replacing old light switch


  #1  
Old 10-16-03, 08:48 AM
bwgibs
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replacing old light switch

I am replacing two light switches that are part of a double panel contolling separate fixtures. One switch, which controls the outside porch light, has three wires that were connected to three screws on the previous, very old switch:

One wire is white and the other two are black. A fourth wire is an brownish-orange color and is twisted and capped with the two white wires (neutral?) from the other switch.

Any ideas about what type of switch this is and how to hook it up? I don't know enough about electrical wiring to tell you more about the setup - sorry.
 
  #2  
Old 10-16-03, 09:38 AM
J
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Does the switch lever say "on" and "off" on it, or is the lever blank?

I assume when you say that the wire is brownish-orange, you are talking about the color of the insulation, not the wire itself, right?

When you say two white wires "from the other switch," can you more precisely describe where these two wires come from?
 
  #3  
Old 10-16-03, 10:21 AM
bwgibs
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The switch lever does say "on" and "off" on it. It is the only switch controlling the light.

I am describing the color of the insulation. The wiring is copper.

There are four holes in the wall giving off the wires. Each switch gets wires from two holes:

CONFUSING SWITCH
hole 1 - black wire and white wire
hole 2 - black wire and brown wire

NORMAL SWITCH
hole 3 - black wire and white wire
hole 4 - black wire and white wire

So the twisted white wires (from NORMAL) and brown wire (from CONFUSING) are coming from the wall and are not attached to any switch. I hope that is what you meant. I am uncertain where the switches are in the circuit.

The original switch had a black and white wire connected to two screws on the top of the switch, and the other black wire connected to a bottom screw.

Thank you so much for your help. I wish I could give you a better description.
 
  #4  
Old 10-16-03, 12:00 PM
J
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I would like to be able to draw out the wiring in this box precisely. Let's develop a notation system that allows us to describe this wriing precisely and accurately.

Call the black wire from hole 1: B1
Call the white wire from hole 1: W1
etc.

Is there a chance that that brownish-orange wire used to be white, but has darkened with age and overheating? If so, can we call it W2?

Call the confusing switch: CS. The screws on that switch will be CS1, CS2, ...

Call the normal switch: NS

I want to know precisely where each of those eight wires is connected. For example, I know that the the brownish-orange wire (what I called W2) is connected to two white wires, but would that be W1 and W3, W1 and W4, or W3 and W4?

And I know that CS has a black wire attached to the bottom screw, but is that B1, B2, B3 or B4?

Get the idea of the level of precision for which I am asking? Please make sure your information accounts for all 8 wires, and every screw on every switch, and every wire nut.

Any grounding wires in this box? Any green screws on the switches? Any idea why the original switch has three screws. Most single-pole switches only have two. Is/was this a lighted switch?
 
  #5  
Old 10-16-03, 12:06 PM
R
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John, I am thinking along the lines you are, that the switch may have been lighted. However, this would mean that the return from the light is returning via the wrong wire.

I wonder if it is possible that there could have been a second switch at some point that has been removed. Although this does not seem to make sense.

I have drawn my own picture, but have assumes some things that may not be correct. We will have to wait until we get the response to your request.
 
  #6  
Old 10-17-03, 03:48 PM
bwgibs
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There are no ground wires. Each switch has one ground screw. I'm afraid I don't know what a lighted switch is. I didn't understand why the original switch had 3 screws - I thought it was just an older design.

Here's the setup:

CS1
B1 to CS1
W1 currently not hooked up (power is off in this room)
B2 to CS2
W2 twisted with W3 + W4

CS2
B3 to NS1
W3 twisted with W2 + W4
B4 to NS2
W4 twisted with W2 + W3

Thank you again for your help!
 
  #7  
Old 10-17-03, 04:13 PM
R
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A lighted switch is a switch that contains a miniature light . The light comes on when the switch is on. They are used in locations where a switch controls a light in another room, usually behind a door (like a garage or basement). The light indicates that the light is on on the other room. Since these switches have a light, they need to have a return, so they do have three wires hooked up, plus perhaps a ground if applicable.

It sounds like you are describing the current wiring and switches. We want to know about the original wiring and switches. Please tell us how the switches were wired when you started this project.

Also, do you know where any of the wires go? What light does the second switch control? Any information such as what happens when you turn the current switches off, or if the porch light works with the white wire discinnected, etc, will also help.
 
