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bkboggy 12-28-2011 03:57 PM

Help needed: replacing bathroom fan/light & switches.
I've been attempting to solve this myself by reading the diagrams included with the bathroom fan/light/night light combo and for the switch... but none of those diagrams helped me.

I'll include pictures at the bottom to make it easier understand what's going on over here... heh

I bought a bathroom fan/light/night light combo unit, due to our old bathroom fan/light sounding like a lawnmower. I haven't attempted to replace the unit just yet... I'm stuck on replacing the switch. I had two three-way(?) switches on the wall. One for the light (left) and one for the fan (right). I bought a double switch (has two switches in place of one) to replace the one for the light, so that I can turn on regular light or night light.

The original setup for the fan switch:

Red wire goes to the bottom hole (not sure what it's called). Black shared wire goes into the top hole. Shared ground wire goes onto the green screw. Two yellow screws on the right are unused (unless the holes are directly connected to them?).

The original setup for the light switch (it was just one light, so it's just on/off):

Shared ground wire attached to the top green screw. Shared black wire attached to the top yellow screw. Another black wire attached to the bottom hole.

There are two white wires inside the box which are connected, capped, and not attached to any of the switches... I'm assuming it connects to the light.

Here's a broader view of the original setup, box, etc.:

Ground wire connects the two green screws, and goes into the box. Shared black wire connects the two top connectors (screw on left, hole on right). Black wire goes onto bottom of left switch. Red wire goes onto the bottom of right switch (not sure how or why that is or how it works).

Box is messy.... I didn't make it, but as you can see the white wires don't go to any of the switches:

My new setup (the light switch is on the right in this picture, it would be on the left after, it's just there for ease of work at this point):
It obviously doesn't work, and I'll explain why further down. I disconnected the switch on the left, because that's the switch that controls the light, so that's what I need to replace. I connected the shared ground wire to the green screw. I connected the shared black wire to the top black screw. I connected the single black wire to the bottom black screw. (Switching those block wires yields same result....). Basically... the light is on constantly and cannot be turned off. NOTE (again): I moved the light switch to the right on this picture, but it would be on the left (it was just easier to work on it in that position).

That's how the new switch looks from the front:

So yeah, the light are constantly on and cannot be turned off. I have no idea if I should put any of the existing wires onto the yellow screws on the new switch (there are three of them... two next to each other and then 1 separated by a larger tab). There is also a metal tab that is between two black screws... not sure if that needs to be removed?

Please help me... I've tried reading on internet and in my home depot book on how to fix this, but I just can't figure it out. Do I need to redo the whole box for a new setup? How should it look if so?

Jim Port 12-28-2011 04:29 PM

The black that was looped to both switches is the constant power.

The backstabs are connected to the screws that sit next to them.

The red is a switch controlled hot.

You have the constant hot on one of the screws that should be controlled by the switch. Check the wiring diagram that should have come with the switch.

The loops should be clockwise around the screws.

bkboggy 12-28-2011 04:54 PM

I was looking at the diagram that came with it... and I just couldn't get it. I'm not sure where to put the two blacks on the new switch and whether I should splice the red and share it between switches. I switched the blacks around the black screws, and it still remained constant. Does this mean I should attach the constant black to one of the yellow screws?

Here's the diagram that came with the switch:

Jim Port 12-28-2011 04:57 PM

Can you post the model number of the switch or a wiring diagram?

bkboggy 12-28-2011 05:04 PM

Edited my previous message to include the diagram.

It's a leviton decora 15a 120/227v AC/CA Combination switch & 3-Way Switch No. 5641

Jim Port 12-28-2011 08:28 PM

You had two single pole switches before. Three way switches operate something from two locations like the top and bottom of the stairs.

Your constant power will go to the side with the bridge between the two screws. The switched hots will go on the other side using screws A1 or A2 and B1.

bkboggy 12-28-2011 08:34 PM

So, I should attach the constant hot (the black wire that runs to both switches) to the metal bracket between two black screws? And the other black wire to one of the yellow screws? I'm not sure if I should splice the red from the fan switch and add a wire from it to the light switch (if that does anything or needed at all?). Do I just leave the white wire alone and not attach it to switches?

