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Old 05-09-2013, 06:13 PM   #1
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Turning one light switch into two


I have an old room out at the back of the house which I want to turn into a study. It only has one light, and for the new setup I want to change that in order that I can have two light switches, one to control a bank of lights over the book cases I'm installing, and another switch to control the lights of the desks. Now the way the wiring is set up is that there's the power for the switch comes from a branch cable coming across from a nearby double outlet. Outgoing are two cables (one for the existing light that I will turn into the book case lights, and one linking up to a switch on the other side of the room controlling the fan) and I now want to add a third outgoing cable to control the second set of lights. I have removed the existing single box and replaced it with a double-gang version. So as things stand I have four black wires coming out of the box, four white, and of course the four earths.

Now the way I figure it is that I have to -

1) Pigtail all the neutral wires together and then leave them as is

2) Pigtail the four earths and have a single strand of copper go across to both switches

3) Pigtail the black power source and the black wire from the extra cable feeding the fan switch on the other side of the room, together with two additional black strands. Each of these strands which will run to the bottom connection on each switch. I then connect the black wire from each of the two cables running to the lights to the top connection for each switch. Does all that make sense?

Sorry for sounding so dense on a matter which I'm sure is pretty basic for most of you, but I just want to be sure I get it right.

Oh, and just in case anyone suggests it, I already inquired about the double switch units but can't use them due to their 600 watt limitation. The total wattage on the 2 switches will be around 900 watts, so they have to be separate units that can each take 600 watts.

I've attached a diagram of how I think I'm supposed to do it, if that helps make it any clearer. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!

Thanks
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Last edited by timbo59; 05-09-2013 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 05-09-2013, 06:39 PM   #2
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Turning one light switch into two


It sounds correct.

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Old 05-09-2013, 06:43 PM   #3
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Turning one light switch into two


Timbo.... I think I've read carefully your "shematic". Apart from some nominclature (wirenutting verse pigtailing), I believe you've got it.

There of course are other considerations,( box fill, wire nut size, running and securing your wire, by the way you must have alot of lights, etc)but you seem to be studying it.

From your theoretical drawing/description, it looks correct.

BUT, let another/several other parties chime in to be sure I understood you the same as they did. (It's easier to wire something, than to sometimes understand someone else's description.)

Good luck
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Old 05-09-2013, 07:38 PM   #4
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Turning one light switch into two


Thanks guys. I thought I was correct, but I had to be sure.

Regarding the nuts, the colors I chose were for the description, not the actual type I would use. I think pig-tailing four 12 gauge wires together requires a green cap, but I'll double check on that to be sure. The wires I've already run - I'm getting pretty good at cutting holes in the ceiling (and repairing them afterwards) to help feed wires across with my fiberglass pole! The room I'm working on is at the very end of the house where the ceiling is extremely difficult to get to from above and very very low, so it's just easier in this case to do the work from below, especially as I'm removing the popcorn and resurfacing the ceiling with knockdown, so any repair work for holes will get covered over anyway.

As for the amount of lights, yeah, there's a few, though I was mistaken earlier when I said 900 watts - it's more like 700 - enough to nix the double switch unit. Three banks of lights over the bookcases lining two long walls, and another bank of lights over the desk area. Both sets will be on dimmer switches to keep the power consumption down, and most of the time it will be just a case of the desk lighting being on and the bookcase lights only in use at need.

Thanks again.

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Old 05-10-2013, 10:25 AM   #5
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Turning one light switch into two


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I think pig-tailing four 12 gauge wires together requires a green cap, but I'll double check on that to be sure.
Around here, red nuts accomodate four 12ga and the only green nuts I've seen are for ground connections only.

However since you said "earth" instead of "ground", you may not be in the US so the above may not apply to you...
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Old 05-10-2013, 01:34 PM   #6
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Turning one light switch into two


Close. I do live in the USA but I'm from down under, where we do use the term earth for grounding.

Okay, theory seemed to be correct, but after wiring everything up today I got stumped - when I switched the breaker back on and tested everything, all seemed okay until I tried turning the switches off. Didn't do anything! The power stayed on, like the switches weren't even there. I'm using Lutron dimmers, with two black wires coming out the back, rather than the usual areas to screw wiring in place. I didn't think it mattered which way you connected the two wires up from the switches other than the fact that it altered the on-off direction, right?

Any ideas? I haven't pulled anything apart yet, just dragged the folded up wiring from inside the box and looked up and down my connections, trying to figure if I've put something in the wrong place or order, but I can't pick anything out. Frustrating, especially as I thought I'd nailed it.

And just to nip one notion mentioned by a friend in the bud, there isn't any possibility of power coming to the switches from the other side of the circuit, because they haven't been connected up to anything yet. The cable ends leading from the two light switches are simply dangling from holes in the ceiling, waiting for the light fixtures to eventually be attached.

