Not enough juice

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  #1  
Old 09-22-05, 04:46 PM
doctorjay
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Not enough juice

I recently hooked up a couple light switches (one a toggle switch and one a three-way switch) pigtailed to the same power supply. All the hook ups seem OK but neither light works. Upon testing the hot wire in the junction box, it barely has enough juice to light the tiny light bulb on my tester. What seems to be the problem?
 
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  #2  
Old 09-22-05, 04:50 PM
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We need more info. Tell ALL the connections in the switch boxes and the fixtures.
 
  #3  
Old 09-22-05, 05:00 PM
doctorjay
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Coming through the wall into the receptical are two wires. One has a black (that is hot...barely), a white and a ground and the other has a black, a white, a red, and a ground.

I pigtailed off the "hot" wire. One pigtail goes to a toggle switch which is then run through conduit to a fixture.

The other pigtail goes to a common terminal on a three-way switch. The receptical that is runs to has a wire with a black, a red, a white, and a ground. Again the fixture is hooked up via conduit with the black wire tied into the common terminal. The blacks and the reds are on the other terminals and all the whites are tied in together.
 
  #4  
Old 09-22-05, 05:14 PM
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How did you decide which wire was the "hot" one? Maybe you were wrong about that.
 
  #5  
Old 09-22-05, 05:29 PM
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Maybe it's just me, but something sounds funny about your wiring. Tell us ALL the wires and how they are connected. The ones you added and the ones that were previously there.
 
  #6  
Old 09-22-05, 05:35 PM
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Without seeing the whole setup, I suspect that the wire you describe as "hot" is not directly hot, but is from one side of a light fixture. Therefore, you may be putting your new load in series with another load.
 
  #7  
Old 09-22-05, 07:29 PM
doctorjay
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There are two switches, one at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. The one at the bottom of the stairs only has one 14/3 wire coming into it. There is a red, white, black, and ground in it. There are no other wires coming into it.

The recepticle at the top of the stairs has a 14/2 wire (black, white, ground) and a 14/3 wire (black, white, red, and ground). I tested each wire with a two-pronged tester connected to a small lightbulb.

The wire in the bottom switch was "dead" as the bulb did not light when tested in all combinations.

The 14/3 wire at the top of the steps was also dead. The only wire with juice was the 14/2 at the top of the steps. Again, the lightbulb was very dim but it did light.

FYI: These light switches, even before I started, controlled nothing. There was a light at the top of the stairs but the wire in that was dead no matter which position the switches were in.

I decided to create two lights from these existing wires. I could not run any wire behind the wall or ceiling so I used conduit instead. One light would be at the top of the stairs controlled by a toggle switch and the other light would be in the stair well controlled by the three-way switches.

I pigtailed the 14/2 wire (black) to both the toggle switch and the common terminal of a three-way switch.

From the toggle switch I connected a new 14/2 wire (black) from the other terminal and ran the wire through a conduit to a new, separately mounted light fixture.

The other light in the stairwell is connected by a new 14/2 wire, again run through conduit to the light fixture, connected to a new three-way switch to the 14/3 wire at the recepticle at the bottom of the stairs.

My main question is: When I use my tester in an outlet near the switch it glows like Rudolph's nose on Christmas, but when I use it to test the wire in the recepticle at the top of the stairs, it is as dim as a distant light house in a New England fog. Why?
 
  #8  
Old 09-22-05, 10:22 PM
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It may be me, but I still don't have a clue what wires you connected where. To you it's obvious, but not to me. What wires did you connect where? How are all the wires connected? What boxes did you add?

I am beginning to agree that you have added your devices in series, rather than in parallel. Providing the requested information will help clear up the mystery.

One statement in particular concerns me. As I read it, you tried to connect a light to use the three way switch at the bottom of the stairs. That three way switch was wired as a switch loop, and to attempt to use it to get power you would need to make changes at the light and/or at the first three way switch. How did you connect to that three way switch?
 

Last edited by racraft; 09-23-05 at 05:20 AM.
  #9  
Old 09-23-05, 07:27 AM
doctorjay
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In the existing box at the top of the stairs I connected two pigtail wires to the 14/2 black "hot" wire existing in the box. One pigtail went to a terminal of a toggle switch, the other pigtail went to the common terminal on a three way switch.

I then connected a new 14/2 wire to the toggle switch. The black is hooked up to the other terminal of the toggle switch. The white is connected to both the white of the existing 14/2 wire and the white of the existing 14/3 wire in the existing box at the top of the steps.

The new 14/2 wire is then run through conduit to a newly mounted external conduit box with a new fixture (black to black, white to white).

