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Situation

I have a long hallway with two lights controlled by two switches at both ends of the room. The lights are only on when both are on. The configuration is switch 1 - light - light - switch 2.

Question

Can I (and if so, how?) make them work independently from each other (i.e. that I can turn on and off the lights from either end regardless of the state of the other switch)?

My guess is that I have two simple switches like in 1 and I'd need two 3-way switches, but I'm not sure if more wiring is also needed.

single switch from wikipedia

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    While conceptually switch, light, light, switch, that would actually be against code because one switch would be switching hot (good) and the other would be switching neutral (bad). If that's the case, some serious fixup is needed. But more likely it is actually panel -> switch -> switch -> light -> light. And if that's the case then you either have broken 3-way switches, miswired 3-way switches or regular switches where you should have 3-way switches. And if regular switches, then the question is whether you have a 2-wire (plus ground) or 3-wire cable between them. So... Oct 25, 2021 at 14:08
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    Please upload pictures of the inside of each of the two switch boxes, showing all wires connected to the switches and all wires/cables going into the box. With that, we can probably figure it out. Oct 25, 2021 at 14:09
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    Note that while getting the pictures, do not detach any wires! You can (after shutting off the power to this circuit) pull the switches out of the box, for the pics, but removing wires will only leave you confused and make it more difficult for us to help you.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 25, 2021 at 14:26
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    If wired wrong even 3-way switches may function as single-poles. If you have standard toggles (vs. decorator rocker switches) you should be able to differentiate between SP and 3w, if they are SP they will say OFF and ON on the visible surface to indicate correct orientation. There will be no marking on 3W because both positions are ON. If 3W pictures of the wires as connected to the switches and any connectors in the box may be necessary to sort it out correctly. Oct 25, 2021 at 14:54
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    Infinite thanks for the fast & useful comments! I posted the question so I can check/test things when I'm back home because I thought it was the symptom of something dead obvious. I will edit the post and upload the pictures as soon as I'm back from the business trip.
    – Jzbach
    Oct 25, 2021 at 15:00

1 Answer 1

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You might have two simple switches, in which case you'll (almost certainly) need to pull new cable to get the function you want. You might also (and in general more likely) have 3-way switches and the correct wiring that has been screwed up by a previous homeowner (or possibly one of the switches is broken, or has been incorrectly replaced with a non-3-way, but that's rarer than screwed up wiring.)

So Can you? Yes. How? Correct 3-way switch wiring - power to one switch, travelers (3 wire plus ground cable) to the other switch (not connected to the lights at all), switched power to both lights from the other switch location.

There are probably fancier "smart switch" options these days as well, and depending what you find for cables at the switches and light locations, that might be easier than running new cable, if you would need to run new cable for the "dumb switch" or "traditional" solution.

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