Stop being annoyed by three-way light switches that incorrectly both say “OFF,” yet the light is clearly on! Has the entire world gone mad??

by worstideas


A “three-way light switch” (i.e. two switches that control the same light) is useful when there are multiple places that need to control a single light, such as at both the top and the bottom of a staircase.

The issue:

Unfortunately, three-way switches are often out of sync with the actual state of the light (so the switches are both OFF, but the light bulb is on).


Fig. 1: A three-way (two-switch) system is surprisingly straightforward. You can even add more switches, if you want! (


Ideally, the ON / OFF position would be correct indicated by the switch itself, instead of Instead of having the switch position indicate when

  • Easy and elegant solution, with one fatal flaw: just make the switch a press-able single button. Internally, the switch would just turn a wheel or something, to generate the required electrical connection.
    • Downside #1: Since it lacks an up/down state, you wouldn’t know whether the circuit were ON or OFF when the bulb is burned out.
    • Downside #2: Probably banned by electrical code for reasons stated in downside #1.
  • Electromagnet-based complicated solution: have each switch’s natural position be the DOWN position, which it will return to due to gravity when there is no electrical current. However, when the circuit is active, an electromagnet causes the switch to be held and/or pulled to the up position.
    • Downside: uses a tiny amount of electricity.
    • Upside: syncs the state of the switches. (If you turn on one switch, the other one will also be pulled up by the built-in electromagnet).


Maybe you should rewire your house with this highly speculative and untested electrical suggestion! Consult an electrician today.

PROS: You will no longer be bedeviled by light switches that do not properly convey the state of the light. (Previously: the switches both say OFF, but the light is on? Ugh!!!)

CONS: May burn down your house.