My previous light/fan combo only had one light, the new one will add a night light... will I have to run a whole new wire... if so, what color?

Since this is the only switch that will operate the lights, will I be okay using a three-way? Or should I buy another one?

Jim Port 12-28-2011 08:43 PM

The constant hot can connect to either of the screws on the bridge side. You can cut off the piece past the U shpaed loop as it will no longer be needed.

The red will go to either A1 or A2, and the other black will go to B1 or vice versa depending on which switch you want to operate what.

The whites do not connect to the switch.

If the one switch operates opposite of the other switch move the wire to the other screw, ie A1 to A2 or A2 to A1.

bkboggy 12-28-2011 09:00 PM

So I should just attach a same gauge wire to the red wire that's running to the fan?

There are two black wires... I'm assuming the one that's connected to both switches is the constant feed, as you've mentioned. The one that goes to the switch.... is that a part-time hot? It runs only to the unit and not from the source of electricity? So one black supplies the power, and the other black is providing power from the switch to the light/fan unit.

How come the two original switches were so different.... the one for the fan had the constant black, the ground and the red.... yet, the one for the light had the constant black, the ground and the lonely black wire....

Why would the new switch require a red wire on it for the light and the old one didn't?

I'm still keeping the fan switch to operate the fan. The double switch will operate light and night light.

So, if I'm keeping the red on the fan switch and the black part-time wire on the light switch, would I still need a red one for the light switch? It's a traveler wire which essentially connects things within the circuit? If I need to connect it to the new switch, how come the system worked without it being connected to the light switch.

What I'm trying to accomplish is simply to have the one (by itself) fan switch to continue to operate the fan. The top switch on the double switch to operate the main light and the bottom switch on the double switch to operate the night light. Top should be on/off and bottom should be on/off.

Last but not least, what is the purpose of the white wire (neutral)?

I know I'm asking lots of questions, but your help is very appreciated.

Jim Port 12-28-2011 09:29 PM

The red is another switch contolled hot. Only the wires colors were different between the switches.

The whites are the return path for the electric to get back to the source and complete the circuit.

Did you run a new cable to the fan/light unit? Without another switch controlled hot the night light will not function as you desire.

I thought you were replacing the two switches with the single dual switch. Sorry for the confusion.

bkboggy 12-28-2011 09:37 PM

No problem. :)

I haven't ran the the new wire yet, but I guess I have to... going to be tough since I can't do it from the attic (not enough space over bathroom because of roof's angle, I can't even get my hand far enough to that space. I'll probably get one of those flexible glow feed things from home depot for $20 (will have to use them later on anyways for other projects) and try to feed that wire. Probably take out one of those tabs from the switch box (holes) and feed wire through and up... and maybe take the fan/light unit off and get my head in there, see if I can catch it, lol

So the red and the black wire essentially have the same function, they're wires that feed electricity from switches to the light/fan/etc. Wonder if they made them different colors to distinguish the fan and the light (makes it easier I guess).

So, thanks to you I understand now how it should look... now, one more question:

Will I be able to make that three-way switch with two switches on it as two on/off switches? Or will I have to buy a double single-pole switch (with ground, main-in and two outs)? Not even sure if they make those.

My concern is that on the side there are 3 traveler screws, on for the bottom, two for the top. I can attach night light to the bottom traveler screw and the main light to the top..... that would leave one screw available (which if used in a three-way switch configuration, would connect two switches).

Should work right?

Jim Port 12-28-2011 09:45 PM

You can use the switch you have but either the A1 or A2 will not be used. To start I would not use the middle screw. If this switch works opposite of the other switch move the wire from the top to the middle screw. You could also trade it for a dual single pole switch.

I am going to bet you have one cable going to the fan/light. The cable contains a black, a red, a white and the bare ground. The colors allow the functions to be identified easier than two blacks in the same cable.

bkboggy 12-28-2011 10:07 PM

Yeah, probably.... Black, white ground in and red, black, white ground out. I'll have to finish this next week... Won't have enough time before work tomorrow to buy the new wire and install everything, I and simply have no time during work week. I'll let you know how everything works out next week, thank you so much for your help.

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