converting back to 3 way switch

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  #1  
Old 11-28-05, 01:13 PM
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converting back to 3 way switch

Here's the situation, just recently bought a house. In the living room there is a lighted ceiling fan in the center and a recessed can/ picture light by the wall. There are two switches. At one time, before the canned light existed, the two switches should have been 3 way controlling the ceiling fan light. Not any more... Now switch 1, which controls the canned light, has to be on in order for switch 3 to turn on the ceiling fan light. Switch one is a 3 way, while switch 3 is still 2 way, but that is being changed. I have attached a wiring/picture diagram of the current layout. Can someone decipher this and tell me how to get it back to normal again?? My plan is to drop a single 2 way switch for the canned light, so i'm not concerned about it functioning at the moment. Or i can replace switch 2 which controls fan speed with a fan / light combo switch, and put just the canned light on the 3 ways. Either way, i just don't want to have to walk to the far end of my living room to turn a single light on. The link to the diagram is below.

*edit*
the more i think about it, i would rather set the canned light on the 3 ways and put a combo fan speed/light switch in place of switch 2

http://www.southernpolyurethanes.com/hidden4.htm
 
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  #2  
Old 11-28-05, 01:41 PM
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This is kind of a hack job, but I guess you already know that.

I'm very concerned that this setup has two different "always hot" wires (one at switch#1 and one at switch#2). If these are not on the same circuit breaker, then this could be a very dangerous situation. Are they on the same circuit breaker?

Once you answer the question above, we'll tell you how to get kind-of what you want. It isn't possible to get exactly what you want with the existing wires.
 
  #3  
Old 11-28-05, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
This is kind of a hack job, but I guess you already know that.

I'm very concerned that this setup has two different "always hot" wires (one at switch#1 and one at switch#2). If these are not on the same circuit breaker, then this could be a very dangerous situation. Are they on the same circuit breaker?

Once you answer the question above, we'll tell you how to get kind-of what you want. It isn't possible to get exactly what you want with the existing wires.
I just posted actual photos with labeling on the link listed above. They are at the bottom of the page.

Switch 2 controls just the fan, it has its own constant hot. Switch 3 only gets a constant hot if switch one is turned on. I only showed switch 2 because that is where the switched wire for the ceiling fan light goes into.

In order to avoid cutting the wall and adding an addtional switch, i would rather do a 3 way on the canned and a combo for the fan and fan light.

Almost forgot, same breaker.
 
  #4  
Old 11-28-05, 01:55 PM
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Sorry, but you cannot get that with the existing wire.

You can make the two 3-ways control either the ceiling fan light, or the can light, but not both. There is one too few wires between the switches to do that. This is, of course, why the hack job was put in in the first place.

If there is an accessible attic above this room, then it will be easy to get what you want by running a cable between the can light and the ceiling fan. It should have been done this way in the first place.

Is there an accessible attic above this room?

If not, what's your second choice?
 
  #5  
Old 11-28-05, 01:55 PM
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Another option as well, is just to get everything back to normal. ceiling fan speed by itself, and then ceiling fan light on the two switches. From there i will feed the canned light off of the fan light from within the ceiling.
 
  #6  
Old 11-28-05, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
Sorry, but you cannot get that with the existing wire.

You can make the two 3-ways control either the ceiling fan light, or the can light, but not both. There is one too few wires between the switches to do that. This is, of course, why the hack job was put in in the first place.

If there is an accessible attic above this room, then it will be easy to get what you want by running a cable between the can light and the ceiling fan. It should have been done this way in the first place.

Is there an accessible attic above this room?

If not, what's your second choice?
we posted at the same time... I have attic space above, so accessing the fan is not a problem. Running the canned light of the fan light in the attic is not a problem, as i can always pull the chain to shut off the fan light.
 
