I'm not sure if what I want to do is possible, as I've Googled this for a long time and I'm not coming up with any answers. I have one switch and two lights for that switch. I want the power to start at one light, which is furthest from the switch, and then continue to the next light, and finally end at the switch. This would be the best way to use the least amount of wire.

For the first 3 images below, disregard the wiring. I just want to show where the switch, lights, and cables are.

This diagram below would be ideal, except I want the power source to come in to the right-hand light from the right, and continue on to the left:

enter image description here

This diagram below is close, but I want another light in between the switch and the light:

enter image description here

This diagram below is the closest to what I need that I've found, if we pretend the outlet is a light. But I don't want the power source in the middle, because the place for my switch is furthest from the power source:

enter image description here

I'm not an electrician, I'm just DIY, so having a diagram that shows what I need would be very helpful. I found the one below, but it's confusing to me because I don't know what the red is, and I'm not sure if grounds are included in it. I find the first three images easy to understand. Is the final image below correct, safe, and to code, and does it have any special considerations for grounding? If you have a diagram like the first three, that would be super easy for me to understand.

enter image description here

  • 1
    So just to confirm, you want the power to come in to a light, to another light, then to a switch? And you want both lights to switch at the same time? Just confirming the question here. Edit: manasshkatz answers based on this version of the question, so you should be good with that answer if it's what you are trying to do.
    – KMJ
    Nov 15, 2022 at 4:30
  • @KMJ Yes, what you described is indeed what I'm looking for. :)
    – Mark
    Nov 15, 2022 at 4:37
  • 1
    Perfect, the other answer should have you covered then. Your last diagram is actually the perfect way to do this as well, though it ignores the grounds.
    – KMJ
    Nov 15, 2022 at 6:07

1 Answer 1


The last diagram looks correct. What it shows is:

  • /3 cable (black/white/red + ground).
  • Grounds are not shown, but every cable will include one (normally a bare wire in standard NM cable). All grounds are connected to each other, to the box (if metal, as it should be) and to the fixtures. Switches get ground automatically if in a metal box.
  • Hot (from panel, chained to switch) is on black, by convention and not code.
  • Neutral is white, by code, connected to every fixture and left available in the switch box (recent code). If you ever put in a smart switch that needs neutral, you're ready for it.
  • Switched hot (from switch, connects to each fixture) is red, by convention and not code.

The way to use the least actual wire may be to use /2 cable instead of /3 cable. However, that is not compatible with "power goes to lights and then to switch". The tradeoff is, essentially, /2 for a longer distance (panel to switch + switch to lights) vs. /3 for a shorter distance (panel to lights to switch).

  • Diagram 1 shows panel -> switch -> lights, which you don't want (but is legitimate).

But as requested in a comment, here is Diagram 1 expanded to include a third light: 3 lights

The brown (bare copper) wire should be connected to each box if you use metal boxes, and does not need to be connected to the switch if you use metal boxes.

  • Diagram 2 shows an old style switch loop. Existing installations of this type are grandfathered and perfectly safe. But new installations are not permitted as code now requires neutral at the switch, which this does not provide. The black marking on some of the white wires is because white is being used as hot instead of neutral.
  • Diagram 3 is an old style switch loop on the left (not to current code) and an always hot receptacle on the right (which is OK, but irrelevant).

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