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Casey9004 05-30-2012 10:49 PM

Convert three way switch setup to a single pole
2 Attachment(s)
I have a single pole timer switch that I want to hook up to a three way setup for control of some outside lights. The two switches that control the lights had one bundle of wire each with a red/green/black/white wire coming out and hooked up to each light switch (no wires unused). The black wires for each switch were going to the black screws on each switch. Here is a pic of the wires next to one of the switches.

Attachment 51710

I've located which switch has the power leg (black wire).

Here is a pic of the the new switch I want to install in one of the two locations and the other location not be used at all

Attachment 51711

Please help me figure this out. Please use common terms, I'm dumb!


kevinp22 05-30-2012 11:06 PM


just to clarify, power is coming into the switch box not shown? so that box has 2 cables coming in - one with just a black/white/ground and another with black/white/red/ground?

if not, power must be coming to the light fixture first

also, do you care which switch box has the new switch or do you want it in the box shown in the picture?

Casey9004 05-30-2012 11:10 PM

No I don't care which switch it is. Both switches look exactly the same with the same black white red and green wires. But I have determined which one has 120vac it's a black wire.

Casey9004 05-30-2012 11:13 PM

Just to clarify, both receptacles have 1 single bundle of 4 wires coming in for these switch locations. Inside each bundle are the 4 wires black green red white. It doesn't look like either receptacle has more than one bundle, just the single 4 wire bundles

k_buz 05-30-2012 11:15 PM

You might not have the neutral (white) you need without doing some rewiring at the light fixture.

kevinp22 05-30-2012 11:24 PM


I think at the light fixture you will find at least the following:
1. 1 cable with red/white/black/ground going to switch 1
2. 1 cable with red/white/black/ground going to switch 2
3. 1 cable with (probably) white/black/ground supplying power to the light
4. (possibly) additional cables supplying power to other downsteam parts of this circuit

assuming #4 is not present

1. disconnect everything at the fixture box
2. determine which cable goes to the switch you wont use and simply cap off those conductors with wire nuts. do the same at the corresponding switch box after removing the switch. put a blank plate over this box [I would keep the wires in case you ever go back to a 3 way switch configuration]
3. at the fixture, you now have 2 cables plus the fixture wires. connect all the white wires (3 total) and ground wires (probably 3 or 4) together. connect the red from the switch cable to the black wire for the light fixture. connect the black from the power wire to the black to the switch cable.
4. at tthe switch box, connect black to black, red to red, green to ground and white to white

replace switch cover to fit the new switch configuration.

Casey9004 05-30-2012 11:37 PM

There's gotta be a way to do this without messing with the light fixtures themselves. These switches turn on 8 outside lights that span from one side of the house to the other. The original three way switches worked exactly how they were suppose to, so I know the correct wiring is there, I just cant figure out how to take out one of the switches to never use again and still have the one with a single pole switch contolling

k_buz 05-30-2012 11:45 PM

Your timer needs a neutral. There is no neutral in the wiring for the existing three way. You either need to find a timer that doesn't need a neutral, or do some rewiring.

frenchelectrican 05-30-2012 11:50 PM


Take a quick look at this wiring diagram I think this diagram pretty much fit your situation what you have if the other three way switch is connected the excat the same fashion a single XX-3 NM cable on each end at the three way switch location if so this photo I will post it will clearify when you see how it connected.

So here the photo.

Take a minute to see how it hook up and I know Kevin and K_buzz mention very clear on how to do this set up and the timer you posted that do denfinely need netural to function properly so the only place you will find this bundle of connection is one of the luminaires ( useally closest to the switch location is the first one to hit it )


joed 05-31-2012 07:47 AM


Originally Posted by Casey9004 (Post 932717)
There's gotta be a way to do this without messing with the light fixtures themselves.

Buy a proper three way timer that does not require a neutral. Then it will be as simple exchange of the old switch.
I believe they make some that take batteries for situation where a neutral is not available.

Casey9004 05-31-2012 12:26 PM

Ok so I decided to buy a three way timer, so with this, I will not have to delete one of the switches right? Just replace the stock in either location with the three way and in good?

kevinp22 05-31-2012 12:35 PM

yes, provided that this new switch does not require a neutral.

also, put black tape on the white wires coming into the switch boxes to properly identify them as hot

Casey9004 05-31-2012 08:43 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Attachment 51740

So if the only wires I have available are just like the picture (black/red/white/copper ground). I already know the black is the power 120vac, what do you mean about the "white wires coming into the switch box"?


kevinp22 05-31-2012 08:46 PM

when wired this way the red and whites and the traveler wires between the 3 way switches. this is the only common use of a white wire as a hot instead of a neutral. but when used as such, it must be tagged via tape, painting, sharpie, another color (usually black, but never white or green)etc to tell future folks its not a neutral.

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