A common issue for newbies is figuring out where does hot wire go in a light switch. Well, that depends on what kind of light switch it is as the process is different for both single pole and 3-way switches.

For, single pole, you have to place the hot wire into the bottom of the switch box, while for the 3-way ones, the hot wire will go into the top terminal.

I’ve explained the process for both switches here.

light switch hot wire top or bottom

Basics About Wiring

Before I explain the wiring in general, I need to show you the basics.

First, you have to identify the switch type, whether it is a single pole switch, a three way.

If I am dealing with a single pole switch, then I will find three wires, 2 lines, and one neutral. If I am dealing with a three way, then I might find a line, a load, a ground, and a neutral wire inside the switch box depending on where I live at that time.

Light Switch Hot Wire Placement: Top Or Bottom?

There are 2 kinds of light switches, and the process will vary for both of them.

Single Pole Light Switch

If I am dealing with a single pole light switch then I will find 2 lines and a neutral. The black wire is generally the hot wire.

This helps to complete the circuit and open the flow of electricity into the light since the light itself has no capacity to draw power from the line.

The neutral, on the other hand, may or may not be required to be fitted into the switch itself. I need to screw the hotwire onto the bottom terminal of the switch box.

However, the job of the neutral or white wire is to redirect the flow of extra or unused electricity back into its source rather than overflowing the circuit in the switch and possibly harming the light.

Usually, basic led lights do not require a neutral wire attachment, but a smart light definitely will.

But it’s safe to say that when wiring a light switch or any electrical component, the position and the technique used to connect the wires in their respective positions are very important.

Three Way Light Switch

This is similar to a single pole light switch except for the inclusion of two new elements; the bare copper wire (ground) and the traveler (typically red).

The basic rules are still applicable where I have to cut off part of the protective rubber on the copper wires and twist them into pigtails and screw them accordingly into their respective poles.

The copper wire or ground and the traveler follow the same rules as with the neutral.

The neutral can be just a tad bit tricky. When handling it, I attach it with the hot wire, which turns the white wire into a hot wire as well, and then attach it to the top terminal.


By this time, you will either have a fully functioning light switch, or require some professional help.

Professional help is especially advised if the directions to the three-way light switch seem confusing to you. However, as long as all safety measures are taken, you have the liberty to try and learn. But knowing when something is beyond you for the sake of yours and the safety of those who live under your roof, a professional is the way to go.

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