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Old 01-20-2013, 11:49 AM   #1
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Three way switch with light in the middle


I have a question about installing a light. The power comes to the switch, then to the receptacle, then to second switch. I put a meter on the black lead in the receptacle and it is hot no matter how i flip either switch. Is this right?


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Old 01-20-2013, 12:25 PM   #2
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Which black lead? One of them is probably the a traveler between the 3-way switches, and the other it looks like is supposed to be the switched hot. Assuming the black wire you have covered with a wire nut (not connected to the white wire) is the lead that goes to your light, then it is definitely not supposed to be hot all the time. You can actually get lights to work this way, but it's dangerous and not allowed by code.

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Old 01-20-2013, 12:53 PM   #3
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Three way switch with light in the middle


switch---load ---switch setup for a 3-way
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Old 01-20-2013, 12:57 PM   #4
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Three way switch with light in the middle


If that is the old fixture wiring and you have not changed the wires then just hook up your new fixture to the black and white wires. Don't try to fix what you think is a problem of a black and white wire connected together. They are supposed to be that way.
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Old 01-20-2013, 12:59 PM   #5
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Assuming A and B are travellers, E and F are travellers, then C should be your neutral and D should be the switch leg(attached to the common terminal of one of the 3-ways). The other 3-way should have the constant hot attached to its common terminal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by toobhed View Post
I put a meter on the black lead in the receptacle and it is hot no matter how i flip either switch. Is this right?
Are you saying that the light NEVER turns offno matter which way either of the 3-way switches is flipped??

But like joed said if you are just changing a light fixture...what is the issue??
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Last edited by hammerlane; 01-20-2013 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:16 PM   #6
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Three way switch with light in the middle


The white wire going into the wire nut at the light should be coded for hot (colored black or wrapped in black tape.) The white wire leaving the second switch should be coded for hot. Switches don't have neutral wires, so it's misleading to leave them white.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:22 PM   #7
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerlane View Post
Assuming A and B are travellers, E and F are travellers, then C should be your neutral
C is not neutral - that's why I commented on your previous diagram. It should be coded black to avoid confusion.

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Originally Posted by hammerlane View Post
Are you saying that the light NEVER turns offno matter which way either of the 3-way switches is flipped??
No, he said it's always hot, not that the light is always on. There's a difference.

The difference is that a switch can be wired to open the neutral (white) wire instead of the hot (black) wire. That's why I said it's potentially dangerous. Your light can be off (no current flowing through the neutral wire), but there can be positive voltage at the black wire just waiting to make contact with a body that's touching a ground (wire or otherwise).

That's one reason I said your wires should be color coded correctly. If a white wire is used as a hot, then it needs to be recoded (with black tape, usually) so it's not mistaken for neutral. The only neutral wire at the fixture should be the one leaving the neutral contact of the fixture itself. There should not be a white wire going into a wire nut in that picture.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:27 PM   #8
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffnc View Post
C is not neutral - that's why I commented on your previous diagram. It should be coded black to avoid confusion.
The poster did say receptacle and he did say he has a question about installing a light. Read his first sentence. Either way a device. Im assuming his photo is the location of where he wants to install this light/receptacle/device.

"C" is a neutral if there was a light or receptacle at the location shown in his photo. "C" in this diagram on the left corresponds to "C" in his photo.

"F" could be reidentified with black tape or marker to show its use as a traveler
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Last edited by hammerlane; 01-20-2013 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:36 PM   #9
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffnc View Post
The difference is that a switch can be wired to open the neutral (white) wire instead of the hot (black) wire.
Lets hope its not switching the neutral. I did assume the neutral was not being switched. Lack of information? Maybe.

Joed had best advice: If that is the old fixture wiring and you have not changed the wires then just hook up your new fixture to the black and white wires.

Looks like joed also assumed there was a fixture at the location in the posters photo

Last edited by hammerlane; 01-20-2013 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:39 PM   #10
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerlane View Post
"C" is a neutral if there was a light or receptacle at the location shown in his photo. "C" in this diagram on the left corresponds to "C" in his photo.
Agreed, sorry about that - I got confused in the confusion. I assume the photo is of the light receptacle as well. Let's hope wire C goes to the neutral back at the source.

No wires connected to switches should be neutral.

I understand what you're saying about just hooking the light back up, but I'm trying to address the OP's original question. If he is actually finding a situation where one of those 2 black wires is always hot regardless of the positions of the switches, then he has a problem that should be addressed IMO. There's only 1 wire that should always be hot in the scenario he described, and that's the black wire going to the common terminal of the switch where the power comes in.

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Old 01-20-2013, 01:57 PM   #11
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffnc View Post
No wires connected to switches should be neutral.

I understand what you're saying about just hooking the light back up, but I'm trying to address the OP's original question. If he is actually finding a situation where one of those 2 black wires is always hot regardless of the positions of the switches, then he has a problem that should be addressed IMO. There's only 1 wire that should always be hot in the scenario he described, and that's the black wire going to the common terminal of the switch where the power comes in.
Agreed.

I posted that diagram to show the poster one configuration of a 3-way setup based on his information that power was originating at one of the switches. It is up to the poster to determine the function of the wires that he has in front of him.

Sometimes people get hung up on wire color insulation and not the purpose of the wire. Electricity does not care what color the insulation is on the wire
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:04 PM   #12
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Three way switch with light in the middle


IMO, to understand how 3-way switches work, you should look at 2 diagrams. The first is the kind that shows how to hook up the wires, like hammerlane's.

The second shows what's going on in the switches. This pictures shows why all 3 wires going through the receptacle can never all be hot if wired correctly.

First switch up, second switch up: black traveler hot, red traveler dead, light hot.
First switch down, second switch up: black traveler dead, red traveler hot, light dead.
First switch up, second switch down: black traveler hot, read traveler dead, light dead.
First switch down, second switch down: black traveler dead, red traveler hot, light hot.

So if one of the 2 black wires in the receptacle (black traveler wire or black light wire) is always hot regardless of the position of the switches, something is wrong.
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Last edited by jeffnc; 01-20-2013 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 01-21-2013, 09:41 AM   #13
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Three way switch with light in the middle


Thanks for all of the info everyone. There was no light here, the receptacle ( hope that is right term, work box???) had a cover on it. There was a switch at top and bottom of the stairs that did nothing and the receptacle at the bottom of the stairs with three conductor wire which made me think it was for a light that for some reason was not being used. I was going to just turn off the switch and install a new light but thought it was odd that the capped black wire was always hot. Glad i checked!!! This is a basement and the light is on an upstairs circuit, not sure if previous owner put this in or what.

I installed the light and it works. Sounds like maybe something is still not right with the wiring? I will check the switches and see whats going on.

Thanks again everyone.

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