When the electrical source originates at a light fixture and it’s controlled from a remote location, a switch loop is used. The circuit pictured here is wired with 2-conductor cable running from the light to the switch location. The white cable wire in this switch loop is wrapped with black tape and connected to the bottom terminal on SW1 and the hot source at the light. The black wire is connected to the top terminal on SW1 and the hot terminal on the light fixture. The neutral from the source is connected directly to the neutral terminal on the light.
Here the source is in the middle of the circuit. The dimmer switch is in this box where the hot is connect to the common wire. The common on SW1 is run to the light fixture hot terminal using the white cable wire to the dimmer box where it is spliced with the black cable wire going to the light. The white wire is wrapped with black tape to mark it as hot. The traveler wires are connected in the same way as the above diagrams. The neutral runs directly from the dimmer box to the light fixture.
This diagram shows the wiring to control a receptacle outlet with two 3 way switches. The source is at SW1 and 3-wire cable runs between all the devices. The hot wire from the source connects to the common terminal on SW1. The common on SW2 is connected to the hot terminal on the receptacle. The traveler wires are spliced in the receptacle box to run to the traveler terminals on each switch. The white cable wire is used as a traveler to SW2 and marked hot with black tape.
Three-way switches have 3 terminals to carry circuit electricity and one terminal for a ground wire. Of the three circuit terminals, one is called the common and the other two are known as travelers. The common terminal may be labeled and is usually a different color than the traveler terminals. Depending on the manufacturer, the travelers may be on opposite sides of the device or the two terminals may be on the same side. In any case, the common terminal will be distinguished from the travelers in some way.
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