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What is the difference between a single pole and a 3-way switch?

Single pole switches are most commonly used in home lighting circuits to control one or more lights or fixtures from a single location, such as the entrance to a room. Three pole or three-way switches are used to control one or more lights or fixtures from multiple locations, such as the top and bottom of a flight of stairs.

Single pole and three pole switches look the same when installed but are used for different purposes. Closer inspection reveals that while a single pole switch has two terminals, a three pole switch has three.

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