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I have three different lightswitches in my kitchen, and they control three different sets of lights in the room. I would like to control each set separately with a switch for each one, but also be able to control all three together with a single switch.

This seems like it shouldn't be too complicated, but I just asked the electrician doing work here and he said it would be very complicated and expensive. Is there a simple and elegant way to do this? Is there a specific kind of switch for this? How much would you expect it to cost to have this done?

  • Related – ThreePhaseEel Sep 11 '15 at 3:50
  • @ThreePhaseEel I've been fiddling with paper and a couple of colors of ink and I'm not sure I see a way yet to do this without the "master" switch just toggling the others, rather than turning them all on or off. But I want to believe... ;-) – Craig Sep 11 '15 at 4:37
  • If you don't mind the wireless aspect diy.stackexchange.com/q/71948/37795 – Kris Sep 11 '15 at 11:54
  • Do you want the light to be on if the master switch and the individual switch are "on", if either the master switch or the individual switch are "on", or if the master switch and the individual switch are in the same position? Also, are you OK with the master switch toggling the lights, instead of being a straightforward on/off control? – ThreePhaseEel Sep 11 '15 at 17:33
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Cheap and simple doesn't work with what you're asking. The most you could probably do is keep the "master" switch for each section and wire another switch on each light which, at most, would only be able to toggle select lights individually if the "master" switch is in the on position.

The only other way to obtain what you're looking for is with electronically controlled switches and relays which, exactly how it sounds, is not simple nor cheap.

  • Thanks for responding! Would you be able to suggest a particular electronically controlled product that could do this? What would the setup look like with the electronically controlled lights? – Hatshepsut Sep 10 '15 at 17:07
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    There's a sneakier way to do something very close to this -- most people don't realize that a single set of travelers can feed multiple switch/load combinations in parallel! – ThreePhaseEel Sep 11 '15 at 3:44
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What you are asking for really is not practical. The closest solution that I can come up with is to have 3 way switches for each of the sets of lights you want to control in multiple places.

Parts needed:

  • 1 triple gang box
  • 3 single gang boxes
  • 6 standard 3-way switches
  • length of 12-3 NM solid copper wire

You can have 1 triple box with 3, 3-way switches in it near the entrance of your room, and then another set of switches located throughout the room where it would make the most sense. Since there would be one set of switches located in the same box, it would be very easy to switch all 3 sets on at the same time while still having the convenience of being able to have another switch elsewhere.

Let's say that you had the main kitchen light on, and you were going to wash the dishes. Instead of having to go across the room, you could just have a switch located near the sink to switch on the pendulum light.

Once you are done in the kitchen, you can just flip all 3 of the switches in the 3 gang box instead of walking around from switch to switch.

  • Thanks for the response. Seems like it would be pretty involved to do it using regular circuitry. Do you think it might be practical using electronically controlled switches like Insteon, for example? – Hatshepsut Sep 10 '15 at 18:09
  • @Spiky the way I described it is really not very difficult. I took a quick look at those systems, and it really does not make sense to spend that amount of $$ on something this trivial. The total amount of parts you would need to do it my way would be around $50 + the cost of the wire. Each one of those electronic switches is $70+. It does not make sense to install a system like that unless you are rewiring the entire house to use them. I am also wary with these kind of systems because there is no standard, and they could go obsolete very quickly. – Jason Hutchinson Sep 10 '15 at 18:48
  • @JasonHutchinson -- what he wants is more-or-less possible with a couple of caveats; you need to tap the travelers to do it, though. (I'll be able to get back and answer this myself sometime next week) – ThreePhaseEel Sep 11 '15 at 3:42
  • @ThreePhaseEel that sounds pretty complicated. It would be interesting to see what you come up with. – Jason Hutchinson Sep 11 '15 at 19:57
  • @JasonHutchinson -- it depends on the precise semantics he wants from the master switch. An example of the "tapped traveler" approach can be seen in my answer to the related question I linked, though. – ThreePhaseEel Sep 11 '15 at 19:59

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