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Old 11-22-2010, 11:52 AM   #1
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Can I do a 3-way switch?


I did this for my in-laws. They had their carport enclosed, and the only light thats in there is the light on the garage door opener. It has a pull chain to keep the light on, so you have to walk into the dark garage to turn the light on. So what I did was remove the cover on the opener, there were 2 wires going to the pull chain. So I bought (2) 25' spools of 16 gauge wire and cut the pull chain off and attached the new wires and ran them next to the door of the garage and installed a switch, so now there is a switch to turn on and off their only light bulb.

So they absolutely loved it. Now I am thinking it would be nice if I would be able to make this into a 3 way switch system and put another swtich on the other side of the garage. Can I hook it up just like a regular 3-way switch??

I can draw up some type of schematic on what I did if needed.
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Old 11-22-2010, 11:56 AM   #2
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This probably voids the UL listing on the light, and also, 16gauge wire is too small for any household circuit.

An opener is probably on a 20A circuit, which requires minimum 12AWG wire.
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Old 11-22-2010, 12:06 PM   #3
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There was only a 20 gauge wire there to begin with, so I figured 16 could definitely handle the load if 20g was before. for all I know its working off a relay or something?

Last edited by cbzdel; 11-22-2010 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 11-22-2010, 12:24 PM   #4
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From an electrical circuit design, I can think of no reason why this could not be converted to a three-way switch arrangement.

However, my internal alarms are going off here. I suspect this would be (and already is) a code violation. I also suspect you have added some degree of safety (fire, shock) risk here. You may be introducing the possibility that any fire damage or injury caused by this would not covered by your insurance.

Barring device (wire, lamp, opener, switch) failure, and assuming you don't add the wrong-sized lamp, you may be OK. Still, I would not do this. Instead, I would do it properly.

How far away is a power source (outlet)? It is not much more work, to me, to add a box extension, run some conduit, a couple of boxes and switches, and do this correctly.
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Old 11-22-2010, 01:28 PM   #5
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... 20awg wire handles the light, you are correct...

we're not talking about that, however. Thinner wire has higher resistance. Longer wire also has higher resistance.

SO you've installed this really long RESISTOR in series with your light.

What happens if you get a defective light bulb that is somehow shorted inside? Or the socket itself wears and shorts internally? How much current will flow?

I guarantee it is enough current to heat your 16AWG wire to a temperature that will burn your garage down. Can YOU guarantee it's enough current to trip a 20A breaker before that happens?



When the NEC people decided we needed 12awg wire for 20A circuits, it had nothing to do with the fusing current of the wire, and when the opener manufacturer chose "20awg" wire, this was partially due to it being like a six-inch piece!



I dont care about legal technicalities - never have, probably never will. If the need for bigger-than-16awg wire was a mere "bit o code" I'd ignore it. What you are arguing is UNSAFE, and that I do care about.

I modify stuff myself. Use bigger wire, plain and simple.
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Old 11-22-2010, 01:39 PM   #6
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I get what you guys are saying.. But let me ask how this is different. Plugging in a 50' 16 gauge extension chord and plugging in a light bulb on the other end of the connection?

Thats the logic I was using when I did this.
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Old 11-22-2010, 02:43 PM   #7
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The difference is, when it burns to the ground, you get to blame the company that made the extension cord.

You'll also notice they're always plastered with warnings telling you they're for temporary use only, and you can't install them in walls, you're not supposed to even staple them TO walls, etc., etc.
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