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Old 05-29-2014, 11:19 PM   #1
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Electric issue


I have 2 switches, one at the bottom of the stairs, and one at the top. (3 way switches). If the bottom switch is off the top switch will not work. Any ideas on what went wrong? I installed new updated switches today. I thought I connected them the exact same but due to performance I'm guessing I must have got it wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-29-2014, 11:42 PM   #2
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Any ideas on what went wrong?
Yes you wired the switches incorrect. There are hundreds of 3way switch topics on this forum.

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Old 05-30-2014, 08:18 AM   #3
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There are three or four different ways three way switches are set up, the exact method depends on the location of the switches, the line side, and the load side. All of the methods use a "common" wire and two "travellers". The common wire MUST be correctly connected to the (typically bronze) screw on each three way switch. It is important to mark the common wire before you take apart the old setup, since the common wire could be any color (it is usually red, but there is no guarantee), and the travellers could be the same color.

I am guessing you did not take a picture of your switches before you took the setup apart, and did not mark the common wire, so now you need to figure out which one the common is. There are two screws for traveller wires, and either traveller can be connected to either traveller screw, but the common wire must be connected to the common screw. So likely you connected a traveller to the common terminal, and the common to a traveller screw. A pretty good discussion about setting up a three way switch can be found here http://homerepair.about.com/od/elect...way_switch.htm.

There is a very nice writeup at this address http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load...0931610.html?8 third post down that describes how to troubleshoot a three way setup and determine the common wire at each switch. You need a voltmeter to perform the tests. If you follow the procedure, you will be able to wire your switches up. Good luck.
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:23 AM   #4
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You have the wrong wire on the common at one or both of the new switches. You can't swap three ways by wire position. The common screw is in a different location on different brands of switches.
If you still have the old switches check for one of the screws being black or marked as COMMON. Then try to remember what colour wire was on that screw. Make sure the same wire is on the COMMON of the new switch.

If you still can't figure it out then tell us all the wires(not grounds) in both switch boxes and we can help you figure it out.
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:18 PM   #5
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I'm going to work on it today. I will let you guys know the out come. Thanks for all the great advice.
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Old 05-30-2014, 03:12 PM   #6
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Ok guys, here is my issue. I have one red wire and 2 black wires. I was hoping to find a white one with black markings on it but I did not. The switch at the bottom of the stairs needs to be "on" in order for the top switch to work. Once the switch at the bottom is off then the top switch will not work. Is it safe to say the switch at the bottom of the stairs is the one with the incorrect common wire? I will try and locate the switches that we're removed. I have some help and they mostly do clean up stuff so finding them may prove to be difficult. Thanks again.
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Old 05-30-2014, 04:24 PM   #7
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If you reread my previous post, you will see that I posted a link to a very good discussion about how to diagnose and fix a problem with a three way switch. As I mentioned before, the color of the wires is of NO diagnostic value whatsoever, you need to determine which wire at EACH SWITCH is the common, and that can be done by following the procedure in the link.
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Old 05-30-2014, 05:01 PM   #8
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http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/elect...-switches.html
This page has lots of wiring diagrams that may represent your set up.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:15 PM   #9
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Tell us all the wires at both switches.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:25 PM   #10
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At each box you'll have three wires to each switch. Two of those wires (the red and a black) will be coming from the same cable. Those are your travelers (gold screws).
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Answers based on the 2008 & 2011 NEC.
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Old 05-31-2014, 12:53 AM   #11
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It's all good now. Just as I thought the bottom switch had the wrong common. Swapped it out and it works like a charm. Thanks again for all the help.
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Old 06-01-2014, 08:28 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
As I mentioned before, the color of the wires is of NO diagnostic value whatsoever
As I like to say electricity does not care what color the conductor insulation is ..... Glad he remedied his problem. Hands on is always the best way to learn.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:11 PM   #13
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As I like to say electricity does not care what color the conductor insulation is ..... Glad he remedied his problem. Hands on (AND UNGROUNDED....) is always the best way to learn.
fify

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