lighted three way switch

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Old 01-18-05, 06:49 AM
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Question lighted three way switch

I replaced a threeway switch in my home with a lighted three way switch. This switch has a neon light built in that lights the switch when the light is off. The switch only had the typical four lugs (common, two travelers, and ground). Without neutral attached to the switch how does that light work? Does a small current flow through the ground? Can I use this lighted switch if the circuit is ground fault protected?
 
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Old 01-18-05, 08:58 AM
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The switch should work fine with a GFCI, although I've never tried it (all my GFCI's are on separate circuits that don't include lights). The light gets a hot connection from the power input to the switch and a neutral connection through whatever the switch is controlling. Notice the brightness of the light in the switch will change depending on the wattage of whatever it controls. If it controls a light and you remove the bulb, the light in the switch will go off.

Doug M.
 
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Old 01-18-05, 09:08 AM
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You probably noticed that the directions for the switch says that it can be used with incandescent lighting only. That's because it runs a tiny current through the bulb at all times. It's too small for you to notice any illumination at the bulb.
 
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Old 01-18-05, 10:37 AM
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Is this potentially dangerous

Does this mean that when the switch is off and the load is removed (bulb removed) and the neon light goes out as a result that the voltage at the socket is 120 V. Is this dangerous if I were to work on the fixture after turning the light off?
 
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Old 01-18-05, 11:14 AM
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There is potential for a small amount of electricity to exist at the fixture with the light switch off and the bulb removed, but we should never work on a light fixture without turning off the breaker. There's also potential for you to get a shock from the neutral wire if other things on the circuit are on and you provide a path to ground.

John, I've never seen a designation for incandescent only on these switches. I have them all over the house on incandescent and fluorescent fixtures. They work, but, to paraphrase one of your favorite sayings - all that works is not safe. Is this? I've also had lighted switches controlling wall outlets in previous houses - the switches always light as long as whatever is plugged in is turned on and sometimes even if it isn't (electronics - anything with a transformer).

Doug M.
 
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Old 01-18-05, 11:54 AM
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There are a million different kind of switches, and each one works differently. It's very hard to generalize.

As Doug says, never, ever, ever work on anything unless the breaker is off. There are many different reasons why just turning off the wall switch may not be sufficient to save your life.
 
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