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There are three basic types of light switches used in the home: single-pole, 3-way, and 4-way switches. The single-pole switch is used when one or more lights are to be controlled from a single location. The 3-way switch is used in pairs when one or more lights are to be controlled from two locations. The 4-way switch is used in combinations with two 3-way switches when one or more lights are to be controlled from three or more locations. The terminology used with these switches may sound daunting but the actual wiring is straight-forward and simple.
Turn off the circuit breaker supplying power to the switch circuit that you will be working on. Check the wires in the device box with the non-contact voltage detector. The non-contact voltage tester will beep loudly if there is still voltage present in the box and remain silent if the circuit is safe to work on.
Count the number of insulated wires and the number of bare copper ground wires entering and leaving the device box where you will be installing the switch. The number of insulated wires and bare copper ground wires entering and leaving the box will determine which of the three switch types you will need to install.