Going back to the existing box at the top of the steps, I then connected the the remaining black wire and red wire from the 14/3 wire to the other terminals of the three-way switch. All grounds were tied together. All whites (3) were tied together.

The existing 14/3 wire at the bottom of the steps was now hot. I connected the black and the red wires to the non-common terminals on a new three-way switch. Like the toggle switch above, I then connected a new 14/2 wire to the three-way switch (black to the common terminal and tied the 2 whites together).

The new 14/2 wire was then run again through conduit to a new mounted exterior box with a new fixture in the stairwell itself.

Interestingly, the light fixture in the stairwell also dimly lights the small bulb in my tester but not a conventional bulb. I seem to be losing current in the system.

How can I be hooked up in series when the pigtail system hooks the power in parallel. To me the problem is in the existing wire at the top of the steps. That wire has lost current. May that wire was previously hooked up in series.

If that is the case, would it be easier to tie into a nearby outlet for my power supply? I could run exterior conduit with a new 14/2 wire to the box at the top of the steps from the outlet and use it for my power to the lights.

Or is it as you say that the existing 3-way wire connecting the two existing boxes (top and bottom of steps) serves as a switch loop. If so, how do I correct that situation?

Hope this helps. Thanks.
 
  #10  
Old 09-23-05, 07:31 AM
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would it be easier to tie into a nearby outlet for my power supply?
Trying to get power from a switch box is always iffy. Trying to get power from a 3-way switch box is even more iffy. I didn't study this thread enough to determine whether what you are trying to do is possible or impossible, but the trouble you're having strongly suggests the latter. An unswitched receptacle is almost always a good source of power.

Note that it takes more than a hot wire to make a circuit. You also need a neutral wire, and not all white wires are neutrals. And not just any hot wire will do--you need a hot wire that is not switched.

Or is it as you say that the existing 3-way wire connecting the two existing boxes (top and bottom of steps) serves as a switch loop. If so, how do I correct that situation?
If this is true, it cannot be "corrected". And it's not even wrong.
 
  #11  
Old 09-23-05, 07:48 AM
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One suggestion... Remove all the new connections and find out why the existing light doesn't work. Correct that problem and test all your wires to see what's what. Then and only then, work on making the changes you want.

Doug M.
 
  #12  
Old 09-23-05, 08:12 AM
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Possibly you are "confusing the issue"-----You mention a "receptacle" (outlet); a receptacle is a device into which is inserted the cord-plug of a cord-connected "load". Please clarify this for us- it's imperative to distinguish between a receptacle-outlet and a switch-outlet.

Both the single-pole switch and the 3-way switch are "toggle"-type switches. Please refer to switches as either "single-pole" or "3-way"

The immediate concern is to locate a 2-wire "Feed-In" pair at an outlet-box. I suggest you connect a receptacle to the Black/White pair you think may be the "Feed-In" pair, and plug a 150 watt lamp into the receptacle. The lamp obviously must burn "brite", In addition, I suggest you invest in a Radio Shack multi-tester, and read the voltage across the receptacle terminals with the 150 lamp connected- this is a "dynamic" test, i.e., a load on the circuit.

You are wasting time and frustrating yourself with neon-type testers.

Good Luck, & Learn & Enjoy from the Experience!!!!!!!!
 
  #13  
Old 09-23-05, 11:19 AM
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I did not read the full post yet.

But the lights must be wired in parallel to work.
The white wires from each light must be connected together (neutral line)
The black wires also tied together then the switched hot wire feeds to the black wires of the lights.

In brief.
If at any time you wire the lights in series or in series with something it will divide the voltage between the items.
the divided voltage may not be equally divided between the items.

I think you created a series Loop between the top light and bottom light.
 
  #14  
Old 09-23-05, 11:38 AM
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FYI: These light switches, even before I started, controlled nothing. There was a light at the top of the stairs but the wire in that was dead no matter which position the switches were in.
Since the light and switches that were there to start didn't work and we are trying to use some of the existing wiring, we have absolutely no idea what goes to what and there's no way to tell because something's broken or was never wired correctly to begin with. We could end up with a hot wire buried somewhere in a wall or worse. Again, we need to back up and fix the original problem before we start working on making any modifications.

Doug M.
 
  #15  
Old 09-23-05, 02:06 PM
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A three way set up with only a 14/3 in one switch box and a 14/3 and 14/2 in the other switch box must be a switch loop. You don't have a neutral in the box. You must find the other end of that 14/2 wire and reconnect it to allow a neutral be present in the switch box.
 
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