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Old 02-15-2016, 03:47 PM   #1
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Replacing a three-way dimmer with a three-way switch


Hi everyone,

I have a light that is controlled by a three-way switch on one end of the hall and a three-way dimmer on the other end. The dimmer is defective and I don't really need another one -- a second three-way switch would be fine. However, there are two red wires, so I want to be sure I am doing this correctly. Can anyone tell me how I could wire this properly?

Thanks a lot
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Old 02-15-2016, 03:55 PM   #2
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If there are only two wires connected to the switch then it is not three way.
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Old 02-15-2016, 04:19 PM   #3
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Hi Joed,

there are four wires -- a black, a white, and two reds (usually, I thought there was only one red with a three way, the "traveller", right?)
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:28 PM   #4
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post a picture if you can----I don't work with Romex,so I could only tell you how to sort out the wires, but I have no clue as to what color--
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:45 PM   #5
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Something does not sound right here. Not sure where you have the light in the circuit. At the end or in the middle but its pretty easy. You should have 3 wire conductor going between the switches with a ground. The switches would have three terminals each. Only 2 conductor wire to the light. But anyways if you have a picture that would be good. Its a easy job if the infrastructure is already there.

All you would do is hook the hot wire from the source to the common on the 1st switch and the other two screws you would run your wire (travelers) to the other switch and attached to the two terminals across from each other and attach the hot wire or single terminal out to the light. You would have to wire the neutrals together. Don't know if you have metal boxes or not. That would need to be wire nutted together and attached to the ground screw on the switches.
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:48 PM   #6
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Here's a photo of the wires coming out of the wall. The three-way dimmers I have all have four wires (2 reds, a black, and a white, plus the ground). I think three way switches should have only three terminals plus a ground.

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Old 02-15-2016, 05:59 PM   #7
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Are those Pass and Semore?
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:08 PM   #8
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Somehow I think dimmers are different -- I have done three way switches but not dimmers. There's a diagram here that shows the extra red wire. I don't know how the wiring is done inside the walls but it's likely something like this.

Here's a photo of the dimmer showing the extra red wire:



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Old 02-15-2016, 06:13 PM   #9
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Okay here is what I would do. Take the black wire from the power source coming into the switch and attach it to the black lone screw. This is your common. Wire your neutral wires together (white wires). Wire your bare copper wires together and make a pigtail and attach it to the ground screw on the switch. Then attach the two hot wires going to the other switch to the terminals that are across from each other on the three way switch.

At the 2nd switch attach the hot wire (black) that goes to the light to the lone screw on the switch. Should be black screw but it will be alone. Attach the two hot wires from the 1st switch to the two terminal screws on the second switch. Will not matter which one which but I like to keep them the same on both sides. You will wire your neutrals together and make the same ground connections you did at the first switch.

I am assuming your light is already wired correctly. And this should fix you up. I am also assuming the light is at the end of the circuit after the switches.
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:26 PM   #10
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Also from what I can tell you have black and white wires that feed the switch in the picture and the red wires are what controls the resistance for the dimmer. That's what it looks like. The red wires are part of the switch itself. Did you already buy your new switches?
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:33 PM   #11
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I forgot to mention: the red from the wall was connected to one of th reds on the dimmer, and the white from the wall was connected to the other red on the dimmer.

Does this change anything?
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:40 PM   #12
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Well not really. Hopefully you have gotten your new light switches and what I described as the hook up will make more sense. Just without knowing how the wires are run makes the difference. Do you know if there are any more devices or receptacles wired into the circuit that you are upgrading? The wiring explanation will work just fine and should meet code with no problem. Also you want to keep in mind if a GFCI or AFCI breaker is required or if you need those new tamper proof receptacles depending on where you are doing this upgrade.
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:45 PM   #13
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the white may be a traveler and not a neutral----

Is this box the one with the power or the switch leg to the light?
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Old 02-16-2016, 07:44 AM   #14
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A 3 way dimmer set generally has at least three wires going between the box with the main dimmer module and the box with the remote module: a hot line, a neutral line, and a single "traveler" or control line. (There may be other wires connected to the modules themselves.)

Usually it is possible to repurpose lines as needed and convert to a plain 3 way switch setup which requirese two travelers and a common.

The conversion can make the total system non code compliant since there might no longer be a neutral at each switch location. (You could complete the project without anyone's being the wiser.)

Specifically, two of the three lines lines must go from one switch to the other and nowhere else. If either of these two consists of two "halves" spliced in the light box, no third wire end may be attached to that splice. Ultimately these two wires will be attached to the traveler terminals of the new plain 3 way switches.

How the third wire is connected depends on where the power comes in, etc.

That means you need to find out what the wires are doing inside the walls.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 02-16-2016 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:17 AM   #15
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Ran out of 30 minutes of editing time and don't remember all my latest changes so the entire corrected post is shown below. The preceding post needs to be deleted.

Where do the hot and neutral for the light fixture leave from?

Where do the hot and neutral of the power source come in?

A 3 way dimmer set generally has at least three wires going between the box with the main dimmer module and the box with the remote module: a hot line, a neutral line, and a single "traveler" or control line. (There may be other wires connected to the modules themselves.)

Usually it is possible to repurpose lines as needed and convert to a plain 3 way switch setup which requires two travelers and a common.

Label and unhook the incoming power cable. If lights or receptacles elsewhere in the house and unrelated to this 3 way controlled light stop working then there may be complications possibly making the conversion to plain 3 way switches impossible.

The conversion can make the total system non code compliant since there might no longer be a neutral at each switch location. (You could complete the project without anyone's being the wiser.)

Specifically, you need, among other things, at least two lines going from one switch location to the other and nowhere else. If either of these two consists of two "halves" spliced up in the light box, no third wire end may be attached to that splice. Ultimately these two wires will be attached to the traveler terminals of the new plain 3 way switches.

How the third wire is connected depends on where the power comes in, etc.

That means you need to find out what the wires are doing inside the walls.

Do not unhook wires without first labeling them. Save all parts you are removing until the project is finished and working.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 02-16-2016 at 08:29 AM.
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