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Can You Have 2 Dimmers on a 3-Way Switch: Wiring Your Lights Right

You want to be able to switch your lights on/off from multiple locations. And you also want to control the intensity of the light from different places. 

Can you have 2 dimmers on a 3-way switch?

The answer is no. If you set up a 3-way switch for your light, there can’t be multiple dimmers. However, there are workarounds to this. Such as placing one dimmer on the line leading into the first switch. And another dimmer on the line leading out of the 2nd switch. Or you can use multi-location dimming switches. 

In short, that is the answer.

However, you should keep reading since we will explore the topic in more detail. 

Let’s get into it then!

Dimmer And 3-Way Switch Setup

First thing’s first you have to make sure that you’re using 3-way dimmers. If you use an ordinary dimmer switch, the other 3-way switch would lose its functionality.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the main topic. If you’re using a normal 3-way dimmer, you can have only one dimmer. The switch at the other end must be a 3-way switch.

You would be able to turn the light on/off from either location. However, you’d only be able to control the intensity of the light from one place. 

The process is simple. You’ll need a few tools and a little patience.

Tools

Make sure to have the following.

  • Screwdriver 
  • Electrical tape 
  • Wire cutter
  • 3-Way switch 
  • 3-Way dimmer

Step 1: Safety Measure

Whenever you’re working with electrical connections, ensuring your safety comes first. To do that, go to your fuse box. Locate the circuit breaker that controls power to the circuit you’ll be working on. Now, switch it off.

If you find any of the circuit breakers in the off position, it might’ve been tripped. Lots of appliances can trip a breaker.

Step 2: Removing the Existing Switch

Unscrew the faceplate and take the switch out of its housing. Now, use the voltage tester to ensure that there’s no power. Once you’ve done that, safely remove the wires from the switch.

Step 3: Doing the Wiring

Now, the wiring will be different based on the location of the light fixture. 

Switch/Dimmer/Light: If the light is at one end the connection is a bit easier. First, take the incoming cable from the power source. Strip it. 

Take the ground wire and attach it to the ground terminal on the 3-way switch. Take the hot wire and run it to the common terminal of the switch. 

Now, take another 3-wire cable. And run it from the switch to the dimmer. Attach the traveler wire to the left traveler terminal on the switch. Run the other end of this wire into the traveler terminal marked RD on the dimmer. 

Take the other traveler wire. Run this from the left switch terminal to the remaining traveler terminal on the dimmer. Pigtail the incoming and outgoing neutral wire in the first switch box. Follow suit for the ground wires. 

Attach the ground wire on the 3 wire cable to the ground terminal on the dimmer. Lastly, take a 2 wire cable. Attach the neutral and hot wires to the light. And the ground wire to the metal screw. 

Pigtail the neutral wire on this cable with the neutral wire in the dimmer switch box. Attach the hot wire to the common terminal on the dimmer. And pigtail the ground wire to the ground wire in the switch box. 

Now put everything back in the switch boxes and screw on the faceplate. 

If you’re putting in a light without a fixture, the steps will still be the same. Only the installation of an electrical box beside the light will be added. Much like it is in the case of installing a ceiling fan without fixtures.

Switch/Light/Dimmer: If the light is in the middle it gets only a bit complicated.

You’ll need two 3-wire cables. One will run from the switch to the light. The other from the light to the dimmer. 

Follow suit for the incoming ground, neutral and hot wire. Now, take one 3 s. Now take a 3 wire cable and run it from the switch to the light. 

Attach the black traveler to the left traveler terminal. And the red one to the other. Pigtail the ground and neutral wires to the corresponding incoming wires.

Take the other end of the neutral wire and attach it to the light. Attach the other end of the ground wire to the metal screw. 

Now run another 3-wire cable from the light to the dimmer. Attach one end of the neutral wire to the light. And the other to the common terminal on the dimmer. 

Take the black traveler and pigtail it to the black traveler at the light. Put the other end of the black traveler in the RD traveler terminal. Do the same for the red traveler. 

Attach the ground wire to the ground terminal at the dimmer. And at the light pigtail it to the other ground wire. 

That’s how you attach a dimmer and a 3-way switch.

Here are some 3-way switches for you:

ENERLITES 3-Way Light SwitchCheck Current Price
ENERLITES 3-Way Light Switch with Wall PlateCheck Current Price

Workaround to the Dimming Issue

Say you want to be able to dim the light from either location. What do you do then? Well, there are a few workarounds. 

Dimmers on The Common Lines

You can place the dimmers on the common lines. In this setup, you would use two dimmers along with the 2 3-way switches. 

The first dimmer would be in the line leading into the first switch. Another would be on the line leading out of the 2nd. 

You would need to leave the dimmers in the on configuration always. And use the switches to control the on/off function. Once the switches complete the circuit, you’ll be able to use the dimmer.

Multiple Dimmer Controls

If you don’t mind spending more, you can get new multi-location dimmer switches. These devices can be paired with a number of other devices. Such as 3-way switches, 3-way dimmer switches, or smart-home systems.

You can get one of these if you are confused about it. 

Cloudy Bay in Wall 3-way Dimmer SwitchCheck Latest Price
BESTTEN 3-way Dimmer Light SwitchCheck Latest Price

That covers everything about dimmer and 3-way switch setup. 

FAQs

Question: Can I use fan speed regulators as dimmers?

Answer: No. While rotary dimmers and fan speed regulators look the same, they are completely different. Substituting one for the other can result in circuit failure at best. And fires at worst. 

Question: Will all dimmers work with all lights?

Answer: No. Based on the type of light you’re using, the type of dimmer will vary. There are generally three types of dimmers; electronic low voltage, magnetic low voltage, and multi-load.

Question: Can I invert the connection of the red and black traveler wires?

Answer: As long as you keep track of the wires, that won’t be an issue. That is, you need to make sure that you start and end the wires the same way. You also need to make sure that the hot wire is connected to the common terminal. 

Conclusion

Can you have 2 dimmers on a 3-way switch? The short answer is no. The long answer is that there are ways to achieve the desired functionality. 

The process might be a bit complicated. But, you’ll be able to gain the ability to dim the lights from either location. Or you can shell out some extra cash. And get the multi-location dimmer switches. 

That’s all from us. We’ll see you again with another solution to another problem that troubles your house.