Instead of terminals, a 3 way dimmer has 4 wires coming out of the casing: one common, two travelers and one ground wire. The common wire is usually black and the travelers red. In any case, the traveler wires will usually be the same color to distinguish them from the common wire.
In this basic 4 way light circuit the source is at the first switch and the hot connects to the common on that switch. Three-wire cable runs between all the switches and the traveler wires are connected between the two 3-ways and the 4-way. Two-wire cable runs from the last switch to the light fixture and the common on that switch connects to the hot terminal on the light.
In this arrangement the source for the circuit is at the light fixture. 3-wire cable runs from the switches on each side, to the light. The hot source is spliced to the common terminal on SW2 and the hot terminal on the light fixture connects to the common terminal on SW1. The traveler wires are spliced at the fixture box and run to the traveler terminals on both switches.
With this configuration any wire in the circuit may be hot at all times and there’s no protection against electrocution. When replacing an ungrounded device in an older circuit like this, use the polarized one above and not the grounded receptacle at the top unless it is grounded to a metal outlet box that is itself grounded to the house electrical system through a continuos metal conduit.
In this updated diagram 3-wire cable runs between the receptacle and SW2 to allow for splicing the neutral source through to the second switch box. Here the white is not used for hot but instead the extra, red wire serves that purpose for the second switch.
This is an older version of the receptacle in the first diagram. The slots are different sizes to accept polarized plugs, but it lacks a grounding slot. This device does not make use of a ground wire. There is no protection against electrocution as provide by the grounded receptacle.
This is the wiring for a dimmer in a 4 way circuit. To make this circuit work, a 3 way dimmer is used in place of one or both of the standard 3 way switches. A dimmer can be added in this way to any of the circuits on this page. A 3 way dimmer has 4 wires: one common, two travelers and a ground.
This diagram is the same as the one above but the dimmer comes first in the circuit. This arrangement is provided for easy reference when dealing with a circuit wired like this.
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