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howard.wheaton 10-03-2010 02:52 PM

Sparking switch
I installed a new Panasonic bath fan that requires 3 wires (light, fan and night light) so I installed a new 3 way switch. When I flipped the breaker and turned on the center switch, the back of the switch sparked and tripped the breaker. I reset it and it did it again and on the third attempt, it turned on with no problem. I took out the switch and the center screw was black and I wired it up again. I flipped the breaker, sparked again and tripped the breaker. I reset the breaker and it works fine. Any idea on what is happening hear? I am think it has to be the switch, but why would it keep on working after the spark?

rjniles 10-03-2010 03:08 PM

You do not really mean a 3 way switch? I assume you are talking about a combination switch with 3 single pole switches on a single yoke. It should be wired with the hot to the common terminal(s) and the 3 devices on the switched terminals. How many wires in the box, colors and how did you wire it?

HVAC_NW 10-03-2010 03:35 PM

You need two switches and I hope you have three wires + ground (red, black, white and ground).
If you only have two wire + ground, you'll have to use fan controller that takes the power, then provide separate power to fan part and light part using a remote

howard.wheaton 10-03-2010 05:21 PM

4 wires total. One is red that is tied to the power to the house and 3 black wires that goes to the bath fan (one to fan black wire, one for light black wire and the third for the night light wire).

rjniles 10-03-2010 06:15 PM

I assume this is the type of switch you have: (although you may have the non-Decora version)

Based on your description of the wires in the switch box. Red to the common (left side of the image), a black on each of the 3 terminals on the right.

HVAC_NW 10-03-2010 06:50 PM


Originally Posted by howard.wheaton (Post 510890)
4 wires total. One is red that is tied to the power to the house and 3 black wires that goes to the bath fan (one to fan black wire, one for light black wire and the third for the night light wire).

I don't know what kind of box you have, but if you have a single gang box, you're going to need a triple switch like this:

If you have a double gang box (can take two switches side by side), then I would get a dual switch for the lights, then a single switch for a fan (or whatever combination you'd like to setup for

howard.wheaton 10-03-2010 08:08 PM


that is the exact decora switch that i have. One hot on one side and 3 leads to the bath fan/lights on the other.

frenchelectrican 10-03-2010 10:41 PM

How many conductor you did ran to the fan with light and nite lite ?

That is the key item you need to know to order to get this wired up properly.


howard.wheaton 10-04-2010 08:33 AM

In the bath fan, there are 3 black wire. One that goes to the fan, one that goes to the light and one that goes to the night lite. I put a wire nut on each of the wires and extended the back wires to it's own screw on the switch. the fan has 2 white wires that I tied them together with the building nuetral.

rjniles 10-04-2010 08:42 AM

Is the wiring method cable or conduit? How do you have black black wires between the switch and the fan unless this is conduit? Where is the power source coming from? You say the power is red at the switch box, but what is the source. You say the neutral is in the fan, is the hot also there that you have extended to the switch via red wire? Pictures of the fan wiring and switch box wires would help.

howard.wheaton 10-04-2010 02:44 PM

To the metal fan box, there are 2 conduits. One conduit has the hot and neutral from the house and the other conduit has 4 wires (3 black and 1 red) to the switch. The red wire is tied to the house hot, which brings the power to the switch. The 3 black wires are wire nutted separetly to each black wire as part of the bathfan (one for power to fan, one for power to light and one for power to the night light) and they are terminated each at a screw at the switch. It is 0.5" conduit the entire way.

rjniles 10-04-2010 04:14 PM


Sure sounds like you have wired it correctly, might have been a bad switch. Wire up a new switch but leave the wires in the fan box (the 3 blacks to the fan, light and nite light) discionnected. Try the switch. Connect one at a time the black wires in the fan box and try the switch after connecting each one. Just in case there is aproblem with the fan unit.

howard.wheaton 10-04-2010 05:10 PM

Would just removing them from the switch do the same thing. It's a pain to get into the attic and crawl to the fan.

rjniles 10-04-2010 05:29 PM


That works unless one of the wires is grounded to the conduit. But you will soon figure that out.

howard.wheaton 10-04-2010 05:44 PM

Thanks. I assume that something is wrong with the switch since the switch is working fine. It is just the initial time you turn the fan on after the breaker is turned back on. The light and night light doesnt trip the breaker, it was just the fan on the center screw.

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