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Old 02-06-2011, 12:58 PM   #1
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


I'm trying to figure out how to wire a light receptacle that's controlled by two switches; I'm not sure if the circuit is supposed to control anything else (outlets and the like). I've been checking online and have looked in a book that I bought at Home Depot, Wiring 1-2-3 (I'm very disappointed in this book).

So, our setup is confusing , because for one thing I'm not sure how the house was wired (no schematics for the house), and because the fixture has 4 wires coming into it. There is a black wire, a red wire, a white wire, and 1 wire that seems like a ground strap, it doesn't have wire sheath. The white wire never has power, so it seems to be another ground ... just did a continuity check and the white wire is a ground. Checking for voltage yields confusing results ... looking for 120V, but sometimes its 30V, 60V, or 90V. Also, there are 6 switches in the room and 4 of the switches change the voltage measurements between different combinations of wires red to black, red to ground, and black to ground.

So, how should this be wired? I'm thinking of wiring it so that the ground wires are both connected to ground and wiring the red and black to the load? What do you think?

Thanks much!


Last edited by Sherm; 02-06-2011 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 02-06-2011, 01:37 PM   #2
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


Think I figured it out finally! I found a drop light and connected the house black wire to one prong of the light's plug and connected the house white wire (ground) to the other prong, leaving the house red wire disconnected. Also, in my initial description I failed to mention that there are 2 switch panels, each containing 3 switches. So, using these connections, the light turned on/off with a switch from each panel ... 3-way operation as one would want . Then, on a hunch, I made the same basic connections, but this time using the house red wire instead of the black. This time, the 3-way operation of the light turning on/off was achieved with a different set of switches! I'm guessing the switches and fixture were wired this way for a ceiling fan with a light. What do you think?

So, how does one go about getting a schematic for their house? I imagine the answer is to call the builder. Yeah, good luck there ... Do municipalities keep house plans that include schematics on file?

Thanks all - Best,
Sherm

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Old 02-06-2011, 03:06 PM   #3
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


Sounds like you got it: the balck and red are switched hots for a fan and light kit, the white is the neutral (not ground; although it is if fact grounded). The other wire is the fixture ground.

I think you will be disappointed in your quest for a wiring schematic. The town does not keep them and even if you got one from the builder, it may not be as wired. Changes are made and every electrician has different ways to wire something to get the same end product.

BTW the 3rd switch at each location may be switching one or more of the receptacles in the room. Usually only half of the receptacle (top or bottom) will be switched.
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Old 02-06-2011, 03:25 PM   #4
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


Thanks RJ!

BTW, couple of months ago I installed a 3-way dimmer in our stairway, which didn't seem to work the way one would expect ... both switches can control the light, but only if it was originally ON. So, if you turned the light OFF from upstairs, then you have to go upstairs and turn it ON before you could control it from downstairs.

At first I thought the problem was simply the cheap dimmer that we bought and I was going to order a more expensive/nicer one. Now I think I did something wrong there for sure. Does this sound familiar? So, how did I wire it wrong?
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Old 02-06-2011, 04:01 PM   #5
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherm View Post
Thanks RJ!

BTW, couple of months ago I installed a 3-way dimmer in our stairway, which didn't seem to work the way one would expect ... both switches can control the light, but only if it was originally ON. So, if you turned the light OFF from upstairs, then you have to go upstairs and turn it ON before you could control it from downstairs.

At first I thought the problem was simply the cheap dimmer that we bought and I was going to order a more expensive/nicer one. Now I think I did something wrong there for sure. Does this sound familiar? So, how did I wire it wrong?
If the 3 way worked before you replaced one of them with a 3 way dimmer (it was a 3 way dimmer I hope), you mis-wired it. You do not have the correct wire on the common terminal. Turn the power off, remove the dimmer and leave the 3 wire ends sticking out. Turn the power back on; test from the ground to the 3 wires. One of them will read 120 (approx) volts; remember which one it is. Throw the other switch to the other position. Test the 3 wires to ground. If the same wire as before reads 120 volts, (turn power off) connect it to the common and the other 2 (these are the travelers) to the other terminals on the dimmer.
If a different wire reads 120 volts, (turn power off) connect the 3rd wire (that you never got power on) to the common terminal and the 2 wires (these are the travelers) that you got power on the the other 2 terminals .
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Old 02-06-2011, 04:08 PM   #6
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


Thanks again RJ! Yes, it was actually a 3-way dimmer; I knew that much Going to a superbowl party, but I almost can't wait to get home to fix this ... it's been this way for awhile ...

Thank you again very much!

Best regards,
Sherm
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Old 02-13-2011, 09:11 AM   #7
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Help - Wiring a 3-Way Light


With the help that I got here, I was able to rewire two 3-way switches in our house this past week. Both had been wired incorrectly ... sadly by me. Although I clearly didn't have a good understanding of the circuit when I put them in, I also blame the poor instructions that came with the dimmers. Such instructions make it very easy to wire these things the wrong way, especially once you find out that there are several ways to wire a 3-way circuit.

Thank you again RJNiles for all you help!

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