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Old 12-28-2009, 11:21 AM   #1
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3 way Switch Install


Hi,

I'd like to install a 3 way switch to my kitchen light where there is now just a single rocker switch controlling a multi-bulb fluorescent fixture. The home was built in 2000.

If the site below is good and I follow it, do I begin by first finding out where exactly the power source is coming from and then follow the appropriate diagram?

If not the site below, where is my best bet to do the job right? Perhaps here at diychatroom! I searched here for 3 way switch and there was just way too much to sift through.

Thanks a bunch.

Installing A 3-way Switch With Wiring Diagrams - The Home Improvement Web Directory
http://www.homeimprovementweb.com/in...way-switch.htm


Last edited by selvan777; 12-28-2009 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 12-28-2009, 11:59 AM   #2
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3 way Switch Install


I just did exactly what you're talking about...I had a single switch to control my kitchen light, I wanted a second switch on the other side of the kitchen to control the same light.

I used this wiring method (attached picture). It most closely resembles the first example on the site you posted, except the final leg (from the second switch to the fixture) is routed through the first switch box. Basically, this makes it so you only need to run a single cable (3-wire + ground) from your existing switch to the new switch.

Use 14 AWG wire if it's a 15-amp circuit, 12 AWG for a 20-amp.

The only downside to this method is you have no neutral conductor in your second switchbox. You won't need it for anything in this setup, but you could want one down the road for some special switches that require them (some timers, dimmers, illuminated switches do).


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Last edited by secutanudu; 12-28-2009 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 12-28-2009, 12:59 PM   #3
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3 way Switch Install


There are several ways to wire a 3-way switch. The method involved will be determined by the existing wiring and the way you route your new wires. The site you cited has five wiring options. If you are confident that you can decipher the diagrams properly they are most likely correct. The reason I say "most likely" is that I did not verify the diagrams myself, but they look fairly standard for this type of homeowner-helper diagram. Regardless, depending on your local code, you will need either two or three wire colors, plus a ground (which may also need its own color, or it can be a bare copper conductor).

My concern is that the website you found tells you how to pull wires and other very basic wiring precautions. I'm all for precautions, but if you need that level of help to do this project, I suggest you start with simpler wiring projects such as adding a wall outlet. I was once called in on a project where two previous non-electricians had tried to wire in a three way switch. I wasn't called until the breakers started popping, so you can imagine the disaster I had to confront. Needless to say, it costs more to fix problems than to install it from scratch.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:06 PM   #4
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3 way Switch Install


This is simple once you get the wire to the new switch. Run a 14/3 cable from the old switch to the new switch. Use 12/3 if 20 amp circuit.
I am going to skip ground wires in the description. Connect all of them together and to the switch if it has a ground screw.

Remove the two wires from the existing switch. Leave everything else alone. The wires could be both black or black and white. Might even be black and red. It doesn't matter.
Connect one wire to the common screw of your new three way switch.
Connect the other wire to the black wire to your new switch.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.

At new switch connect the black to the common screw.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:17 PM   #5
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3 way Switch Install


You'all are making this harder than it needs to be.

Run a 3 wire cable from the old switch to the new switch box. Install a 3 way switch in the new location connecting the black to the common, the red and white to the travelers (doesn't matter which). At the old switch remove the old switch which will be connected with 2 wires. Install a 3 way switch with one of the 2 switch wires connected to the the black of the 3 wire cable, connect the other switch wire to the common of 3 way switch. Connect the red and white to the travelers of the switch. Needless to say you have the power off while doing all this and you are also connecting all the bare grounds.

Joed beat me to the punch, he posted while I was one finger typing. He is spot on.

Last edited by rjniles; 12-28-2009 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:23 PM   #6
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3 way Switch Install


I think, if I read your posts right, this is what I suggested in my diagram...right? If not...I am missing something about joed's and rjniles's posts.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:31 PM   #7
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3 way Switch Install


Quote:
Originally Posted by secutanudu View Post
I think, if I read your posts right, this is what I suggested in my diagram...right? If not...I am missing something about joed's and rjniles's posts.
Yes, you are assuming that the power feed is in the existing switch box, it may not be wired that way. It might be wired as a switch loop where the the power feed is at the ceiling fixture box.

