Single Pole Switch Lighting Circuits (US/CAN)

How to wire a light switch

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Single Pole Switch Lighting Circuits (US/CAN). Learn how to wire a single pole light switch.

Scroll to the bottom to watch the YouTube tutorial

Remember electricity is dangerous and can be fatal you should be qualified and competent to carry out electrical work.

This article focuses on using the colour coding and terminology for North America. If you need another region please check out our other articles Click here.

What are single pole switches?

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Single pole switches are the most simple type of switch. They have two terminals and a ground connection. Inside the switch is a track which carries the electricity, we can
flip the toggle to make or break the circuit and control the flow of electricity.

Switch First In The Circuit

The first version we’re going to look at is when the switch is located first in the circuit.

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For this you’ll need the following parts:

With the power turned off; we run the black hot wire to the bottom terminal of the switch. We then run another hot wire over to the ceiling box and into the light fitting.
Next, we bring our white neutral wire in and connect this into a wire nut within the switch box. We then run another white neutral wire from the wire nut, into the ceiling box and into the light fitting.

To make the circuit safe we bring in our ground wire and connect this into a wire nut within the switch box. We then run a ground wire from the ground terminal of the switch and connect this into the wire nut. We can then run another ground wire from the ceiling box and connect this into the ground wire nut also.

The switch is currently off, so when we power the circuit, electricity can reach the switch but it can’t pass across because the switch is open. When we flip the switch to the on position, the circuit is now complete and electricity can flow through the light to power it and then make it’s way back to the breaker panel. If we flip the switch
again then the circuit is broken and the light turns off.

Lamp First In The Circuit

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For this you’ll need the following parts:

With the power off, we connect the hot wire into a wire nut within the ceiling box. Then we run the neutral wire through the ceiling box and into the light fitting. Following this, we run a black wire from the light fitting and pass it through the ceiling box and over to the switch box to then connect this to the top terminal of the switch. Next, we run a white wire from the bottom terminal of the switch and we connect this into the hot wire nut within the ceiling box. This is going to carry the electricity so we want to mark this with black tape to warn that it is hot.

Now we want to bring the ground wire in and connect this into a wire nut within the ceiling box. We then connect the metal ceiling box into the same ground wire nut. Finally, we connect the last ground from the ground wire nut, through the switch box and into the switch ground terminal.

The switch is off, so when we power the circuit the electricity can flow through to the switch but it can’t pass. When we flip the switch to the on position, electricity can now flow through the switch and power the light. If we flip the switch it will again cut the path of electricity and the light will turn off.

3 Wire Cable Between The Ceiling Box And Switch

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For this you will need the following parts:

This version is otherwise nearly identical to the previous version except we use the red and black wires to carry electricity to the switch rather than wrapping black tape around the white wire. We need to use some more wire nuts in this method and one of the neutral wires will terminate within the switch box.

This works the same, when we power the circuit electricity flows to the switch but it can’t pass because the circuit is broken. When we flip the switch it will complete the circuit and power the light until we again flip the switch.


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