  #8  
Old 10-18-03, 01:49 PM
bwgibs
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I saw lighted switches as single pole and 3-way switches. Does a single pole lighted switch have 3 screws? The guy at Lowe's didn't know what a lighted switch was so he couldn't help unfortunately.

I have been unable to figure out what the second (NS) switch controls. I mis-labeled that in my above post by the way - called them CS1 (CS) and CS2 (NS).

I tested the wires, and the current appears to come from B3 only.
In the original wiring, the CS switch had two screws on top and one on the bottom. NS switch had one screw on each side.

B1 to CS1 (top left)
W1 to CS2 (top right)
B2 to CS3 (bottom)
W2 twisted

B3 to NS1 (left)
W3 twisted
B4 to NS2 (right)
W4 twisted

It would probably make this much easier if I could figure out where the wires were coming from/going to, but I don't know. It might be impossible to replace the switch myself without knowing that. I am considering calling an electrician to troubleshoot since I obviously don't know what I'm doing. Your comments have been helpful considering that I haven't given you much to work with!
 
  #9  
Old 10-18-03, 02:44 PM
R
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A regular lighted switch would have three screws. One more than a non-lighted switch. A 3-way lighted switch would have four screws, one more than a non-lighted 3-way switch. The extra screw is for a return (neutral) wire. The neutral wire is needed to complete the electric path so the light will light. (In both cases I am leaving out the ground screw, which would add one to the screw count, if present.

When switching electricity, the hot wires are switched, and the returns are connected with no switch. Your NS seems to be wired that way.

Several more questions. Are these switches powered by only one circuit breaker (or fuse)? Does the confusing switch seem to be different in any way (besides the wiring)? Does it seem to have more than an on/off position, perhaps a position in the middle? Do you have any way to tell what terminals get connected when you have the switch in the on position, and in the off position? Is it possible that at one time there used be another outdoor light that the normal switch controls? Does the normal switch control an outlet?
 
  #10  
Old 10-18-03, 09:28 PM
bwgibs
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Thanks for the information on lighted switches. Here are the answers to your questions:

Are these switches powered by only one circuit breaker (or fuse)?

Yes.

Does the confusing switch seem to be different in any way (besides the wiring)?

No, just the wiring / number of screws.

Does it seem to have more than an on/off position, perhaps a position in the middle?

On/off only.

Do you have any way to tell what terminals get connected when you have the switch in the on position, and in the off position?

Negative.

Is it possible that at one time there used be another outdoor light that the normal switch controls?

Possible, but I don't see any obvious evidence on the house exterior of a second light having been there.

Does the normal switch control an outlet?

I think it controls a nearby outlet that stopped working after I removed the old switches (definitely worked before).
 
  #11  
Old 10-19-03, 10:17 AM
R
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Here is what I would do at this point in time:

I would buy an inexpensive two wire electrical tester. This will be a small device with two leads wired to a small light. The leads can be inserted into an outlet, or simply touched to bare wires. Try the tester on a good working outlet so you know what the lamp looks like when lit.

I would (with the power off) disconnect all wires from each other and from the switches. Make sure you know which wire is which before you do this. Then spread the wires out so that they do not touch each other, but are also accessible to you with the cover removed.

I would then turn the power back on and test each combination of wires to see which wires are hot and which are not. Make a chart, something like this:
B1 - W1
B1 - W2
B1 - W3
B1 - W4
B2 - W1
B2 - W2
B2 - W3
B2 - W4
B3 - W1
B3 - W2
B3 - W3
B3 - W4
B4 - W1
B4 - W2
B4 - W3
B4 - W4
Test each combination using the tester. be careful not to touch the wires with your fingers. Touch one lead from the tester to the black wire, and touch the other lead to the white wire. Make a check mark next to each connection that lights the lamp.

Report back your findings (which combinations lit the tester) and we can go from there.

Be very methodical so that you do not miss any connections.
 
  #12  
Old 10-20-03, 02:52 PM
bwgibs
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I broke down and called the electrician - problem solved. We have guests staying with us in a couple of days so we needed to have everything fixed by then. My wife was home while the electrician was here but she doesn't know what he did. Didn't take long though. If I find out, I will be sure to let you know.

I really appreciate everyone's help and patience!! Like I said, I will try to find out what the problem was.
 
 

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