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I have two bathroom switches that are side by side (under the same face plate but separate physical switches). One is the bathroom light and the other is the fan. There are no other switches to the bathroom so I assume both are single pole. Intuitively, the switch closer to the door should be the light but it's not, hence my desire to swap the two.

My main question is, how should I swap these light switches? It seems to me I can just unscrew them and screw them back in opposite positions, no need to detach wires. But are there any safety concerns I should be aware of since the wires may touch/cross or have to stretch to reach the opposite side?

Follow up: I have the same situation in the garage but both switches are 3-way.

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If the wires are long enough, just swapping the positions of the switches in the box will work just fine. The wires are all insulated, so there should be no danger if they cross / touch. Turn off the breaker before you do this work.

An alternative method would be to swap the switched-hots of the two switches. If you've got power coming in to your switch box (common nowadays given the requirement for a neutral in the box), this is probably a second black wire connected to the switch, but double check to be sure. On one switch it may be a red wire if the two switches control a light and fan in the same fixture, for instance. Again, turn off the breaker first.

For your 3-way switches, you'd swap the switched-hot and the traveler wires between the two switches.

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  • Thanks for the quick response! This is my first time with light switches so do you mind elaborating on which wire is "switched-hot"? My understanding is the "hot" wire is bringing the power to the switch would should be coming into the lower terminal. So by switched-hot do you mean the upper one that carries it to the light?
    – Daniel
    Jun 22 '17 at 21:44
  • Yup, the hot wire carries power to the switch, and the switched-hot carries it to the light. Typically, the hot is on the lower terminal (closer to the OFF position of the toggle) and the switched-hot is on the upper terminal (closer to the ON position of the toggle)
    – mmathis
    Jun 22 '17 at 21:46
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Instead of swapping the switches position you may have to swap the wires ON the switches if there is a problem with length of wire, wire positioning in box, etc.

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