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Old 03-05-2007, 08:18 PM   #1
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Easy upgrade....almost burned home down?

I decided to get rid of a couple of dimmer switches in the house with just a plain on/off switch. I also changed some simple switches that were already in place and working, I just wanted a different style.

The new switches have two holes on top for wires and two on bottom. The ground screw is also located near the top. The instructions labeled the top portion of the switch for white and bottom for black wire.

The simple switches just had two black wires - one on top, one on bottom. I did the same on the new switches and they work fine. Then I came to the dimmer switch. It's one of those kind that's just a dial that you press for power or turn left/right to dim the lights. It had two black wires and two white wires. I put the two white wires on top per the instructions and two black wires on bottom. When I turned the power back on, it began smoking and tripped the breaker.

In the room next to the smoking dimmer switch, there were two switches I wanted to replace. One was another dimmer switch but it only had two black wires and one white wire. I put the white wire on top of the new switch and two black wires on the bottom. When the power came back on, the switch didn't do anything and the breaker switch was tripped.

The other switch also had two black and one white but has a mysterious function. It doesn't appear to turn anything on or off. I tried seeing if it controlled any of the wall receptacles but it has no effect.

The laundry room also had two wall switches that both control the same light. Both had two black, one white ; the breaker tripped when I turned power back on, etc., etc. Same story.

I understand that switces with 3 wires are because they control a common light or receptacle as another switch. Correct?

Scared as ever, I removed all the switches that had 3 or 4 wires and individually taped the wires up with electrical tape. I left the switches with two black wires that I changed alone because they seemed to be working just fine. I also turned off most of the breaker switches in case.

Should i call an electrician or can I get through this with a little help? I guess all the switches are now toast and need to be replaced?

Thanks a bunch,


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Old 03-05-2007, 10:24 PM   #2
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wow !! you did manged not get the home burn down so far

JUST stop right there for now i dont know how you got the instruction to hook up the dimmer and switches that connections you describing is all wrong there.

" The new switches have two holes on top for wires and two on bottom. The ground screw is also located near the top. The instructions labeled the top portion of the switch for white and bottom for black wire. "

> what kind of switch manufacter it was and give this kind of instruction this is full of ...

do you understand the basic of electical system or not ??

if not please stop right here and go to either big box store and get a book on electrical work it will describe how to do this or get a REAL electrician to fix this mess up in correct way.

and the other thing that if you have a short circuit you will just fry the dimmer very fast on this one and possiblty you will damged the standard switch as well.

is any of the switch have what we called switch loop ? sometime you will see only black and white wire alone that mean switch loop but warn ya that not always the case

there are other possible of connection there too

did you mark the wires and swich location before you remove it ??

and there are some switch that work as threeway switch [ two locations ]??

if so please post it back here

Merci , Marc


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Old 03-05-2007, 10:46 PM   #3
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Get some books from the library on residential wiring, especially on the confusing three-way switch wiring.

With the power off (I'd recommend cutting the mains, but thats just me), start tracking down what wire goes where. A continuity check using a DVM will help you trace hidden wires.

Next you can remove all your switches you're working on, and expose the wires but make sure they wont touch eachother or the metal box. Enable power and use your DVM to measure for AC voltage relative to the neutral/ground. This will then let you diagram your sources.

By this point you’re ready to continue, or you’re already flipping through the yellow-pages.

Last edited by elementx440; 03-05-2007 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 03-05-2007, 10:58 PM   #4
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The instructions labeled the top portion of the switch for white and bottom for black wire.
WOW...that's pretty presumtuous and irresponsible of a manufacturer to instruct a person to just blindly follow that. On a 3-way it COULD be true, depending on the cable and conductors used, but the white conductors should be remarked black or red if used in this manner. On a single pole (which, granted, wouldn't have 4 wires per switch)...black to one side and white to the other ...flip a switch for an automatic short circuit (unless it's a sw. loop, as Marc said). I hope the manufacturer has seen the error of their ways and changed their instructions to be a bit more specific.
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