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I have a Decora 3 way switch, on the metal part it clearly label one side as the top. It is installed correctly right now.

So right now, if both switches are on the "off" (down) position, the light is on. Functionally there is nothing wrong about it, but the positioning just looks weird to me. Can I just flip the switch myself (as in, keep all the wire in place, and simply rotate the switch by 180 degree)? I don't know if switch must be install according to the "top" position.

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  • If you do this, then when both are in the "on" (up) position the light will be off (I think).
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 15:41
  • Ryan is spot-on. Flipping the switch upside-down won't do anything. You'll get the same result by following this procedure: Turn the light on using the switch that you are thinking about flipping (switch 1, down). Go to the other 3-way switch location and turn the light off (switch 2, down). Then, come back to switch 1 and flip it (switch 1, up), the light will be on with the switch in the position you are expecting. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 16:44
  • If you cannot live with the switches occasionally being "upside down", then you might also consider a replacing the switches with a non-directional 3-way push-button switch like amazon.com/… (note, this is not an endorsement this specific product, just an example). Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 16:51
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    @StrongBad With 3-way switches, you can get them into any configuration you want by flipping the switch position on one and then going to the other switch and flipping it--then rinse and repeat as many times as needed until they're all in the position you want. Then, by their nature, they'll get out of whack again soon enough if people use both switches regularly. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 18:27
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    @statueuphemism that is not how it works. If both switches are down and the light is on, there is no sequence of flipping the switches that will result in the light being off with both switches down. Further, there is no way to wire a pair of 3-way switches such that when both switches are down the light is off and when both switches are up the light is on. There will always be one state which induces OCD angst.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 20:37

4 Answers 4

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Some kinds of "quiet" switches have mercury-wetted contacts and must not be installed upside-down. If the manufacturer went to the trouble of putting a "top" label on the switch then it probably is one of that type.

If you insist on changing the on-off operation of a three-way switch, you should not move the physical device. You should interchange the travelers. Identify the common wire on the switch, then disconnect, swap, and reconnect the other two wires.

Don't interchange the travelers on both switches, or you will get your original functionality back.

BTW you really should think this through before altering anything. If you change the action of one switch, you will create the situation where one switch is up and one switch is down when the lights are on, both switches are down or both switches are up when the lights are off. I can't see how this is any kind of aesthetic improvement.

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    It's a heck of an improvement if e.g. 3-ways down in living room produces lights off, while 3-ways down in kitchen (the next room over) produces lights on. I'm really surprised that this even needs to be stated, and that so many people are arguing with OP's personal taste. If it's not a matter of safety, why even point it out? Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 18:39
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    @Chris Parker: OP is asking about one pair of 3-ways, not a house full of them. - He is wired so that both switches in the same position (both up or both down) turns the lights on. His complaint is that one of the "on" positions, "both down", looks weird. I am trying to warn him that his proposed alteration will leave him with another position that might look equally weird. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 19:51
  • @A.I.Breveleri Switch A is used 99% of the time. Switch B is next to another unrelated switch (C) and both are seldomly use so they are almost always off. So switch A should be down when the light is not on. But then whenever I walk pass switch B&C, I see C is down and B is up which is absolutely stupid.
    – elty123
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 17:47
  • So I guess the correct process is: turn off the panel and ensure it is safe, identify the ground and hot wire, leave them alone and swap the other 2 wires in one switch?
    – elty123
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 18:36
  • @A.I.Breveleri - the point I was trying to make is that it is unreasonable of us to decide what is essentially a matter of taste to the O.P. Altering the travelers does not create a safety concern - so why bother editorializing? I can think of plenty of reasons to want to do precisely what the O.P. is asking, and have done it many, many times. Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 19:33
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only lights controlled by one switch will have a true on/off, top and bottom. the nature of multiple switches means that you can switch a light on/off from different locations. flipping a switch over will not change the fact that the light can also be controlled at another location. the way you presently described your switches, both up (on) and your light off is common. if you flip one switch up to turn the light off and then go to the other switch and flip up to turn the light back on, then both switches will look the way you want. the next time you use one it will be backwards again. if you want the switch to look right all the time only use one, then you lose the convenience of having multiple switching locations.

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Short answer is: yes

Put the switches in any position that you like. Since they are 3-ways their position is irrelevant.

Except.....my OCD requires me to wire them so that they are both in the down or "off" position when the light is off not on.

So, I understand what you are saying and wholeheartedly concur.

Edit [ AI has a good point and the easiest way to do this is to swap the travelers on one switch. ]

Good luck and stay safe!

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Having a wife that has some extreme OCD issues the only way I found to have the switches always in the correct position is to purchase digitally controlled switches like the lutron maestro there is 1 controller and 1 remote (or more remotes) tap the top of the switch from either location and they turn on (mine are also dimmers) tap the bottom they turn off, hold the bottom in for a second and they slowly dimm to off in 10 seconds. These are a little expensive but I think I have had to buy 5 sets of these. 3 in my last house and 2 in my current home. but I always know what is in the cupboards arranged by type with every label facing forward.

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