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Old 05-10-2013, 01:42 PM   #7
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Turning one light switch into two


Since the dimmers have two black, instead of a red and a black, I would expect them to work either way.

I studied your diagram, and the diagram looks right, so I can only conclude that something isn't wired the same as the diagram. What I would do at this point is kill the breaker, then remove one connection and flip the breaker back on and see if light(s) went out. Try to find out where power is coming in but shouldn't.

The previous wiring may have included a switch loop, where the white wire is acting like a hot instead of a neutral. White wires used in that manner are supposed to be marked with marker or tape, but usually aren't. Can be very vexing when you find a switch loop where you didn't expect there to be one.
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Old 05-10-2013, 02:17 PM   #8
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Turning one light switch into two


Timbo.... I don't have a lutron dimmer in front of me.... and I agree with Ty as to them both being black... but read the dimmer carefully, maybe even it's instructions (we won't tell anyone that you read them). Many dimmers it is important that the hot feeds in one direction.

Also some dimmers have been made to be both SP (one way) and SPDT (three way) that have some quirks/adjustments such that one can't be dimmed below a certain level... so it doesn't get confused and you think its off when its not and gets you screwed up between your two switches.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:08 PM   #9
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Turning one light switch into two


Okay, here's what I did. Rather than pull out all the major connections, I simply disconnected the hot feed to each dimmer, and the outgoing connections on the switches which is supposed to be the feed eventually for the lights - remember, I haven't installed them yet. Then I turned the breaker back on and checked all four wires. The two hot wires for the dimmers had current running through them as expected, while the other two were dead, thus proving that I hadn't mixed up my wiring. So it's not rocket science, right, even for someone with as basic a knowledge about electricity as me!? If a wire is hot, and the other isn't, and you put a switch between them, then the switch should act to either supply current or not depending on the position of the switch?

So I then connected the two hot wires back up to the switches, but left the two outgoing wires unattached. I turned the breaker back on, and the problem is still there. Either in the on position or off, there's still current coming through the other short strand of wire hanging off the switch. So it proves that there's nothing wrong with the cabling or my wiring, but something in the switch, right? Could I possibly have a couple of duds? On the off chance that there might be something peculiar about these switches and they have to be connected a certain way, I reversed the connections so that I connected the power to the other wire on the switch - made no difference. On or off, the power was still there.

I'm either missing something obvious and foolish, or the switches are duds. I did look at the paperwork that came with the switches and according to the diagram I connected them up correctly. There isn't some kind of tab on them I'm supposed to remove, as you have to in certain circumstances with other switches? The model is Lutron DV-600PR-WH.

I just don't get it. This should be pretty straightforward, but something in the chain is messing things up, and I don't know if it's me or the switches.

@MTN. I would have though that regardless of the dimmer setting the on/off function takes precedence in the chain of command power-wise, if for no other reason than safety purposes?

Help!

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Old 05-10-2013, 06:19 PM   #10
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Turning one light switch into two


Pretty sure you missed a "no" in your sentence "Either in the on position or off, there's still current coming through the other short strand of wire hanging off the switch.

Other wise sorry ....NFI
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:42 PM   #11
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Turning one light switch into two


Hi again. No, that's correct. I was referring to the short sections of wire coming out of each switch that you're supposed to connect to the main wiring. If I connect the power to one of them, my tester shows it coming out the other one, regardless of whether the switch is in the on or off position. Doesn't matter which of the two short wires I apply the power to, the other one also becomes active regardless of the position of the switch.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:46 PM   #12
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Turning one light switch into two


OK I looked @ the instructions for that switch. Looks like can be used single-pole (what you want) or as a 3-way (what you don't).

When used as a single-pole, the wires should come out the leftmost and rightmost holes in the back. If you're using the middle hole, that's a problem.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:08 PM   #13
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OK I looked @ the instructions for that switch. Looks like can be used single-pole (what you want) or as a 3-way (what you don't).

When used as a single-pole, the wires should come out the leftmost and rightmost holes in the back. If you're using the middle hole, that's a problem.
GOOD CATCH TY... Guess that's that piece of paper that comes in the box... what's it called again

Actually I haven't seen that model (must be the fancy nice one) but the cheapies have three wires from it, and if used as a SPST, you just cap off the red one. In the subject model, that "traveler" must be a stab-in?... as the op said there were just two black wires hanging out???
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:14 PM   #14
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Turning one light switch into two


Yeah those holes don't look user-serviceable, probably done at the factory. But if they were made wrong, it would explain the issue...
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:29 PM   #15
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Yeah those holes don't look user-serviceable, probably done at the factory. But if they were made wrong, it would explain the issue...
Or maybe they were "returns" from a big-box.

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