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Home > Switches & Outlets > Fan/Light Combo > 3-Way Switches, Power at Fixture, 3-Wire plus Ground Cable Routed thru a Ceiling Box

Fan Light Switched Separately - 3-Way Switches, Power at Fixture, 3-Wire plus Ground Cable Routed thru a Ceiling Box

By Donald Kerr
Fan Light Switched Separately - 3-Way Switches, Power at Fixture, 3-Wire plus Ground Cable Routed thru a Ceiling Box

This article describes a fan or light switched separately power source at light and light controlled by two 3-way switches and fan at one location only 3-Wire (plus ground) cable being routed thru the ceiling box between switches.

At the ceiling box - the ungrounded conductor {aka hot} from the fan connects to the black wire from the switch 1. The ungrounded conductor {aka hot} for the light connects to the red wire coming from switch 2. The white wire from the circuit power supply cable is the grounded leg conductor {aka neutral} for both the fan and light. The white wire from the switch (on the black/white/bare cable) connects to the black wire from the circuit power supply cable.

The red wire on the black/red/white/bare cable coming from switch box 1 is unused and just cap it off at both ends with a insulated wire nut. This will provide a switched ungrounded conductor {aka hot} for the fan and a switched ungrounded conductor {aka hot} for the light.

The reason for using a 3 wire + ground (black/red/white/bare) cable between switch box 1 and fixture (and not using the red wire) is to ensure that it will be easy to distinguish at the fixture the difference with the 2 cables coming from switch box 1 to help prevent the wrong two wires being connected. Using 2 wire + bares (black/white/bare) would make it more difficult to distinguish the 2 cables at the fixture and could end up with a combination of wrong wires being connected together. In certain onward power scenarios mentioned further in this article we will make use of this additional wire.

Wrap a piece of black electrical tape around both ends of all white wires going between the switch and the fixture to indicate that the wire is being used as a ungrounded conductor {aka hot}, this includes the white wire going between switch box 1 and 2, as this wire is also being used as a ungrounded conductor {aka hot}.

Bare wires are together and grounded to box (if metallic) and if the fixture has a green wire or a grounding screw , it gets grounded also. Bares and green wires are equipment grounding conductors.

Be sure to read all documentation that comes with your fan / light combo fixture.

If you need onward power from the fixture

If only switched power required onward then at existing fixture

  • onward cable - black/white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to the black (from switch 1 on the black/white/bare cable ) OR Red wire (from switch 2) {depending onwhich switch(s) you want the onward switched power to be controlled from}
  • connect white from onward cable to white wire of the circuit power supply cable.
  • connect bare from onward cable to bare coming from circuit power supply cable and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the switched ungrounded conductor {aka hot}, the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral} , and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor.

If only unswitch power required onward then at existing fixture

  • onward cable - black/white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to black wire coming from circuit power supply cable
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from circuit power supply cable
  • connect bare from onward cable to bare coming from circuit power supply cable and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the ungrounded conductor {aka hot}, the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor..

If switched and unswitched power required onward then at existing fixture

  • onward cable - black/red//white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to black wire coming from circuit power supply cable
  • connect red from onward cable to the black wire (from switch 1 on the black/white/bare cable) OR Red wire (from switch 2) {depending on which switch(s) you want the onward switched power controlled from}
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from circuit power supply cable
  • connect bare from onward cable to bare coming from circuit power supply cable and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the unswitched ungrounded conductor {aka hot} , red is the switched ungrounded conductor {aka hot}, the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor.

If 2 separately switched power is required onward then at existing fixture

  • onward cable - black/red//white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to black wire coming from switch 1 (on the black/white/bare cable).
  • connect red from onward cable to the red wire coming from switch 2.
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from circuit power supply cable
  • connect bare from onward cable to bare coming from circuit power supply cable and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black and red wires are separately switched ungrounded conductors {aka hots}, the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor.

If you need onward power from the switch then....

NOTE: Onward power is only possible at switch box 1, and only thru the use of the extra wire available between switch box 1 and fixture.

If only switched power required onward then at existing switch... Only possible with one of the switches at switch box 1 location, and only after the following wiring changes aremade

1. On the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable between switch box 1 and fixture - remove the white wire from the 3 way switch and and connect the previously unused red wire in its place, at the fixture end remove the white wire and connect the red wire to the white that continues on to switch box 2.

2. Now you should have the white wire that goes between switch box 1 and fixture on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable unused.

3. now connect that white wire to the white wire on the circuit power supply cable at ceiling box. (giving you now an grounded leg {aka neutral} available at switch box 1).

  • onward cable - black/white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to the black wire on the 2 wire + bare (black/white/bare) cable (that wire is connected to the basic 2 way switch)
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from ceiling box {on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable}
  • connect bare from onward cable to other bares bare and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the switch leg {aka hot} , the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor..

If only unswitch power required onward then at existing switch

This is only possible at switch box 1 , and the following wiring must be changed first:

1. On the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable between switch box 1 and fixture - remove the white wire from the 3 way switch and and connect the previously unused red wire in its place, at the fixture end remove the white wire and connect the red wire to the white that continues on to switch box 2.

2. Now you should have the white wire that goes between switch box 1 and fixture on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable unused.

3. now connect that white wire to the white wire on the circuit power supply cable at ceiling box. (giving you now an grounded leg {aka neutral} available at switch box 1).

  • onward cable - black/white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to the white wire coming from ceiling box (on the 2 wire + bare) (black/white/bare) cable {remember that was the wire that you should have wrapped a piece of black electrical tape around to signify that white wire was redesignated and used as a ungrounded conductor {aka hot}
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from ceiling box {on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable}
  • connect bare from onward cable to other bares bare and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the ungrounded conductor {aka hot} , the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor..

If switched and unswitched power required onward then at existing switch

Only possible with one of the switches at switch box 1 location, and only after the following wiring changes aremade...

1. On the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable between switch box 1 and fixture - remove the white wire from the 3 way switch and and connect the previously unused red wire in its place, at the fixture end remove the white wire and connect the red wire to the white that continues on to switch box 2.

2. Now you should have the white wire that goes between switch box 1 and fixture on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable unused.

3. now connect that white wire to the white wire on the circuit power supply cable at ceiling box. (giving you now an grounded leg {aka neutral} available at switch box 1).

  • onward cable - black/red/white/bare
  • connect black from onward cable to the white wire coming from ceiling box (on the 2 wire + bare) (black/white/bare) cable {remember that was the wire that you should have wrapped a piece of black electrical tape around to signify that white wire was redesignated and used as a ungrounded conductor {aka hot}
  • connect red from onward cable to the black wire on the 2 wire + bare (black/white/bare) cable (that wire is connected to the basic 2 way switch)
  • connect white from onward cable to white coming from ceiling box {on the 3 wire + bare (black/red/white/bare) cable}
  • connect bare from onward cable to other bares bare and to electrical box if metallic.
  • At the onward cables destination , the black is the unswitched ungrounded conductor {aka hot} , red is switched ungrounded conductor {aka hot} the white is the grounded leg {aka neutral}, and the bare is the equipment grounding conductor.


3 wire (plus ground) cable being routed thru the ceiling box between switches

If wiring multiple fixtures be sure to check the following guidelines concerning how to do it and what not to do: Wiring Multiple Fixtures.

If you are new at understanding the "politically correct" electrical terminology and need clarification of the terms used, we strongly urge you to read the Clarification of Definitions and Terminology guide. This will explain the terminology used in this article.

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