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Old 06-21-2011, 06:59 PM   #1
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


I am trying to install a dimmer switch and, upon removing the old switch, found that I am confused. Currently I show 3 black wires, (2 of which are hot--showed up "red" on the voltage tester), and 2 (one red and one black) that are twisted together.

I'm not sure what to do. The light fixture can be turned on via two different switches (the one I'm currently trying to alter and another at the base of the stairs.) I'm not sure how to install my dimmer and I'm fairly certain there is no grounding.

Help!

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Old 06-21-2011, 07:13 PM   #2
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Did you buy a "Three Way" dimmer switch?

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Old 06-21-2011, 07:17 PM   #3
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Originally I had a single prong--but I'm going to get a three way. I still don't know how to wire it with the four options. How can there be 2 hot wires? What's with the two wires twisted together (red and black)?
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:01 PM   #4
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


You should have made a diagram of the way the original switch was wired and connected those wires to new switch. Most 3-ways' have one screw that is different color or marked in some way to identify it as the "common" connection.
BTW - If you put a dimmer in only one location the lamp will only be dimmable when that switch is providing the power.
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:02 PM   #5
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


I agree, I should have. But I didn't. What to do now?
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:03 PM   #6
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


How are the wires grouped at the back of the box? (Which cable does each wire come out of?) Are there any white wires?
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:16 PM   #7
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Two white wires, twisted and tied off with electrical tape.

The two wires (red and black) that are twisted together come from the top of the box--out of the left hand corner. (These seem to lead directly to the light fixture itself as it's above the box.)

Two wires that tested "hot" (black wires that are separate) come up from the box.

There was a small "jog wire?" (small piece of black wire) attached to one of the wires as well and it was attached to the old switch.

(I really appreciate all of the questions and help. Thanks for taking the time to read!)
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:36 PM   #8
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stacie View Post
Two white wires, twisted and tied off with electrical tape.

The two wires (red and black) that are twisted together come from the top of the box--out of the left hand corner. (These seem to lead directly to the light fixture itself as it's above the box.)

Two wires that tested "hot" (black wires that are separate) come up from the box.

There was a small "jog wire?" (small piece of black wire) attached to one of the wires as well and it was attached to the old switch.

(I really appreciate all of the questions and help. Thanks for taking the time to read!)
You should get a small pack of red wire nuts.
Remove the tape from the two white wires and place a wire nut over them;
The two black wires are probably the travelers that come from the other switch. They would go to the switch one on each gold colored screw.
The red and black that are twisted probably had the jumper that went to the black screw on the switch. Use a wire nut to connect the jumper.
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:54 PM   #9
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Thanks, that helps a lot. I think I get what to do with the two black wires.

"The red and black that are twisted probably had the jumper that went to the black screw on the switch. Use a wire nut to connect the jumper." I want to make sure I've got this part right. I should use the jumper (the small black wire that's attached to nothing) and twist it with the red/black wires (already twisted together) and then connect it to the black screw. Correct?

Do you think it's a problem that there is no grounding? It's an hold home (built in the 20's) so I understand that many of these older homes don't always have grounding at every outlet, but I don't want to cause a fire due to my ineptitude.
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:58 PM   #10
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Your plan sounds right. Ground has nothing to do with switch power.
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:10 PM   #11
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Great! Thanks again for the help--and I'll remember to take a photo of the wires and label them next time.

-Stacie
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:08 PM   #12
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Okay, I bought a 3 way dimmer switch and rewired. The switch is currently installed but a small buzzing noise is coming from the outlet when turned on.

Here's how the wiring ended up:

Red and black wires that are twisted together I twisted the jumper cable to them, capped it, and then connected the wires to the copper screw. The two hot wires I connected to the two gold screws on either side of the switch.

(There are four screws on the switch. One green, two gold, and one copper.)

Did I do this correctly? The switch works but I want to make sure I didn't wire it correctly before putting the plate on.
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:24 PM   #13
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


hello, that "red" you said showed up on your tester was probably a 30 to 40 volt bleed over from your other three way switch. i don't know for sure why but when you have a three way circuit there is around 40 volts always reading on a meter when the light or device is off. you need a volt meter that will read voltage to find your true hot wire. a tester that just lights up won't work for a three way circuit. thanks, budro
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:35 PM   #14
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Thanks Budro--do you think that I still wired it properly or should I switch it off and buy a voltage tester?
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:39 PM   #15
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4 Wires: 2 Hot. What to do?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stacie View Post
Okay, I bought a 3 way dimmer switch and rewired. The switch is currently installed but a small buzzing noise is coming from the outlet when turned on.
What are you referring to as the "outlet?" Is the light fixture that these switches control mounted in a ceiling?

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