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I am working on updating the wiring in my home. I'm currently working on a second-floor bedroom, with the cables coming down from the attic (immediately above the bedroom).

I'm trying to figure out an efficient way to wire a ceiling fan and light combination. (By efficient, I mean using the least amount of cable possible, and not having a junction box with too many cables going into or out of it.

Here's what I'm trying to do (see figure below--it's a top down view of the layout of the room with the switches, and it shows the existing wiring in the attic, which is to the right of the bedroom from this perspective): I want 3 switches to control the lights: a 4-way switch at the doorway, and 3-way switches on either side of the bed. I also want 2 switches (the ones next to the bed) to control the fan. (I'm planning to use stacked/double 3-way switches on either side of the bed for fan + light control, which means the light switch at the doorway will need to be a 4-way switch.)

There's so many ways this could be done in practice, that I am having trouble thinking of what would be the best (or most efficient) way. I'd appreciate any help I can get with planning these circuits.

Note: I'm trying to do this with some combination of 12/2 and 12/3 cables if possible. But I'd also like to minimize the number of times the cables need to crisscross the attic above the bedroom. Having said that, I guess I'd consider using something with more wires than 12/3 if it would help significantly.

Another note: 3w F stands for a 3-way switch for the fan, and 3w L stands for a 3-way switch for the light.

diagram of switch locations

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  • Have you considered ENT ("smurf tube") with THHNs in it instead of NM cabling? Dec 21, 2022 at 4:43

2 Answers 2

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If you're wiring this with old "steam" switches, the 4-way switch must be in the middle. You have no choice there; that's how 3/4-way wiring works. That means a 12/3 cable from 3w to 4-way to the other 3w. No way to avoid it.

"No way" because the duplex switches you are trying to use are not available in 3-way/4-way.

If wiring is a factor, you should be thinking about smart switches. Then you need a a single 12/2 to connect all switches, and then a 12/3 up to the fan/light from a place where both switches exist. You use smart switches that do wireless or powerline signaling and don't need a signal wire. The single 12/2 simply carries always-hot and neutral to all switch locations so they have power. And really depending on the switch technology, they may not even need to be on the same circuit, so the far switch could simply tap a receptacle circuit.

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Traditional answer for three switches controlling the lights: Take a three-way (two switch) solution and add a double-pole double-throw switch in the middle of the traveller runs that either passes the travelers straight through or exchanges them. The usual issues of getting the right cables to the right places apply.

Possibly easier these days: smart switches tied together by radio, independently or via a hub. You might be able to avoid rewiring entirely in this case by making the two new switches surface-mounted battery-operated transmitters and replacing the original switch with the smart switch they will talk to.

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