Joed and my solution will work regardless of how it is wired.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:34 PM   #8
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3 way Switch Install


Quote:
Originally Posted by rjniles View Post
Yes, you are assuming that the power feed is in the existing switch box, it may not be wired that way. It might be wired as a switch loop where the the power feed is at the ceiling fixture box.

Joed and my solution will work regardless of how it is wired.
There it is...I knew I was missing something. Thanks for the clarification.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:44 PM   #9
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3 way Switch Install


Well, Joed and rjniles, I have to disagree with your advice. A lot of places the previous "electricians" were not licensed or were the homeowner himself. In these cases, you seldom have a simple "two wires in, two wires out" circuit.

Also, since the OP is looking at sites that tell him how to do very basic things and have multiple wiring diagrams, I don't think it is prudent to assume the OP can find the source wires and the load wires at the original switch. No offense meant to the OP.

There are a bunch of obstacles to the simple procedures you outlined that may or may not present themselves. Your answers are just inviting the OP to start tearing up his wiring before he knows what he's up against.

What is the composition of his walls? Is there clearance in the existing wall where he wants his new switch for him to fish in his new wires? Are there any connection points between his existing switch and the load? I just did a circuit that had one 3-way switch wired to a single pole switch. Needless to say, I'm guessing that didn't work too well and that it was at one point "homeowner engineered". I stand by my advice that he first try a simpler project before tackling a retrofit 3-way switch.
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:42 PM   #10
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3 way Switch Install


Thanks for all the input, it's much appreciated and there is no offense taken. I am not an electrician and still don't understand how to do it right..... the first time. To paint a fuller picture, I am a technician by trade but only in a telephone switch room.... low voltage. Residential wiring is a different and new beast.

From what I understand, there are several ways of getting the job done correctly regardless of the of the obstacles but it depends on how it's all wired presently, am I correct?

What is the composition of his walls? Sheetrock

Is there clearance in the existing wall where he wants his new switch for him to fish in his new wires? yes

Are there any connection points between his existing switch and the load? not sure
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:55 PM   #11
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3 way Switch Install


Wino
My advice will work no matter how the switch is wired. You will only be working with the two wires that are currently connected to the switch. Leave everything else alone. I don't care if there are2 wires or 50 wires in the box. Your only connections are to the two wires that are currently connected to the switch.
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
This is simple once you get the wire to the new switch. Run a 14/3 cable from the old switch to the new switch. Use 12/3 if 20 amp circuit.
I am going to skip ground wires in the description. Connect all of them together and to the switch if it has a ground screw.

Remove the two wires from the existing switch. Leave everything else alone. The wires could be both black or black and white. Might even be black and red. It doesn't matter.
Connect one wire to the common screw of your new three way switch.
Connect the other wire to the black wire to your new switch.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.

At new switch connect the black to the common screw.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.
joed,

I'm real sorry for my ignorance but could I ask you to please re-write the instructions above using my naming code below?

the new 3 way switch replacing the existing 2 way (s1)
the other new 3 way switch being added (s2)
the existing 2 wires (b1 & w1)
the new 14/3 wire (b2, w2 & r)

I'm confused as to which switch is which in your instructions since they are both new 3 way switches.

Thanks

Last edited by selvan777; 12-28-2009 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:29 PM   #13
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3 way Switch Install


Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
This is simple once you get the wire to the new switch. Run a 14/3 cable from the old switch to the new switch. Use 12/3 if 20 amp circuit.
I am going to skip ground wires in the description. Connect all of them together and to the switch if it has a ground screw.

At the existing switch Remove the two wires from the existing switch. Leave everything else alone. The wires could be both black or black and white. Might even be black and red. It doesn't matter.
Connect one wire to the common screw of your new three way switch.
Connect the other wire to the black wire to your new switch.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.

At new switch location connect the black to the common screw.
Connect the red and white wires to the remaining two traveller screws of the new switch.
how's that. I thought when I wrote remove the wires from the existing switch that it was pretty obvious that all the following connections would be at that switch.
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Last edited by joed; 12-28-2009 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
how's that. I thought when I wrote remove the wires from the existing switch that it was pretty obvious that all the following connections would be at that switch.
Sorry, it wasn't obvious to me. Moving "at the existing switch" from the end of a sentence to the beginning really makes a difference.
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:40 AM   #15
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3 way Switch Install


Joed, sorry if I offended you in my post, sure did not meant to.

Is the picture below accurate? Opened the switch and see I have 2 black wires from a 15 amp breaker with no green ground.


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