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Old 08-09-2011, 04:40 AM   #1
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Stairwell Wiring




Hi All,

I have a confusing wiring problem (well, confusing to me). I have a stairwell to my basement which has two lights, one at the bottom of the stairs (Light A on the accompanying diagram) and one at the top (Light B). There are two doors at the top of the stairs. One door enters into the first floor of the house - next to this door there are two switches in a double gang box (Switch A controls Light A and Switch B controls Light B). The second door leads to the garage where there is a third switch which controls BOTH lights.

In my diagram I've shown the wiring that is visible at the lights and switches. Power enters into light A. I have simplified the diagram (14-2 wires leave Light A and Switch A/B and supply power to unswitched receptacles). The orange circles are wirenuts.

I'd like to add a fourth switch in the basement (i.e. at the bottom of the stairs). I'd like to use the existing wiring if possible rather than tearing up the drywall and starting from scratch.

I have a few questions. I'm a little uncertain as to how the switches and lights are currently connected. I suspect that Switch A connects directly to Light A, Switch B connects to the right of Light B, and the Garage Switch connects to the left of Light B - does this sound plausable? How would I best go about adding a new switch in the basement (the bottom of the stairs is currently unfinished and power could be brought into the new switch if that makes things easier). Finally, can I add a new switch and still have Switches A and B act independantly? If not, I am willing to replace Switch A and B with a single switch that controls both lights.

Any comments are greatly appreciated!


Edit - Just to clarify, the diagram below shows what I think is going on (I've moved things around a bit)... does this make sense?



Last edited by Calm_Blue_Ocean; 08-09-2011 at 06:33 AM. Reason: Added Diagram
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Old 08-09-2011, 06:08 AM   #2
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Stairwell Wiring


Questions:

Of the switches that have three terminals, which terminal is common (often stained a darker color or with "C" engraved on the swith body nearby?

Are any of the switches three-way (each of two different switches can turn the same light both on and off?)

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Old 08-09-2011, 06:49 AM   #3
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Stairwell Wiring


Hi Allan,

I've updated my diagrams (I had Switch A and B reversed).

Everything is exactly as shown (I have omitted the grounds). The Garage Switch and Switch B are both 3-ways (the common is on the lower right for each), Switch A is a single pole. The basement switch that I am adding will need to be a three way. I am finishing a basement apartment with a separate entrance through the garage. The tenant should be able to enter through the garage and switch on both lights before they enter; they should be able to turn them both off when they get into the apartment (and of course the opposite applies when they leave the apartment). Ideally I'd like to continue to be able to switch both lights independantly from the top of the stairs (i.e. if I am going to the garage from upstairs I'd like to be able to turn on only Light B). I have included a 'map' that should clarify what I am trying to do.





Please note that I am comfortable with wiring, but I am a little confused as to how to add a new switch (while keeping Switch A and B and the existing wiring).

Last edited by Calm_Blue_Ocean; 08-09-2011 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:24 AM   #4
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Stairwell Wiring


Here is a diagram making the new switch (lower right) a master switch for the two lights.

The white wire neutral down to the new switch is not connected to anything down there and is reserved for future use. The 2011 National Electric code (USA) requires the 3 wire cable.

Where the 3 wire cable is not required and red/black 2 wire cable is not available, the white wire with black or red markings at both ends would be used where the red is shown below at the right (raw or unswitched hot).
Attached Thumbnails
Stairwell Wiring-lights12.jpg  
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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-09-2011 at 07:28 AM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:39 AM   #5
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Stairwell Wiring


Hi Allan,

I wasn't expecting it to be that simple... I have to think this over (three ways still make me scratch my head). Won't the new switch overide the others?

I'm in Canada and we can use 14-2 and mark the hot white with black.
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Old 08-09-2011, 08:49 AM   #6
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Stairwell Wiring


If you want 3-ways you will need to string a lot more wires.

A single switch cannot control two separate three way setups. YOu get into a situation where flipping the switch one way turns one light on and the other light off. Flipping it the other way switches the other light on and the first light off.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:03 AM   #7
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Stairwell Wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
If you want 3-ways you will need to string a lot more wires.

A single switch cannot control two separate three way setups. YOu get into a situation where flipping the switch one way turns one light on and the other light off. Flipping it the other way switches the other light on and the first light off.
I figured so, I was thinking I'd need to get rid of one of the switches (i.e. take out the double gang and replace it with a single switch that switches both lights). I'm guessing I'll need to use a four-way switch?

I know how to do it if the power comes into both lights first or if it comes into all three switches first (i.e. with all three switches in a row - the middle switch being a 4-way and the outer switches 3-ways). I can't wrap my head around how to do it when the switches and lights are 'intermingled'. I'm begining to suspect I won't be able to use only the existing wires and instead will need to open two walls and the ceiling. Any sugestions on how I can run as little wire as possible would be greatly appreciated. Note that I have full access to the wiring in the basement (for Light A and the new switch). Running new wire between the basement and garage is least destructive; running new wire anywhere else will be a real pain and will involve removing quite a bit of finished drywall.

Last edited by Calm_Blue_Ocean; 08-09-2011 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:38 PM   #8
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Stairwell Wiring


In order to have one 4-way setup control both lights at the same time you need to add (1) A 14-2 cable between the two lights, and (2) A 14-3 cable from the new switch to either light A or any one of the other switch boxes.

Nitpicking below. The neutral for light B must have come from the right.
Attached Thumbnails
Stairwell Wiring-light14.jpg  

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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-09-2011 at 12:58 PM.
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