The common terminals will always be connected to a hot wire, either from the source or on the light fixture. These connections can be reversed if it’s more convenient, as long as one of the 3 way common terminals connects to the hot source and the other one connects to the hot on the load, these circuits will work properly.
If your switches stop working they may be worn out or the screws may have come loose. If you’ve wired a new switch correctly and the circuit still doesn’t work, the switch may be defective. Check that all connections are tight. Check the switch, remove it from the circuit and test for failure with a continuity tester or multimeter set on the Ohms setting.
Here a receptacle outlet is controlled with a single-pole switch. This is commonly used to turn a table lamp on and off when entering a room. In this diagram, 2-conductor cable runs between SW1 and the outlet. The source is at SW1 and the hot wire is connected to the bottom terminal there. The top terminal is connected to the black cable wire running to the hot terminal on the receptacle and the source neutral is spliced with the white cable wire which runs on to the neutral on the receptacle.
In this diagram the source is at SW1 and the hot is connected to the common terminal there. Three-wire cable runs between the switches and 2-wire cable runs from the dimmer to the light fixture. The travelers from SW1 run to T1 on the 4 way switch and from T2 to the traveler wires on the dimmer. The dimmer common wire is spliced to the hot terminal on the light.
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