  #7  
Old 11-28-05, 02:05 PM
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Just remove or abandon the cable between swtich #1 and the can light. Then run a new cable between the fan box and the can light box. At the fan box, connect the new cable to the same wires that the fan's light wires (usually blue and white, or black with a white stripe and white). Once you do this, then you can convert the switch#1/switch#2 combination back to a 3-way switch pair, wired conventionally. If you do this, then using either of the 3-way switches will operate both lights.
 
  #8  
Old 11-29-05, 08:20 PM
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I think the original wiring was pretty much a hack job before the ceiling fan was put in. Why are all those neutrals tied together in the pictures. Looks like someone was unsure of using a hot white wire in a switch circuit so they used 3 wire cable so they would have a red and black. Thats OK but the white wires should have been cut off, not tied together. Maybe there is something going on here I am not catching.
 
  #9  
Old 11-30-05, 05:05 AM
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JimmieDee,

I haven't been following this thread too closely, so I can't address the problem, but I did want to address your most recent comment.

I disagree about cutting off the neutral wires if they are not needed. If you don't need a wire it's much better to cap it off and push it to the back of the box. You, or someone else, may want to use it later, and if you cut it off, it's gone.

As for why the neutral may be present in the first place, it's entirely possible that the neutral continues through to the other lights, so in fact it is needed.
 
  #10  
Old 11-30-05, 10:16 AM
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correct me if i'm wrong here... I have not been in the attic yet to look at the ceiling fan wiring, but from looking at the switch box i'm assuming that rather than running power to each fixture from the panel and then running a wire down to the switch, that a single power simply comes in at the switch then is split off to several different switches/fixtures. That make sense? I replaced every outlet and switch in the house when i first moved in, and from what i can remember this one and one other 4 switch plate are the only ones set up this way.

The ceiling fan was installed / wired when the house was built. The canned light is what was added after the fact.
 
  #11  
Old 11-30-05, 03:11 PM
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The red and black wires in switchbox 1 and switchbox 3 would have been your travelers between the two boxes, originally, I think.

But because you show the switch 1 black wire going up to the canned light leads me to believe that short of major rewiring, that the electrician made the switcharoo up in the attic between the ceiling fan box and the canned light box.

It be easier to figure this out if you supplied us with a drawing of wires in each of the two ceiling boxes (canned light ceiling box and also the fan ceiling box) and see if a wire goes between those 2 ceiling boxes, up in the attic. My guess is this is how the electrician made quick work of the job by severing the traveler wire up in the attic to use for the canned light (specifically the black wire from switch one that goes to the canned light).
 
  #12  
Old 11-30-05, 11:23 PM
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Not so sure this was ever wired as a 3 way circuit. I used to live in a house that had something similar. A three way switch gave power to either the overhead light or outlets that had lamps pluged in so by working the 3 way you could switch between lamps or overhead lighting. Another 2 wire switched was wired into the overhead light so you could turn everything off by setting the 3 way to overhead lighting then turning the 2 wire switch off. Obviously someone thought this was cute. I thought it was a real PITA.
 
  #13  
Old 12-01-05, 06:16 AM
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PITA is exactly right... this house was built before the recessed lighting fad, 1987. I have the receipts for all of the canned lights, which were installed in '96. I will be installing canned lights in the master bedroom this weekend, so i will take a good look at the wiring and possibly some pictures when i get into the attic and start pulling up the plywood planks.
 
  #14  
Old 12-03-05, 05:34 PM
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Thanks to all for your help. I was able to resolve this by simply moving the white wire feeding to the light and hooking it to the 3 way switch (it was previously tied together with a bunch of other white wires), then used the black and red as the trigger wires going to the other 3 way switch. That fixed the fan light. For the canned light i simply tapped off of a hot wire in the attic that was feeding a ceiling fan in a bedroom, then used the wires that were previously running to the hacked switch to control it, and of course i had to put in an additional switch.

I guess what was throwing me for a loop in all of this is that the panel feed came in at the switches, all the wiring that i have dealt with in the past had the panel feed coming in at the fixture, which is how i did the canned light.
 
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