have 5 wires in it, and you will add two making a total of seven.

Here is a diagram of how this receptacle could be added in the proper circumstance.

Watch a Video Explaining 3-Way Switches

Confused by the 3-way switch?  Terry Peterman, the ‘Internet Electrician’ provides a visual explanation of the basic 3-way switch in this short, informative video.  Click here to view.

This entry was posted in Indoor Wiring Diagrams, Switches and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Fergydergy

    Nice diagrams…But could you add which wire is common because my 3way receptacles do not look like your drawing. I also understand that the wire that runs between the 2 outlets might be the common but my screws are set up different..thanks

    • The Internet Electrician

      I’d need some more details here to properly answer your question.

    • Anonymous

      The bottom terminal on the side with the 2 terminals is the common on three-way switches. The 3rd party graphics designer didn’t identify the common terminal as should be done.  Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Jiggy281

    Have a existing outlet with the following wires, but nothing is connected..Would like to connect them to have this 3 way switch light and a hot wall receptacle. Coming in my box are:

    14/3 for the wall receptacle
    14/3 for the light
    a 4 wire one (black, white, red and copper ground) from first 3 way switch
    a 4 wire one (black, white, red and copper ground) from second 3 way switch

    Note: Have NO wire from the “breaker” box. Power comes from the red AND the white wire from one of the 3 way switches.

    All worked for a long time until O damaged a wire while renovating. When I disconnected the circuit to replace the defective wire, I forgot to write the diagram down. I disconnected all wires for proper identification of each

    How can I get my circuit back, since I don’t have the “hot” wire coming on it’s own in my box.

  • tiff

    You would need another unswitched hot on the other side of the switch. It might just be easier to fish in another cable to the outlet.

  • electric

    Not a correct diagram.Let say a single person using a staircase. Switch 1 traveller line “A” need to connect switch 2 traveller line “A” . Not line “B” .Just look it the diagram, both switches off or both on to shot off the lights.




The Basics of Household Wiring DVD

"If you're looking for a good reference to help you understand simple home wiring, I personally recommend 'The Basics of Household Wiring' DVD".

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician
Electrical Wiring
Electrical Diagrams
How To
Electrical Tools
Electrical Videos