I would like to replace a single pole light switch in my family room, but the configuration is not one that I am familiar with. Other than the ground wire, there are 3 12 gauge wires in the following configuration:

  1. 12 gauge black wire to the top backstab
  2. 12 guage black wire to the top screw terminal
  3. 12 gauge red wire to the bottom backstab

From the research I have done it looks like backstabs are generally frowned upon and if you are using the backstabs you should only be using 14 gauge wire (at least in a residential install).

So what should I be using to replace this switch and what is the correct way to wire it? An interesting point is that I have never found what this switch is actually controlling, but since I was in the box replacing another switch I thought it best to replace this one as well.

  • If you can't find anything controlled by the switch it might be a better idea to take the circuit it's controlling out of commission entirely. Wires that appear to go nowhere might actually not go anywhere; and the mystery switch might be energizing a live wire the idiot you bought the house from left in the wall/ceiling somewhere. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Mar 30 '15 at 2:31

You have a single pole switch

It is wired in a way that lacks quality workmanship, to save a moment's time, and a wirenut

The top backstab (i like that much better than push-in) is connected electrically to the top screw. The backstab has almost no contact surface area, and this is the reason that they are frowned upon.

So rather than making a pig-tail to but under the screw, they just used both attachment points.

Any device that is rated at 20 amps must allow for 12 gauge wire, and I have never seen a 15 amp device that will not take 12 gauge.

Take the 2 Black wires together with a 6" or so piece of 'spare' 12 gauge Black wire, and put a red or yellow wirenut on the 3 wires. The other end of the short wire will connect to the top screw on the switch. The Red wire moves from the bottom of the old switch to the bottom screw on the new one.

I have been wondering who has been turning on and off my light - so stop flipping the switch, thanks


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy